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Roundtable: Strategic Manoeuvres

Roundtable: Strategic Manoeuvres

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

WOOD: From a business perspective, I'm one of a number of voices that are heard; but the role that I personally try to fulfil is one of an innovator and a challenger. I aim to challenge the thinking and the status quo finding new opportunities to support strategic objectives and achieve business goals, including business growth or cost reduction, that the broader audience in the industry has potentially not considered. I see it as a prime responsibility of mine to bring forth new ideas and drive change within the organization while ensuring that the IT strategy and architecture is tightly integrated and capable of supporting both the tactical and strategic business objectives. My personal perception is from both a business and a technology perspective; my role is as an innovator and primary contributor.

How do you keep yourself current on the use of IM/IT inside and outside your industry?

KALIA: I scan quite widely for different inputs, so I'm always in receive mode. We sponsor research with MIT's Center for Information Systems Research (CISR). I'll go visit them three or four times a year, and all of my team frequently interact with them. There are also various CIO-type organizations that are useful. The CIO Executive Council is a pretty good one for reaching out to peers and finding out who's having the same kind of problems or issues. I also cruise quite a few blogs written either by my friends or by people whose views on business or technology I respect. There are some vendors I talk to; not many but there are a few strategic vendors we have partnerships with, so I learn from them what they're thinking of doing next. I also need to see what's up and coming outside of the mainstream, so I take a lot of opportunities to talk to entrepreneurs who have new ideas. I also try to take part in a lot of conversations through social networking tools outside of the company.

How do you keep current on what the competition is doing in your industry?

WILLIAMS: One of the good things about retail is you get to check out the competition. I try to visit competitive stores or competitive formats, and talk to the customers of our competition to see what their experiences are like and what they value or don't value. I can then compare this against what I hear from our own customers. As well as shopping the competition, I also make use of their services that we're competing against. I had a computer problem, for example, and rather than taking it to a Staples store, where I would get premium service, I took it to a competitor and I got to experience their service first-hand. This gives you a lot of insight into how you can make your own service better or where their service offering may be weak.

Experts have noted that the more daring of strategic plans require changes in the very soul of the culture of an enterprise. Have you encountered this scale of change and what were the key elements of managing through this metamorphosis of the enterprise?

KENT: At Cineplex, we ended up buying our largest competitor, Famous Players, which was quite a bit larger than we were at the time. We spent a long time making sure that we understood what the other side was going through, and we were very careful to avoid the "We did it this way, they did it that way" type of scenario. We also took an approach that recognized that we didn't do everything the best way - that there were a lot of positives coming from the other organization. We researched all of their processes, their technology, and their people, and our focus was to select the best from both sides. There were casualties on both sides as we went about creating the best team on a go-forward basis. We also decided to make the transition as quickly as we could, because we saw that companies where the transition took a long time to work out tended to be the ones that failed.

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