The winners of the four-month-long Quest for Canada

Smart, green and Wow! Canada’s best IT departments

TORONTO—The winners of The Quest for Canada’s Smartest & Greenest IT Departments, a joint initiative by Info-Tech Research Group Ltd. and IT World Canada Inc., were unveiled at a Wednesday evening gala event following a four-month cross-Canada search.

 

In the Smartest IT category, Blue Mountain Resorts won for Business Enablement, and Dufferin-Peele Catholic District School Board for Community Empowerment.

 

In the Greenest IT category, Earth Rangers won for Business Enablement, and Professional Engineers of Ontario for Community Empowerment.

 

In the Wow Factor category, the winner was the Hospital for Sick Children.

 

James Alexander, senior vice-president with the London, Ont.-based research firm and chief enthusiasm officer for the Quest, told the audience the initiative is about showcasing and appreciating the incredible accomplishments of Canadian IT pros.

 

“We have a special appreciation for the job they do day in and day out,” said Alexander. “Most of the time IT is talked about only when there is a problem.”

 

Collingwood, Ont.-based Blue Mountain Resorts adopted virtualization to support the many apps across the organization, and invested in business intelligence software to manage and reap value from fragmented data.

 

With a variety of resort services including athletic activities, hotels and gift shops, John Gowers, Blue Mountain’s IT director, told the audience it was important to integrate disparate IT systems on a common platform. “It is a very diverse environment,” said Gowers, whose IT department has impressively experienced no turnover in the last decade.

 

Moving forward, Gowers said Blue Mountain will focus on building out an e-commerce component to create a “true experience for the guests … I think it’s one of the first you’ll see out there.”

 

Mississauga, Ont.-based Dufferin-Peele CDSB developed an in-house IT asset and inventory management system, adopted a centralized data storage model, implemented voice over IP between all fibre-connected sites in the School Board, and formed an ICT Governance Committee to manage IT projects.

 

Chief information officer John Steele told the audience that forming a long-term IT strategy is particularly challenging on a constrained budget. “Because we have limited funds, we have to work very smart,” he said in reference to the ICT Governance Committee. “That stops all the ad hoc projects and helps us focus on initiatives that will truly (align) with the strategic directions that we want to move in at the school board.”

 

Calgary-based Earth Rangers has built a data centre to demonstrate that adopting green products and services doesn’t mean sacrificing IT performance. The non-profit organization that teaches environmental messages to youth hopes to inspire businesses to adopt a green approach as well.

 

Green technology forms an integral part of the organization’s core values and is included in every request for proposal process, said Earth Rangers’ IT manager Rob di Stefano. “It had to be in line with our mission, our goals,” he said.

 

Professional Engineers of Ontario weaves sustainability into every aspect of the association, including outsourcing and consolidating servers from 37 to 12, replacing 104 inkjet printers with just a handful of energy efficient laser and multifunction printers, and retrofitting an older building to achieve LEED certification.

 

IT Manager Eric Brown said the Professional Engineers of Ontario created a green team led by the CEO to ensure broad acceptance and deployment of green initiatives. “It’s very much raised the visibility,” said Brown. “(The CEO is) also a very creative and enthusiastic participant.”

 

Next on the agenda, said Brown, is to focus on improving business processes to establish “a pure electronic interaction” from membership application to assessment, and to eliminate and measure paper reduction.

 

Toronto-based Hospital for Sick Children uses technology to safeguard the privacy of patients and staff with IT governance, risk and compliance practices for the proper management of data and mobile devices. The focus from the outset was communication and collaboration with all stakeholders, said chief information officer Daniela Crivianu-Gaita to the audience.

 

Running the hospital’s IT department is a juggling act that entails assessing needs and risks and making smart decisions, said Crivianu-Gaita. “It’s all about balancing the needs, balancing the budget, and balancing everything,” she said.

 

Crivianu-Gaitu’s advice to IT leaders: “Never look at challenges as challenges. Look at them as opportunities.”

 

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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