The expanding role of the CIO

Several interesting themes emerged at CIO Canada’s spring roundtable, which you can read about in this issue. As always, an abundance of good commentary never made it into the final article due to space considerations, but we hope to remedy this in the future by providing audio and/or video coverage of the event on our Web site. Stay tuned.

One thing that came through loud and clear at the roundtable was the growing importance of the CIO in enterprise strategic planning. In one way or another, all of our panelists indicated that the role of the CIO in organizational strategy is growing in lock-step with the increasing importance of technology to all organizations. Cineplex Entertainment’s Jeff Kent put it this way: “The industry is becoming more complex and more technology is involved in every step of the business model. Therefore the IT role within the organization will continue to expand.”

Our panelists also indicated that CIOs are staking a claim to the area of processes. Brian Gill, CIO of The Canadian Depository for Securities, said that understanding and leveraging processes that you connect to within other organization in your supply chain will become “the next level for us as architects of how business gets done”.

Direct Energy CIO Kumud Kalia said that he’s viewed himself as the company’s chief process officer for the past couple of years. In fact, Kumud spoke at some length about his approach to improving processes when I interviewed him for our November 2006 cover story, “Powering up the business relationship” (Quicklink #064151).

Another theme that kept resurfacing was the need for the CIO to be an innovator and leader of change within the organization. Aon Reed Stenhouse’s Andrew Wood was most vocal on this point. “We have to push the envelope,” he said. “I believe it is our responsibility to do that and to see just where the edge is; where the boundary is and at which point you get rejected.”

Added Staples CIO Jeff Williams, “My contribution to strategic planning is an out-of-the-box thinking kind of perspective… 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.”

CIOs have certainly come a long way since their formative days as the company data processing manager. Maybe now we can finally put to bed the old saw about CIO standing for Career Is Over.

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