Wu looks to S.H.E. in biz exploration
ZHAO RENFENG,China Business Weekly staff
Like his two teenaged daughters, Cliff Wu is fascinated by S.H.E.
While the Chinese band, whose name is derived from the initials Selina, Hebe and Ella of its three pretty members, sweeps Asian pop charts, inspiring many boys and girls' imaginations of its latest hit, "A Beautiful New World," Wu uses his own interpretation of S.H.E. when exploring a new horizon.
Wu, president of Teradata's Greater China operations, started working in the Chinese mainland five years ago, when his company entered the market.
At that time, he did not have clients or networks, and his competitors were large IT (information technology) companies such as IBM, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard.
But Wu had vision.
He believes the letters S.H.E. stand for "Strategy, Human and Execution."
"China is an emerging, but enchanting, place for us. We were very confident about entering the market, with a clear-cut strategy," Wu said.
Teradata is a leading provider of enterprise data warehousing and analytical applications. Its first, and most-important, clients in the Chinese mainland are financial enterprises, which are undergoing unprecedented reforms to shore up their corporate governance and improve their competitiveness.
The huge demand for data applications challenges almost all of the Chinese mainland's financial enterprises. That could translate into a huge bonanza for Wu's firm.
"Don't forget the data data can speak volumes," Wu said.
Enterprises, he added, must view data quality as a strategic business issue, rather than an IT problem, since "a great strategy, skills and technology will fail without a solid data foundation."
Data warehousing is a fairly new concept for many Chinese financial enterprises, which have been used to the planned economy but are now under tremendous pressure to become market oriented.
Still in the early stages of development, China's market is becoming a new, major area of focus for the IT industry, given its market value and huge growth potential.
Like Teradata, many giant tech companies, such as IBM and Oracle, have been keen to explore the windfall in the newly emerging market.
"We knew we were new, and not as large as our competitors, but we were optimistic, as we were very focused and had special expertise," Wu said.
Teradata, he added, is the only company in the world that solely focuses its business on data warehousing solutions.
The company is proud of its strong expertise in softwarehardware and data warehousing consulting services.
Globally, the company is one of the world's leading suppliers of data warehousing solutions for financial enterprises.
In China, Teradata, however, took prudent steps before immersing itself in the market.
"We knew where the opportunities were, and we knew how we could stand firm," he said.
Wu realized China's market was still premature, and that it would take time to make financial enterprises understand the application of data warehousing.
During its first year in China's market, in 2000, Teradata did not rush to quickly expand its presence. Instead, the company spent most of its time observing the development of financial enterprises it targetted, and exchanging information with potential clients.
"Pretty much like monks in Chinese temples, we were practising 'kongfu' to lay a solid foundation," Wu recalled.
"We had to make sure we understood the market, and that the market understood us."
China is one of Teradata's fastest-growing markets. But huge growth opportunities alone do not deliver profits.
Anticipating the huge demand for data warehousing technicians in the future, Wu knows, to grow with rising market demand, he needs to rapidly build up a strong team in the market.
To foster talented data warehousing engineers, one of the first initiatives Wu took in the Chinese mainland was to partner with leading universities, such as Renmin University of China, to build a training centre.
"People form the core-competitiveness for any company," Wu said. "We know it is our team that makes the difference."
When Teradata first entered the mainland, Wu came with a professional service team. That team has grown from less than 20 people to more than 300 data warehouse experts.
Wu held regular associate meetings to share the company's views and strategies, and to help the staff become better acquainted.
He is always attentive to every person's needs, and he tries to make his employees feel comfortable.
"I told them, over here, it is a virgin land. We are meeting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Wu said.
Wu said there are no short-cuts to upgrading technologies, so everybody must work hard to realize targets.
Wu was born and grew up in Taiwan. He accumulated rich experiences exploring the data warehousing market in Taiwan, which shares many similarities with the Chinese mainland.
But the mainland's market is so unique and so huge, and it is constantly, and quickly, changing.
At the end of 2001, an immediate threat to financial enterprises was the growing presence of overseas competitors, as China fulfilled its commitments to the World Trade Organization to continue opening its market.
Wu said the market developed very rapidly in 2002 and 2003, as many companies realized the urgent need to apply data warehousing systems.
Opportunities came. Wu then took a very proactive approach to his clients, based on his rich knowledge of the market.
Data warehousing applications are composed of five steps, he said.
First, you need to collect historical data to know what happened; second, an explanation of "why it happened" must be made, Wu said.
The third and fourth steps are, of course, to predict what will happen and find a way to control matters making only good things happen.
The final goal is to make it possible that all the previous steps can be completed in real time.
Decisions should be made promptly, as delays could cause huge losses in today's competitive world. Wu said he needs to help his clients think at least one step ahead.
"The two years of studies furnished our wisdom about our clients, and made us always capable of vying with our competitors," Wu said.
Teradata was not famous among financial enterprises in China. Its reputation was gradually established, as a growing number of enterprises started to adopt its technology.
Teradata's first deal in the Chinese mainland was made with China Securities Depository and Clearing Corp Ltd (CSDCC) three years ago.
Based on the then-newly updated data warehouse, stockholders in China, for the first time in the country's history, were able to access their depository information.
That was last year.
Teradata's clients in the financial services industry also include leading institutes, such as the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, Minsheng Bank and the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Compliance with international standards is one challenge that will face Chinese financial companies over the next few years, as the banking industry is required to comply with Basel II, a new capital accord on bank capital standards.
China's banking regulators, although acknowledging the vast difficulties for local banks to comply with the new capital requirements, appear eager to push forward the Basel II guidance.
Establishment of a sound risk-management system will also be crucial for local banks to survive the impending competition, especially at a time when the banking sector fully opens to foreign players at the end of 2006, in accordance with China's WTO commitments.
China's financial companies recently have displayed strong interest in public listings.
Moving to data warehousing will provide enterprises with one uniform version of the truth, which will enable companies to make better, faster decisions, Wu said.
Internationally, new rules and regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, are becoming key drivers for listed enterprises to improve data utilization.
Chinese companies, Wu said, must also understand compliance with new regulations, which could be time-consuming. As a result, they need to start preparing early.
The need for data warehousing has gone far beyond the boundary of the financial services industry, Wu said.
His clients now also include many telecoms companies and retail giants.
"Data analysis can work wonders, which will ultimately satisfy customers' needs," Wu said.
(China Daily 04/13/2005 page4)
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