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Leadership

Strategies, advice and opinions helping to define and develop the role of IT leaders and their staffs.

Cracking the alignment nut

Perhaps more than any other C-suite executive, CIOs must constantly confront and resolve issues related to widespread and rapid change. It’s ironic, then, that perhaps the biggest issue they face seems impervious to change. It’s been going on as long as CIOs came into being, and for many in the profession, it’s still the toughest nut to crack.

I’m talking about that eternal disconnect between the CIO and the business. It’s still a much discussed topic whenever CIOs get together, and it seems no closer to resolve now than it did when I began covering the CIO profession as a journalist in the 1990s.

A case in point is the recent 2012 CIO Peer Forum in Toronto, the eighth edition of the flagship event of the CIO Association of Canada. The annual conference, one of the most important CIO gatherings in the country, took for its theme this year, “Be the Business: Meeting the Future Head On”. A large part of the program revolved around how CIOs can become more innovative and value-added members of the executive team.

Some of the sessions were fresh and inspiring, while others had a very familiar ring to them. When listening to the panel session, “Alignment or Alliance? Becoming the Business, rather than Serving It”, I felt that I’d stepped into the Wayback Machine and dialed up 1997. The issues around alignment haven’t changed a whit in a decade and a half. Not to say some CIOs and their IT organizations haven’t become true strategic partners of the business, but they are certainly more the exception than the rule.
During that panel session, the oft heard remedies kept popping up: CIOs have to speak the language of the business; they need to get out and personally engage their C-suite colleagues more; they need to earn the trust of the business; and so on.
All of these are perfectly valid and worthy suggestions – and they’re just as important today as they were in the 1990s. I’m sure these approaches have helped CIOs win a lot of battles over the years, but evidently they’re not doing much to help them win the war, or we wouldn’t still be having these conversations.

In my two decades as a journalist covering IT management, I’ve interviewed countless IT executives across the country. And one in particular really stands out in my mind as having figured out a way to crack the alignment nut. I interviewed Sav Dipasquale of pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (then Glaxo Wellcome) in the late 1990s. At the time he was an IT manager, but not yet the CIO.

Sav is a marketer at heart, and he made it his mission to market IT to the business – in a big way. He hired a professional writer to communicate IT’s successes and value to the business on a regular basis. He organized vendor fairs at GSK’s head office, where those in the business could get a hands-on feel for the latest technology. He implemented high-profile awards programs for IT, and launched countless other marketing initiatives. In short, he really put IT on the map for the rest of the business.

When Sav took over the CIO role, he continued his intense focus on alignment. He had all those reporting to him sit on executive management teams in the business, their primary function being relationship management. He zealously strove to find out the pain points of the company’s business executives, so that IT could maximize its impact with them. In particular, he wanted to know what the CEO’s hot button was. Was it profitability? Flexibility? Nimbleness? Knowing that would enable IT to meet the CEO’s key objectives.

I’m just scratching the surface here. To really appreciate Sav’s proactive approach to alignment, you’ll need to speak to the man himself. Or read that book he’s planning to write.

Sav’s alignment successes served him well. Not only did he become CIO, he garnered the CIO of the Year Award at the 2006 Canadian Information Productivity Awards. And since then, he’s gone on to become GSK’s VP Business Development & Corporate Planning. Now he’s a member of executive team that, as a CIO, he strove so hard to align with. If that isn’t proof that his alignment methods work, I don’t know what is.

So my advice to CIOs is this: if you want to begin winning the alignment war, you need to seriously put on your marketing hat. If you don’t have marketing skills, consider going out and acquiring some. Failing that, you may be having the same alignment discussion another 15 years from now.

 

Past Attendees


ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

Bulk Barn - Head, IT

Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

Crescent Point Energy - Head of IT

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Head of IT and Administration

Dale Parizeau Morris Mackenzie - VP, IT

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP - Director, Information Technology

DealerTrack Canada - Director, Technology

Defence Construction Canada - Corporate Manager, IT

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS

ENMAX - VP, IT & PMO

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

FGL Sports - VP, Information Technology

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP

Flightnetwork.com - CIO

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi - CTO, Americas

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT

LCBO - Director, Applications Systems

LCBO - SVP & CIO

Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lightstream Resources - Head, Information Services

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

NHL Players' Association - Head, Security & Technology

Northbridge Financial Corp - CIO

OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions

Oildex - VP, Architecture & Infrastructure

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - SVP IT

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

Precision Drilling - Director, IT Infrastructure & Security

PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

PwC - Managing Director, Real Estate Technology Advisory

Qantas - Global CIO

Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

Revera Inc. - CIO

Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

RioCan Property Services - VP IT

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT

ROM - CIO

Russel Metals - VP,IS

Scotiabank - VP - International Systems Technology

Scotiabank - Director, Architecture & Engineering

Sears Canada - Divisional VP, Information Technology Services

Secure Energy Services - GM, IT

Shaw Communications - VP, Technology Operations

Shaw Communications - Director, Risk Management

SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

Societe de Transport de Montreal - Division Head - Security and Compliance

Street Capital Financial - CIO

Sun Life Financial - AVP, Data & Business Intelligence Services

Sun Life Financial - VP Application Ops & Services

Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - VP, CISO

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - CIO

Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

Transamerica Life Canada - CIO

Trican Well Services Ltd. - Director, Business Information Systems

Tridel Corporation - CIO

Trillium Health Partners - IT Director, Applications & Clinical Informatics

UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

University of Calgary - Executive Director, Development Services

University of Ottawa - CIO

University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

World Health - Director IT

Yellow Pages Group - Director - Enterprise Data Management

York Region District School Board - CIO

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