‘I encourage people to follow their gut instinct when making decisions and not to be restricted by fear of failure’ – CEO Q&A with Tony O’Malley, CEO, Fujitsu Ireland

By Business & Finance
10 May 2023
Pictured: Tony O’Malley, CEO, Fujitsu Ireland.

Tony O’Malley is CEO of Fujitsu Ireland, a company that specialises in digital transformation. Founded in Japan in 1935, Fujitsu now uses a portfolio of trusted technology services, solutions and products to help customers achieve company-wide digitalisation.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I am responsible for leading Fujitsu Ireland and working with my 350-plus team to provide digitisation solutions to the public, and private sector, to help them capitalise on digital transformation in order to create more value. 

A big thing for us is our genuine passion for using technology to create a more inclusive, sustainable and trusted future. Throughout our history, we’ve supported businesses and society through delivering robust and reliable IT systems.

Another top priority for me is to ensure Fujitsu is a responsible business. Incorporating sustainability as part of a wider responsible business programme is key. I’m lucky in that I work for a company and with individuals who equally take it very seriously. Together we want to change the way we do business – to make it greener internally and to partner with like-minded organisations that want to create a sustainable, circular economy.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Despite some recent headlines, the competition for talent remains fierce. Attracting and then retaining high quality talent remains a major challenge for CEOs across Ireland. 

Industry wide, the longer term adaptation to remote and hybrid working remains a big challenge. It is a complex dynamic that requires a nuanced approach. As business leaders we want to be able to provide our teams with the flexibility they desire, but this needs to be coupled with the necessity for face to face interactions, informal learning and mentoring which especially those at the early stages of their career need.  

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

Leading a team of over 350 people can be challenging but I find it hugely rewarding.

In my experience, it’s critical to establish clear expectations at the outset when managing teams. It must be obvious what the collaboration is intended to accomplish, and how each team member’s contribution will help the group reach its ultimate objective.

The dynamic blend of each team member’s personality and skill set can operate effectively by using an inclusive approach. To keep everyone motivated and up to the challenge, you also need clarity regarding the end result. It’s critical to act quickly to implement changes when something isn’t working. The best innovations often result from failure and experimentation.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

I think more than anything it’s the rate of change and development in technology. In my lifetime alone I’ve seen a technology landscape emerge that I couldn’t have imagined just a few years before now. Ireland’s tech sector must ensure it keeps pace and continues to nurture the phenomenal talent we have in this country. 

Overall, the challenges for the tech sector in the wake of the pandemic are well documented. As a whole, the technology industry expanded perhaps a little too rapidly over the last few years and is now readjusting. Periods of readjustment are always uncomfortable but I am massively optimistic for the future of the tech industry in Ireland.

Despite some recent headlines, the competition for talent remains fierce.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Two key trends which have emerged in the last 2 years are a faster shift to digitisation and increased cybersecurity investment.

The pace of digitisation increased due to the pandemic. We have witnessed the ripple effects of the shift to hybrid working right across society, with organisations big and small looking to the tech sector for solutions more frequently. As Ireland is primarily an open services-based economy, business reliance on technology has really become a fact of life. 

Cybersecurity is no longer seen as a niche add-on for organisations, but rather a serious consideration for any organisation that wants to protect its privacy and reputation. High profile cyber attacks are unfortunately a more frequent part of the news cycle now. I think this will lead to more organisations looking for make investments upfront to protect their key data assets and be more proactive in terms of risk identification and containment. 

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

We increasingly find that the challenges we face are global, and the solutions to these problems can be found through international examples of excellence. For this reason. I would like to see our sector embrace more diversity. 

Diversity is a crucial component to a strong team dynamic, and achieving balance is the key to being effective – especially in a global workplace.

At Fujitsu, we put a lot of effort into making sure that this balance permeates not only our culture but also how we conduct business every day. We have an international team that offers a wealth of knowledge to our business and the needs of our customers, therefore this goes beyond gender balance.

There has undoubtedly always been a historical gender divide in STEM, but I think things are starting to turn around. Nonetheless, there is work to be done, and the sector needs to set an example. There is a need for clear career advancement and training pathways that will inspire people to choose STEM occupations and encourage diversity. 

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

As mentioned, the talent shortage is a huge challenge across the whole of the tech sector. Oftentimes this comes down to skills gaps in the market. However, at Fujitsu we have managed to build an expert team. As a leader, I place a strong emphasis on hiring individuals who match our needs in terms of abilities, aspirations, and general personalities. 

Over the years, I have been heartened to see Government implement many great initiatives designed to tackle the skills shortage within the tech sector such as the Digital Ireland Framework. 

The best innovations often result from failure and experimentation.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success is achieving milestones with your team. Henry Ford put it well: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” 

My team and I have a very clear vision of what we want to achieve for Fujitsu in the medium to long-term and having their support is essential to accomplish my vision and milestones.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

I had the great fortune of meeting my life mentor early in my career in Fujitsu. He advised me to take a long-term view of relationships, stressing that this ultimately sets you up for long-term success. I have never let go of that advice, and always make a point of passing it on to younger members of my team. I also encourage people to follow their gut instinct when making decisions and not to be restricted by fear of failure, a key lesson I learnt myself mid-way through my career.

Henry Ford put it well: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” 

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

I think our move towards providing more Digital Transformation (DX) services has been well received by both existing clients and the wider market. It has really shown the level of service Fujitsu can provide organisations. I have no doubt projects undertaken so far will have benefits which last long into the future for clients.

Digital Transformation fosters trust and communicates to all stakeholders—including employees, clients, and customers—that an organisation is guarding its well-earned reputation. In today’s cultural environment, maintaining a strong reputation is crucial since businesses can no longer rely on their past reputation to shield them from all forms of risk, including relationship, cybersecurity, data protection, and service risks.

I am also particularly proud of the way we supported our staff during COVID and in turn how our staff supported our customers during this challenging time. That support now extends to assisting staff work in a more flexible manner that delivers the right work life balance. It is a work in progress.

What’s next for your company?

I firmly believe Fujitsu will continue to improve and expand its service offering in a sustainable way to better accommodate advances in cutting edge IT like artificial Intelligence, IoT, and 5G. Digital Transformation (DX) will have a key role to play in our next steps by applying these technologies for organisations to utilise data in a more meaningful and possibly sophisticated manner.

We also anticipate that improvements in Digital Transformation (DX) technologies will assist in the settlement of many societal problems. Most importantly the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), helping Fujitsu to realise our vision of a data-driven and decarbonised society.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

I’d like to see Fujitsu enhance the support we offer to customers undergoing their digitisation journey. Obviously a shift to data driven systems can be challenging and this is why we’re focused on being human centric in the way we offer support to customers.

One of the key questions we ask ourselves as an organisation every day is what will be the net impact on the end-users of our products and services; How will staff interact with new tools? Can we eliminate any tedious tasks for employees? Will the new system enable a better work life balance?

These are important questions as there’s no doubt that most organisations recognise how crucial digitisation is. However, I know from experience that the process can seem daunting and institutions in both the public and private spheres often put off change for years. Help is almost always needed to implement the right strategy.

By implementing a sustainable ICT strategy, organisations can improve their digital footprint and enhance organisational outcomes in the process. A digital business foundation that includes technologies such as automation, cloud, IoT, analytics and AI can help organisations gain the insight they need to act on change through data collection and analytics.

As a world-leading digital transformation and ICT solutions provider,I believe Fujitsu is well equipped to enable many different types of organisations to develop a purpose-driven digitisation strategy. By this time next year, I want to see Fujitsu showing how a more resilient, secure and sustainable future is just a decision away.

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