Are CIOs heading for extinction?

The CIO Association of Canada rolled into town last month, staging its major annual event, the CIO Peer Forum, in downtown Toronto. The conference was loaded with good content and well attended, attracting over 100 delegates, including CIOs and other C-level executives.

The event will no doubt bolster the association’s Ontario Chapter, which launched last year, giving the organization a strong footing in central Canada. CIOCan was founded ten years ago in British Columbia and has long been anchored by its very active Vancouver chapter. With the Ontario chapter firmly established, the association is now well positioned to push eastward in a bid to make itself truly national.

Highlights of day one included a panel entitled “Views from the Executive Suite”, which provided a view of the evolving role of the CIO from the CXO perspective, followed by an interactive session in which attendees discussed “The State of the CIO – Current and Future Challenges”.

Day two’s keynote panel, featuring Alex Cullen, VP, Research Director from Forrester Research and Dr. Ellen Kitzis, VP of Research at Gartner, directly addressed the theme of the event: “CIO 2020: Business Leader or Dinosaur?”. Neither presenter predicted the extinction of the species, but both argued that CIOs need to become business change agents, fostering innovation and focussing on business outcomes.

The Peer Forum concluded with excellent back-to-back sessions on the looming shortage of qualified IT professionals. Keynoter David Ticoll, CEO of Convergent Strategies, presented some scary numbers on the decline in enrolment in Canadian IT programs, suggesting we may be facing a “massive collapse” on the supply side of the business in the next few years. And a panel comprising several participants with IT HR expertise added more perspective to the skills shortage. And more than just talking about the issue, all of the panellists offered excellent suggestions for tackling the problem.

Incoming CIOCan president Andrew Dillane, CIO of Sapphire Technologies, closed the proceedings, but not before citing outgoing president and CIOCan co-founder Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie for her tireless work on behalf of the organization. For those who don’t know her, she’s one of those human dynamos who make you feel like you’re living your life in second gear. Kudos on a job well done, Catherine.

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