Roundtable: Strategic Manoeuvres

Roundtable: Strategic Manoeuvres

Highlights from CIO Canada's spring roundtable on the CIO's role in enterprise strategic planning.

Roundtable participants:

  • Tom Atkins (moderator), President, The Tramore Group;
  • Brian Gill, CIO, The Canadian Depository for Securities;
  • Kumud Kalia, CIO, Direct Energy;
  • Jeff Kent, CTO, Cineplex Entertainment; J
  • Jeff Williams, VP, IS, Staples Business Depot;
  • Andrew Wood, CIO, Aon Reed Stenhouse

The role of CIO has evolved from the data processing manager into a true partner in the strategic planning process at the executive level. What is the current perception of the CIO by the rest of the executive team?

WOOD: I believe the executive team now views the CIO as having far more of a leadership change-agent type of role; one that is able to influence and drive new opportunities within the organization. We are actually engaged far earlier in the process than we once were. That is a tremendous advantage because not only can we help the business in achieving their goals and objectives, but we can also provide additional ideas and opportunities.

KALIA: The 'I' in CIO can change what it stands for depending on what time of day it is. You could be an Irritant; you could be an Innovator; or you could be the Information guy. You could be all sorts of different things. Over the last twenty years or so - certainly the last ten - business executives in general have realized how dependent their businesses are on IT and how fragile their businesses are because of that dependence. So I think they value having a technology executive around the table, if only to protect them from making some quite large mistakes.

KENT: I think they look upon the CIO as a very positive influence on the business and the strategy. They recognize how much reliance there is on technology, not only to run the current business but also as a component of every new initiative that comes along. I don't think we've had a business initiative in the last eighteen months at Cineplex that technology has not been a part of, and because IT is so important in helping make these initiatives happen, we're looked upon very positively. It's also very important for a CIO to understand the nitty-gritty of the business side of the organization.

How would you characterize your contribution to strategic planning in your enterprise?

WILLIAMS: My contribution to strategic planning at Staples is an out-of-the-box thinking kind of perspective. I am another voice at the table with all the other voices and everybody has an opportunity to contribute. But I think the unique value that I bring, outside of the pure technical knowledge and understanding, is just a bit of a different perspective on what might be possible.

GILL: As CIOs, we have a unique opportunity to wear different hats in the exercise of developing strategy and an action plan based on that strategy. Actually, it's stronger than an opportunity; it's a responsibility to wear those different hats and be a creative tension in the process. Because we're sometimes not as involved in the day-to-day business operations in different parts of the company, we can often see different possibilities that might exist. We can also be a conduit whereby best practices and broader perspectives are brought into the organization, because we tend to network well with our peers in different organizations, and with our primary technology vendors and partners.

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