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

Digital Transformation: Creating Magic in Customer Experience

Magic does exist. 

And I’m not just talking about the Vegas style extravaganza and Cirque de Soleil masterpieces. I’m including all magic; from that black & white plastic rabbit picture trick from a birthday magician for hire; to the coordinated team-on-the-street hustling each of my $20 bills with 3-card Monte. It’s all magic. 

Here is what I know:

  • Random audience members do get cut in half with rotating power saws or pierced with steel swords and live to tell about it
  • It is possible to vanish the Statue of Liberty and teleport through the Great Wall of China
  • Mentalists can both read my mind and convince me to pick a certain card from the deck; oddly always the King of Hearts
  • One can completely change outfits a dozen times in 5 seconds
  • And I’m pretty sure that it is possible to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

It’s all real.

Because I know it’s real, I love to experience magic and I don’t want to know how it works; because I already know how it works, it’s magic.

Even though you would never admit it, you agree with me. Admit it. ADMIT IT! That’s what I thought.

I’m not going to let you off that easily though. We both know that we expect everything to be magic. We expect to not know the details of every interaction and every transaction. We want what we want when we want it… to heck HOW it’s done.   

You know who really understands that fact about us? Digital Disrupters, that’s who.

CEOs and Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) are evaluating the behaviours of the Digital Disruptors in their industry and evaluating the new interactions with their mutual customers. How are they gaining ground? How are they changing buying patterns? Why are these new experiences increasing closing rates? How is the engagement changing the overall customer satisfaction? And most importantly; how do I create these new experiences to substantially grow my business and keep delighting my customers?

 It’s magic, or more specifically, it’s digital transformation magic. 

Let’s appreciate the parallels to the magician’s tool kit:

  • Production (producing something from nothing): In media, the customer experience is all about producing amazing feats of visual magic; 1000s of person hours of human creativity combined to produce a 90 minute Netflix movie, consumable on a variety of devices, streamed seamlessly all over the world. The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • Vanish (makes something disappear): In construction, the customer experience is a series of project management steps to wipe clean the current physical space and imagine something new. Construction engineering moves the discussion into a collaborative and electronic building process. Vanishing the physical structures currently present and building the floors in 3D architectural imaging and printing. The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • Transformation (transform from one state into another): In manufacturing, raw material is combined to form a final product that was designed in electronic form. Imagine constructing a product by layering Lego blocks of various material, then adjusting materials and attributes online to find the perfect fit before a single widget is produced. The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • >Restoration (destroys then restores an object): In government, the customer experience is often non-existent or poorly understood, lacking cross department collaboration. Communication is restored between departments by creating cross department services with a single citizen interface, and creating an innovative public/private services environment by delivering a programmatic means to combine public and private data. The HOW doesn’t matter.
  • Transportation (move from one place to another): In transportation, the customer experience is waiting at the bus stop for the next bus to arrive. The focus is on the start of the trip. Changing the experience from the start to the destination refocuses the customer on the various options available to get to the destination on time by alerting the passenger about better routes via text. The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • Escapes (restrain and escape): In energy, the control of the cost of the product is in the hands of the producer. The customer experience is to use the energy and pay the bill. Escaping the handcuffs of control and creating a new transparency to energy pricing dramatically changes the customer experience. Per minute pricing and per minute utilization awareness allows the customer to change their usage habits. Alerts suggesting washing the clothes later, or a perfect time to cool down the house dramatically and positively changes the relationship customers will have with producers. The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • Levitation (defying gravity): In telecommunications, the customer experience is product centric even though the service is data centric. Consumers likely don’t remember what specific rate or plan they chose, but they are worried about how much data is consumed watching a YouTube video. A new customer experience includes detailing the categorical usage of data.  For example, “You watch one video a day and listen to 2 hours of Internet radio. At this rate, you can last only 10 days on our current plan. Click here for options based on how you consume.”  The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • Pass Through (pass through an object): In retail, the customer experience is a pass through, or a workflow of buying. Traditionally, that has meant creating an Omni-channel experience, where you can buy the same shoes for the same price online as you can in a retail outlet.  Unfortunately, the customer buying pattern is not Omni-channel; in-fact, the entire buying process is a pass through. Typically, the customer browses online and picks three shoes. They then visit their local store and try on all three, and ultimately choose just one. On their own, they decide to buy (or avoid to buy) in the store. A new customer experience embraces the buying experience by automatically pulling the three products off the shelf; making them ready for the customer to try on as they enter the store; offer the customer on their device the ability to pay now and bring home, or buy online and have them shipped home to arrive the same day. The HOW doesn’t matter. 
  • Prediction (predicting outcomes):  In financial services, education and healthcare, the customer experience depends on the individual professional supplying the service. Wealth managers, teachers, nurses and doctors provide their value directly to individual consumers. Enhancing the consistency and predictability of outcomes (market ups/downs, academic pass/fails, data-centric diagnosis) elevates and increases the likelihood of positive outcomes (wealthier, smarter, and healthier societies). The HOW doesn’t matter. 

Like I said, it’s all magic.

In the real world, however, digital transformation is not easy.  Anything that changes the interaction with customers, requires a team effort, changes to organizational processes, and a large amount of technological innovation.

We can’t create these new magical customer experiences by ourselves. We also need trusted partners and a solid digital transformation strategy.    

There are very few partners that understand the complexity of diverse industries, diverse applications, and diverse customers. We need to work together to create a new data strategy that links and evaluates information sources to create insights for operational process changes, creation of new business models, and innovating with new customer experiences.

I hope that you have come to appreciate the reality of digital transformation magic. Please feel free to use the examples I have provided as fodder for your innovation agenda.

Paul Lewis is the CTO of Hitachi Canada and an advisory board member with The IT Media Group. Hitachi focuses on enhancing Digital Transformation initiatives by combining innovative technology and a deep understanding of their customers’ business.


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

Avison Young - VP Global Enterprise Architecture & Integration

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bell Business Markets - Director, Strategy & Planning

Bell Canada - National Director, Digital Transformation

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT


BFL CANADA - Director, Cybersecurity & IT Risk Management

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Director, Technology & Operations Transformation

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 Goose - CTO

Canada Live - VP of Technology

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canada Protection Plan - Head of IT

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Capgemini - Service Delivery Director


Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CBI Health Group - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

CDSPI - Board Director

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CI Global Asset Management - VP of Enterprise Infrastructure $amp; Operations

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

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Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Richmond Hill - CIO

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Colliers - Head of Technology & Data

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

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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

Deloitte - Director, Risk Advisory

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

D+H Partnership - VP, Head of Canadian Mortgage Technology

eHealth - EVP, Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS


Equitable Bank - CIO

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Equity Financial Trust - VP, IT

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

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Finastra - SVP, Head Technology Managed Services

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP - CIO

Freedom Mobile - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Geotab - Board Member

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Grand River Hospital - Director, Data Governance & Analytics

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Haventree Bank - VP, Technology

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi Vantara - GVP & Global CTO

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

HSB Canada - VP IT

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

Interac Corp - Director, Platform Engineering

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KFC Canada - CTO

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT


LCBO - Director, Applications Systems


Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lifeguard Digital Health - Chief Security & Informatics Officer

Loblaw Companies Ltd - Senior Director, Customer Engagement Technology

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

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

Manulife - Global Head of Private Markets & Real Estate Technology

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

MaRS Discovery District - Managing Director, Fintech and Commerce

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

Metrolinx - EVP & CIO

Minto Group - VP IT

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

MullenLowe Group - Global 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

OPTrust - AVP, Enterprise Data Services

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - EVP, Data & Technology


OMERS - SVP, Data & Advanced Analytics

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - SVP, Product & Delivery

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Osum Oil Sands Corp - Manager, IS

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

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

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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

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Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

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Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

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Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Rheem Manufacturing - CISO & Enterprise Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

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Roche - Head of IT Americas – Operations

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT


Russel Metals - VP,IS

Salvation Army Canada - Board Director

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Shaw - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

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SmartOne Solutions - President & CIO

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Street Capital Financial - CIO

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Sunco Communication - COO

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 - CISO & Global Head of Infrastructure Services

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Parking Authority - CIO

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Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

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Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

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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

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University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Toronto - Director, Centre for Management & Technology

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Valencia Risk - Managing Director

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company - Director of Innovation Outpost

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Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

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York University - Board Director

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