HK CIO Awards: Cathay CIO gives IT its voice

Hong Kong’s flagship airline is known for its innovative use of technology. The drive and leadership of its IT organization has been noteworthy for decades, and in recent years, the man spearheading the effort is CIO Tomasz Smaczny.

His recent CIO award winis a measure of his unswerving commitment to driving business value through IT and also the success and vision of his team’s key initiatives that are ongoing at Cathay Pacific Airways.

[The 2012 Hong Kong CIO Awards]

One major project is the company’s overhaul and integration of its customer channels. The program requires a rebuild of all customer-facing channels: call centers, Web, social media, mobile, travel agents, direct sales, and corporate sales.

This program is already underway with the provision of a SOA-based platform and a new Web presence which will be implemented later this year. “As the result of full channel integration,” said Smaczny, “the majority of our current customer-related business processes are being re-engineered to deliver a much better integration of our sales and service offerings.”

IT in the sky
Another key program currently underway is Cathay’s innovative approach to e-enabling its aircraft, which is first in the industry first and being watched closely by its OneWorld Alliance ( peers and aircraft manufacturers.

This project will help resolve the lack of integration between aircraft while they are in the air and ground systems. It would provide real-time data exchange and push-based updating of system firmware and navigation data as well as customer loyalty information, aiming to elevate the airline’s service delivery levels.

Meanwhile the financial benefits of Cathay’s e-enabled aircraft program is expected recoup the program investment by 2015 and generate in excess of HK$250 million in net savings per annum thereafter.

These schemes are due to the vision and ability of Smaczny and his team to drive change and transformation not just within technology, but across business processes throughout the organization. The sign of quality technology leadership is the ability to effectively lead and drive this degree of business change and not be solely focused on the deployment of good technology.

Career: IT & management
Smaczny began his IT career almost by accident—having studied electronic engineering due to a deep interest in math and science, he later found that engineering did not elicit the passion that he had hoped for. When he and his family  emigrated from his homeland of Poland to Australia, he found himself in a software programming job even though computer programming was completely alien to him at the time.

The technology side of that job initiated Smaczny into a career path focused on management roles and transformation initiatives. Within a few years of the software development job, Smaczny moved into the management side of technology with a keen eye on the business elements of IT.

“I always saw IT with a different lens,” said Smaczny. “I always tried to see how IT can contribute to the business rather than simply view what IT could produce in terms of a technology product.”