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Like many CIOs, MyRepublic’s Eugene Yeo faces the perennial challenge of ensuring IT teams move at the speed of business, keeping their organisations ahead of the curve as they fend off rivals and expand into new markets.
Yeo, however, is in an enviable position, having had the opportunity to shape MyRepublic’s IT architecture from the onset rather than be saddled with legacy systems that have plagued some incumbent players.
This has enabled MyRepublic, an emerging fibre broadband service provider with operations in Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, to expand quickly into new markets. At its home ground in Singapore, it recently made its foray into mobile services by riding on incumbent StarHub’s network as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).
The company is also a big fan of open source software, having implemented OpenStack to scale up and add resources to handle spikes in demand, resulting in higher system availability and lower latency.
In an exclusive interview, Yeo, who is a member of Computer Weekly’s APAC CIO advisory panel, shared his approach towards IT at MyRepublic, his career journey and how he keeps his team aligned with business goals.
The dotcom bubble
How did you get started in IT? Was it a conscious or serendipitous decision to enter the field?
Yeo: I got involved in IT at a very early age. It happened out of curiosity when I first started dabbling in game programming and websites for personal use during the late 1990s.
The dotcom bubble at that time also created a huge demand for web and software development skills. I found myself involved in multiple projects that eventually paved the way for my career in the IT industry.
Over the past 20 years or so, I have helped companies with their IT strategies, and assisted them with developing and implementing software and infrastructure geared towards their business objectives. It was through this consulting experience that I got involved with MyRepublic, which I eventually joined full-time.
What were some of the highlights in your IT career?
Yeo: Some of my career highlights include:
- Successfully architecting, building and delivering a carrier grade BSS/OSS platform that is operational across four countries and featured in multiple case studies, with a very lean team of engineers.
- Led the adoption of a full cloud environment early on in 2011 that now powers over 90% of IT and network applications in the entire MyRepublic group.
- Gained recognition from the world body in telco standards, TM Forum, as a finalist in the global 2018 CIO of the Year award.
Advantages of no legacy systems
As an emerging internet service provider and now MVNO, MyRepublic is not beholden to legacy systems that have held back incumbent players. Do you think that is an advantage from an IT perspective?
Yeo: Every company that has been operating for more than five years would have legacy systems. However, one key advantage I’ve had in MyRepublic was to be able to shape our IT architecture from the onset, particularly how we manage the introduction and lifecycle of applications and infrastructure, with a balance between build and buy. This has allowed us to strategically select and integrate the right software stack suited to our needs, and ensure they work together seamlessly and effectively.
A good example of this is our approach towards revenue systems. We started with a single, converged revenue management system that rates, bills and charges for every product we sell to both consumer and enterprise segments across all our operational markets.
This has greatly reduced the complexity that traditional telcos typically have to deal with in managing disparate billing systems in order to produce a single invoice for customers. In addition, a single revenue management system allows for more automation. We currently run on a fully automated 28-day billing cycle, which is atypical of the telecoms industry.
Approach towards IT
What is your approach towards IT at MyRepublic, especially in making sure that IT continues to be a source of competitive advantage for the company?
Yeo: I believe in leveraging IT as a strategic tool to ensure MyRepublic stays competitive in the industry, and effectively meets the company’s strategic and growth objectives.
The approach I have taken is to strike a balance between building deep in-house expertise in core areas, such as software engineering and data analytics, and partnering with best-in-class companies to ensure our IT strategy continues to deliver maximum value to the organisation.
The balance comes with understanding which areas of IT are core to empowering our overall business strategy, and building our expertise in those areas to maintain our competitive advantage. This has enabled us to stay ahead of our competition, drive operational efficiencies through automation, as well as increase our speed-to-market for new product and market launches.
What are your biggest challenges at MyRepublic and how have you overcome them?
Yeo: One of the biggest challenges I face at MyRepublic is to ensure our IT architecture and systems can support our multi-country strategy. More often than not, this is a daunting task that requires proper planning.
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- Malaysia’s talent development and funding schemes have brought the benefits of big data to many organisations, but the quality and volume of its analytics talent can be improved.
- Besides implementing OpenShift, Thailand’s Ascend Money adopted an open source governance model to keep IT teams aligned with business goals.
Operating in multiple countries also means we need to cater to country differences, from partner ecosystems to regulatory frameworks. That can place a burden on our IT architecture and systems, which have to be flexible enough to respond to changes across markets while maintaining standardised approaches in the way we do things. We constantly evolve our core systems to bring about greater flexibility so we can address specific market nuances.
An example of this evolution is our product catalogue system, which we have improved over time to support granular configuration of products, services and specifications required in each market. This has given our product designers the ability to tailor and deliver fibre broadband offerings in each market.
How big is your IT team? How do you make sure everyone is aligned with the goals of the business and IT organisation, and are in tune with the developments in their respective areas?
Yeo: My current IT team comprises more than 80 people located across our operating markets. Many of them are focused on building innovative software that enables business growth and enhances operational efficiencies on a single platform.
In order to ensure everyone is aligned with goals of the business and how IT can support the overall organisation, I use several communication channels to constantly keep the team abreast of executive decisions and how those decisions affect the way we approach our overall IT strategy. These channels include monthly town hall meetings, weekly management meetings with my line managers, e-mail and chat updates.
On top of that, we have started to use quarterly OKR (objectives and key results) planning in order to better align organisational goals with the overall IT strategy and approach.