IT execs get “tanked” at mountain resort

Kananaskis Village, Alberta: About 30 prominent Canadian IT Executives were treated to a full course meal of delectable food for thought, served up at a recent two-day IT Executive Think-Tank sponsored by applications support and maintenance firm RIS.

Veteran oil and gas executive Irv Koop, former CEO of Numac Energy Inc, kicked off the event by asking the question, “What do CEOs want from their CIO?”

He continued, “As CEO, I often dreamt about what would need to happen to make IT the easiest unit to manage, and not the most difficult.” The following is Koop’s wish list:

– Give me IT development projects on time and budget – every time.

– Give me no supplemental AFEs (Authorization For Expenditures) resulting from a host of scope changes.

– Give me reduced and competitive IT running costs.

– Give me a PC that provides instantaneous information and reliable email. And no spam and no downtime.

– And give me hardware and software that doesn’t become technically obsolete every three years.

We expect most CIOs won’t be clamouring to reply, “Okay, chief! I’ll have it for you tomorrow.” But an interesting topic of discussion nonetheless.

Koop’s final point about obsolescence was much on the minds of panelists, tired of the forced march of upgrades. It was one of the most hotly debated subjects of the event.

“This is a tough business. You can’t just go do it,” said Anthony Foster, global CIO of ICI Plc. “You’re always trying to make things happen through others – I call them the arms dealers. They don’t care if you win the war; they just want you to buy the guns.”

“Maybe we should be looking at ways to get off the treadmill of ERP – the constant upgrades and high cost of consultants,” said Alex Federucci, Senior Manager of Information Systems and Services for Talisman Energy.

Janet Topic, VP of Information Technology for Trimac, advocated a proactive approach. “We have to make a lot of noise and make ourselves heard about the grief we are being caused,” she said. “If we want things to change, we can’t sit back and think these things will happen by themselves.”

But IT management consultant Ron Gilmore countered, “There is a myth that if you are a really large company you can influence your supplier. It doesn’t happen.”

Another topic that was debated at length was outsourcing, a trend which was generally deemed beneficial and here for the long term.

“It’s been a big evolution. Companies like ours are seeing IT become much more complex. It makes sense to let people do it whose core business it is,” said Allen Borak, VP Information Systems for Canadian Pacific Railway.

“We’ve tried to draw the line at the application layer,” he added. “Below that we’ve given [our outsourcers] free rein to do whatever they want.”

“IS is still accountable from a budget and delivery perspective,” put in Mike Finlayson, National Manager Information Services for Toyota Canada. “Where the outsourcer is located doesn’t matter. What matters is quality, reliability and price.”

“Several years ago we outsourced everything. Now we’re much more of a selective outsourcing model,” noted Federucci. “Infrastructure will continue to be outsourced. We need cheap mips.”

Based on the success of this year’s think tank, RIS is looking to do it again next year. For more information contact Karen Barnes at

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