Miao Song: Unveiling the Human-centric Digital Revolution

Miao Song
Miao Song

Pioneering Digital Strategy and Innovation in the Global Landscape!

Amidst the digital revolution, where terms like “artificial intelligence,” “big data,” and “cloud computing” dominate conversations, it’s easy to get caught up in the technology hurricane. But a vital lesson from this digital era is clear: it’s not about the tech; it’s all about the people.

In the past, when we heard about technological advancements, our focus was often solely on the latest gadgets and systems. But times have changed significantly. Digital transformation isn’t primarily about adopting new tools; it’s about embracing a new way of thinking and a cultural shift. Ultimately, the aim of digital transformation is to better serve our customers. By placing people at the heart of our digital strategy, we can create products and services that genuinely meet their needs and desires.

One individual leading the way in this dynamic world of technology and innovation is Miao Song.

As the Global Chief Information Officer of GLP, she’s a pioneer at the forefront of digital transformation. Her vision and leadership are reshaping the landscape of global data and digital strategy.

With a career spanning over two decades in the international Technology industry, she has consistently driven change and embraced challenges across diverse sectors. Her career has taken her from oil and energy to consumer goods and healthcare, reflecting her adaptability and passion for innovation. Miao’s international experience is as diverse as her expertise. She has lived and worked in China, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Belgium, bringing a global perspective to her role. Throughout her journey, she has held leadership positions at renowned organizations such as Royal Dutch Shell, Nestle, and Johnson and Johnson, leaving an incredible mark on each.

Before joining GLP, Miao served as the global Chief Information Officer and board member at Mars Petcare. In this role, she was instrumental in driving digital transformation and fostering a culture of innovation. Her work paved the way for Mars Petcare to navigate the digital landscape with agility and purpose.

Miao’s career has been punctuated by accolades that recognize her exceptional contributions. In 2019, she was honored with the title “Chief Information Officer of the Year – Europe” by the International Data Group. This recognition underlines her status as a visionary leader in the field of information technology. She was also named “Global CIO 100” as well as “Women CIO in Silicon Valley” and many other rewards.

Miao’s academic foundation is as impressive as her professional journey. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Management from Peking University, a prestigious institution known for its excellence. Her academic prowess is complemented by a Master of Business Administration Degree from Beihang University, further enriching her leadership skills.

Join us as we explore her remarkable path and the transformative impact she continues to make in the world of technology!

Journey: Driving Digital Transformation

Miao currently holds the prestigious position of Global Chief Information Officer (CIO) at GLP, a leading global business builder, owner, developer and operator of logistics real estate, data centers, renewable energy and related technologies. With a presence in over 17 countries and 70 offices worldwide, GLP has solidified its reputation as an industry leader.

Before joining GLP, Miao served as the global CIO for Mars, a testament to her impressive career trajectory. What drew her to GLP was its remarkable growth and its status as an industry frontrunner. Over the past 14 years, GLP has undergone a significant transformation, recognizing that digitalization is not merely a supporting function but a core aspect of its business. This aligns perfectly with Miao’s belief in the value of digital transformation which can improve the bottom line. Her enthusiasm for this opportunity led her to join GLP two years ago. During her tenure, Miao and her team have embarked on a successful digital transformation journey, implementing key capabilities and spearheading global digital transformation programs. Their efforts have been highly valued and recognized by the company, resulting in two years of remarkable achievements.

GLP has its own renewable energy development and operating platform focused on solar and wind energy to support sustainable and green operations for its logistics and data center customers.

GLP’s core business philosophy revolves around creating a cohesive supply chain ecosystem. They provide logistics warehouses, data hosting capabilities, and energy solutions, all intricately interconnected to form a comprehensive ecosystem. Technology is at the heart of all their operations, whether it’s implementing digital core systems to enhance efficiency and drive process improvement or harnessing data assets for advanced analytics through data science initiatives.

Return to Singapore

Miao’s decision to accept the role at GLP and return to Singapore was influenced by a combination of personal and professional factors. Having been based in Europe previously, she had compelling personal reasons for this move. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about challenging personal circumstances and family issues, making it a priority for Miao to be closer to her family.

In addition to these personal considerations, Miao saw tremendous potential in GLP as a young and dynamic company. She recognized the opportunity to make a significant impact by contributing to its digital transformation and technology capabilities. When questioned about her ability to adapt to a new industry, Miao emphasized her innate motivation to learn. Her enthusiasm for exploring a relatively new industry and investment style, particularly in the realms of private equity and real estate business, was evident.

Miao characterized herself as a fast learner and self-starter. She credited her capacity to quickly grasp new concepts to her innate ability for self-directed learning. She likened this ability to observing someone cook – while one may not immediately become a chef, her self-learning skills allowed her to acquire new knowledge at an accelerated pace.

According to Miao, three key attributes were instrumental in effective learning: an open-minded approach, learning agility, and an enduring sense of curiosity. These qualities have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in her personal and professional journey, allowing her to navigate new challenges and thrive in unfamiliar terrain.

Reimagining Digital Transformation

According to Miao, the term “Digital transformation” often lacks the clarity it needs and, in her view, should be done away with entirely. Her perspective on digital transformation emphasizes its integration into the core of a business. She firmly believes that without a solid understanding of how to run a business, digital transformation remains an abstract concept.

To Miao, digital transformation represents the strategic use of technology to foster business growth through a digital medium. In practical terms, her organization harnesses the power of data science to collect and analyze vast datasets, considering data a valuable asset. By accumulating and scrutinizing this data, they gain valuable insights that inform critical business decisions and even predict future trends. Furthermore, they’ve selectively incorporated generative AI applications internally within a secure environment such as cognitive search which facilitates faster decision-making and the automation of specific processes.

The common thread running through these efforts is the ability to value-add to the business. Miao underscores that digital transformation should never be an end in itself. Instead, it’s all about how the strategic implementation of technology can bring tangible and measurable value to the business. In her perspective, digital transformation isn’t an abstract concept; it’s a dynamic force that drives real-world business results.

Revolutionizing Operations and Elevating Customer Experiences

When it comes to enhancing operational efficiency and elevating the customer experience, GLP’s digital strategies and initiatives have set them on a remarkable path. Miao provided insight into several notable examples.

One standout initiative involved the global implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, specifically SAP S/4HANA. What sets GLP apart is its proactive approach. Rather than undertaking this transition solely as a response to the end of support for their current systems, they made a bold leap from their outdated legacy system directly to SAP S/4HANA. This move was driven by ambitious goals, including a focus on process efficiency. GLP embarked on a journey of process re-engineering to eliminate organizational waste, resulting in heightened productivity in areas like financial consolidation and day-to-day business operations.

Importantly, this wasn’t viewed as a mere system upgrade. Instead, it was positioned as a pivotal transformation and change management initiative that would impact the entire organization. Presented as such to the board and executive committee, it received immediate support from senior leaders who recognized its potential to directly benefit the company.

Prioritizing customer experience transformation was another key focus for GLP. They introduced a customer portal, offering clients the convenience of accessing resources through a digital channel whenever needed. Additionally, they developed a comprehensive 360-degree view of their global customers, enabling a deeper understanding of their needs and preferences. These projects, among others, helped bolster customer engagement and retention, cementing their relevance in the organization’s overall success.

Navigating the Challenges of Digital Transformation

When it comes to digital transformation, Miao’s perspective goes beyond automation and efficiency. For her, the path to a successful CIO role starts with addressing messy business processes and achieving business process re-engineering before automation. She firmly believes in the importance of understanding and optimizing these processes as a precursor to any digital transformation endeavor.

In her view, a CIO isn’t just a functional leader; they’re also a business leader. To effectively implement technology, one must first grasp the core of the business and incorporate best practices. Her team consistently strives for the best practice before considering technological solutions.

According to Miao, today’s CIOs face two primary challenges. The first revolves around changing people’s behavior, particularly at the working level. Senior leaders tend to grasp the concept of behavior change relatively quickly, but it’s a significant challenge for C-level executives, including CIOs. The second challenge pertains to data quality within organizations. Poor data quality can significantly impact machine learning outcomes. Addressing these challenges requires a proactive approach, numerous conversations, and the development of change management capabilities.

For instance, when implementing AI, it’s crucial to position it as a tool that enhances human performance rather than a threat to job security. Failure to integrate change management into the organization can lead to resistance and hinder progress.

Similarly, ensuring data quality necessitates a cultural shift where data becomes an integral part of the company’s DNA. This process may be challenging and time-consuming, but it requires a can-do mindset and step-by-step implementation. Without changing the organizational culture and adopting a holistic approach to data, digital transformation remains an empty concept.

Miao emphasizes the importance of educating individuals about necessary actions. Digital education sessions, videos discussing the storyline, and virtual lectures have been conducted to involve everyone in the organization in the realm of digital data science. This proactive approach extends beyond the traditional IT function, reflecting the comprehensive strategy needed to drive meaningful change in today’s digital landscape.

Prioritizing Projects for Sustainable Growth

Miao, with her extensive global experience, sheds light on how she navigates the complex task of project prioritization for sustainable growth. Her approach begins with aligning the digital technology strategy with the company’s core business priorities and imperatives.

To effectively prioritize projects and initiatives, she emphasizes the importance of establishing a robust process that aligns seamlessly with the business’s overarching goals. Striking the right balance between regional and global projects is another critical aspect of her strategy. Some projects have a global scope, rolled out consistently across all regions, while others cater to specific regional business operations and are managed accordingly.

Miao underscores the significance of active engagement in business planning, both with her team and the global technology team. This collaborative effort allows for continuous adjustments to priorities based on evolving business needs. By embracing this agile approach, the organization remains adaptable in the face of a dynamic business landscape, ensuring that the agenda is set to propel growth for all stakeholders.

Elevating IT Recognition

One of Miao’s most cherished accomplishments is the realization of the immense value delivered by the IT organization. This recognition marks a pivotal milestone, shining a spotlight on the significance of their work. Her sense of pride stems from her role in nurturing a globally renowned team and ensuring that their contributions are not merely acknowledged but highly esteemed within the organization.

This achievement carries a transformative essence. It’s not a commonplace occurrence for companies to wholeheartedly recognize and truly value the endeavors of their IT departments. Miao’s success in this regard underscores her exceptional leadership and the enduring impact she’s made in the world of technology and business.

Driving Technology Adoption

In response to inquiries regarding the approach taken to ensure the adoption of suitable technology across GLP’s diverse global teams, Miao underscores the paramount importance of education. She firmly believes in the necessity for individuals to comprehend the nuances that differentiate each country and to foster a collaborative global environment.

Miao also touches on the significance of key performance indicators (KPIs) as metrics for measurement. These KPIs are multifaceted and tailored to align with the company’s core priorities. For example, if the emphasis lies on enhancing the customer experience, KPIs include measuring customer satisfaction and the value delivered to customers. In contrast, when aiming to improve finance team efficiency, the KPI tracks improvements in financial processes. Similarly, in a data analytics project for the investment team, KPIs monitor daily application usage by team members. The scope of KPIs extends beyond traditional return on investment (ROI) metrics, as digital implementations can exert substantial impacts across various facets of the company.

Miao’s strategy reflects her commitment to holistic education and outcome-driven measurements, aligning technology adoption with GLP’s overarching objectives.

Multifaceted Role of a CIO

Beyond being a Chief Information Officer, they suggest that it can also entail functions such as a Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Integrity Officer, Chief Intelligence Officer, and Chief Process Officer.

Miao sees the role of the CIO as offering a unique vantage point to grasp an organization’s end-to-end business processes and operations comprehensively. It extends beyond technology, providing insights into the entire corporate landscape. They view this as an invaluable opportunity to garner knowledge and experience across various industries.

Maintaining an open mind and a commitment to continuous learning while avoiding detachment from the business aspects is a principle that Miao advocates. They stress the importance of considering oneself a business leader first, with IT leadership as a complementary dimension. Additionally, Miao encourages boldness in driving innovation, advocating for initiative and leadership. They acknowledge the existence of other factors on the journey to becoming a senior CIO or global sales leader but emphasize that an open-minded, innovation-focused approach is critical in today’s rapidly evolving technological and business environment.

Embracing Business and Technology Integration

In many organizations, there’s a historical divide between business functions and IT. Yet, Miao argues that this demarcation is an outdated concept. In today’s landscape, everyone, including IT professionals, should consider themselves integral parts of the business and take ownership of their roles. This involves recognizing the critical role of effective process management in achieving successful systems.

Modern Chief Information Officers (CIOs) must possess a profound understanding of technology. To remain current, dedicating at least 30 minutes daily to learning is paramount. This learning can encompass reading industry materials, participating in conferences, engaging in e-learning courses, or exploring educational resources like YouTube. By actively pursuing learning and gaining hands-on experience, CIOs ensure they remain knowledgeable and capable leaders.

Moreover, CIOs should be well-versed in various technologies, including coding and proficiency in tools like Power Apps for low-code or no-code development. Familiarity with AI chatbots such as ChatGPT and website building using AI tools like GenAI is also crucial. Acquiring these skills not only enhances credibility but also fosters trust among teams, showcasing their ability to adeptly navigate and harness new technologies.

To maintain leadership positions in the swiftly evolving technological landscape, CIOs must dedicate daily time to learning and experimentation. This approach keeps them well-informed, adaptable, and equipped to steer their organizations confidently into the future.

Embracing Boldness and Agility in Leadership

According to Miao, embracing boldness and a willingness to make decisive choices is crucial for progress. This principle isn’t limited to leaders alone; it extends to individuals who find themselves in leadership roles. Moreover, she stresses the importance of maintaining the right pace while leading. Boldness is regarded as a key leadership trait, complemented by qualities like humility and agility. Being agile implies the ability to move swiftly and avoid falling behind, a vital aspect of effective leadership.

Furthermore, Miao highlights the value of a continuous learning mindset and accumulating diverse experiences across various industries and regions. Each day presents fresh opportunities to make a difference both for oneself and others. In this view, leadership isn’t static but a dynamic journey filled with chances for growth and positive impact.

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