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Leadership

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

Speech therapy for CIOs

In 1987 IDG launched CIO magazine in the U.S. In 1993 the Canadian edition, CIO Canada, was born and I had the privilege of serving as its founding editor; a role that allowed me to stay close to Canada’s IT leaders and, to a great extent, share in their experience. I don’t know if CIO magazine actually coined the title CIO, but certainly the magazine and its sister publications that followed in many other countries were and are advocates for the idea that IT in the enterprise is so important, so strategic, that its most senior representative should be a C-level member of the executive team.

In the past 25 years, the dream has come true for many CIOs. For them, information and information technologies as well as the CIO role have been acknowledged by their organisations as strategic and they enjoy respect as a contributor at the top table. But for many more CIOs, it’s still an unfulfilled aspiration and they continue to strive for respect and acceptance as strategic partners in the executive suite.

The reasons are many. They include corporate culture and the nature of the business. Financial institutions, for example, have long employed IT strategically and invested heavily in IT and its management. On the other hand, most construction and energy sector companies seem to place far greater value on the executives responsible for the front line operations of construction, exploration and processing, viewing IT and other services as supporting functions.

But for too many IT leaders, the limited degree to which they engage with and participate in the business functions is what holds them back. If they haven’t developed a thorough understanding of what makes the business tick, and developed trusting relationships with LoB leaders, then they are in no position to challenge the organisation; to propose changes that improve processes and use technology more effectively to create business value.

How many CIO and CEO surveys have you seen that identify communication as a critical skill for the CIO? Surely, by now many CIOs are sick of hearing, “you have to communicate in business terms.” But I’m constantly amazed at the number of CIOs who still don’t.

I left England and immigrated to Canada over 30 years ago. English is my first language and it’s the most widely spoken language in Canada, but I soon learned that to fit in, to be accepted and to be better understood, I had to adapt my vocabulary to the Canadian idiom. So ‘boot’, which refers to the storage compartment typically found at the rear of a car (unless you happen to drive an original VW Beetle), was replaced in my vocabulary by ‘trunk’; ‘lift’ became ‘elevator’; and, I learned that a hot beef sandwich was really Sunday dinner with a piece of bread tucked under it.

My point is that each community has its own way of using language, whether it’s in the schoolyard, on the football field, in the data centre or in the boardroom. Language is a dead giveaway as to where your heart or your head is. And if you insist on using the language of the data centre, you have little chance of being taken seriously at the executive table. Every IT initiative should have some identifiable impact on the business or why invest in it? Even infrastructure investments must translate into some improvement in business processes or outcomes. And it’s those business impacts that interest business executives, not the technicalities of how they are achieved.

That difference is also at the heart of why many CIOs still have trouble expressing the value, the ROI on IT investments.

Meanwhile, there’s a change happening in most organisations. Information is increasing in volume and value while technology is becoming less of a mystery to users thanks to consumer technologies and the tech-savvy users of the new generation of employees. The management of technology and the management of information assets are gradually evolving as distinct roles.

The effective management and value generation from the information assets of a company is strategic and requires an intimate knowledge of both the business and the role of the information within it. It’s strategic and it will be, if not already, a full-time job. It’s the role that truly reflects the title Chief Information Officer, and one that a number of the more successful CIOs have already undertaken. On the other hand, technology itself is becoming more commoditized and the management of the technology infrastructure, much of which may be outsourced to cloud or other service providers, is increasingly viewed as tactical. So while it remains a legitimate and valuable job, it’s not likely to be the path to the executive table.

It’s not just about language, of course, but the language a CIO uses speaks volumes about whether their focus is on the technicalities of IT or on the business imperatives of the organization. And it can be a strong indicator of where their career is headed.

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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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