Profile: Wen Xiao

Name: Wen Xiao

Title: Director, Enterprise Information Platform

Company: British Telecom

Age: 38

Industry: Telecommunications

30-second biography: After working for a high-tech start-up in Beijing, Xiao came to the U.S. in 1994 for graduate study. Later, while working at Lucent Technologies as a software engineer, he developed for NTT one of the first e-business applications in Japan. That experience made him realize that "what excites me more is not technology itself but using technology to solve business problems." So in 1999, at the height of the Internet boom, he went to MIT to gain more business skills, graduating in 2002 with a master's in supply chain management and an MBA.

Current project: "My biggest challenge is to integrate 7 petabytes of data embedded in BT's 4,000 legacy systems. The proliferation of systems has created two problems: Too much data is scattered among multiple systems, and the business finds it increasingly hard to locate useful information to create business intelligence. System Sophia (named for the Greek goddess of knowledge and wisdom) is meant to solve these two problems. Using Semantic Web technology, it can locate any data anywhere, both inside and outside of BT, and bridge the gap between data and business intelligence. Wiki technology means that a community of subject matter experts can create, validate and maintain the profiles in Sophia on their own."

Who in the technology industry most influenced your career? "I have followed Al-Noor Ramji, BT Group CIO, since he recruited me from MIT Sloan, first to Qwest Communications in the U.S. and now to BT in the U.K. There have been many articles and case studies written about him. Some call him a leading-edge technologist, others a visionary strategist; some say he is the ultimate entrepreneur, while others argue that he is the most effective corporate executive. For me, he is like a hurricane -- powerful, nonstop, and moving at incredible speeds. Once he takes you under his wing, you can't help but keep flying higher and faster and eventually becoming part of the hurricane yourself."

The technology you can't live without: "The Internet. The best example of how the Internet has changed our daily lives is my parents, both retirees living in China's countryside. They have become online day traders on the Chinese stock market. They no longer buy newspapers but prefer to read news on the Internet. They used to talk to my sister, who lives in North Carolina, once a week. Now, with free VoIP and a webcam, they talk to her 'face-to-face' four to five times a day!"

The best thing about today's technology: "It gives us more control of our lives. With the latest communication technologies, I can decide what to do, where and when. I can do my Christmas shopping at 2 a.m. in my pajamas, trade stocks around the clock and watch Monday night football on Saturday morning."

The worst thing about today's technology: "Over the past 20 years, we have built such an effective IT infrastructure that now we are suffering from too much information on hand. Data is useless unless it can be transformed into knowledge. The deluge of information causes huge waste. Today, enterprises spend 30% of their IT budgets just to maintain the ever-growing data."

Technology can …"Turn the world into a village, and a village into a world."

Book most recently on your nightstand: Bangalore Tiger, by Steve Hamm

What sets you apart? "Execution. Jack Welch once said that the best strategy is the one that gets executed. My track record shows that I have an exceptional ability to identify emerging technologies, turn them into innovative, sometimes disruptive, business solutions, and capitalize on them by creating business values."

Read an Extended Profile of Wen Xiao

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