IBM Canada head Fortin comes back home

Dan Fortin assumed the post of IBM Canada president in January, 2005. A Quebec native and IBM employee since 1978, Fortin has held numerous top-level marketing and management positions throughout the world during his time with the company. sat down with Fortin last week to discuss IBM Canada’s challenges and his view of the Canadian IT landscape.

ITW: What are some of your main areas of focus as you step into your new role?

Dan Fortin: One of the things I’m certainly going to focus on are our interpersonal relationships (within IBM Canada) such that the customer doesn’t see multiple divisions in IBM across the table, the customer sees IBM.

ITW: How critical are you of yourselves as a company?

DF: We are critical of ourselves at all times. I would hope that we don’t close ourselves in these rooms here and try to determine how to be critical of ourselves. I would hope that at all times we are listening to our customers. And that’s easy to say….We went through, in the late ’80s, a level of success unprecedented in business and we started listening to ourselves – either being critical or patting ourselves on the back about how successful we were, and we lost sight of our customers. And the marketplace certainly corrected us in a big way. I hope that we never lose sight of that, I hope that we never become arrogant again. So we want to start from the customer in: ask, where is it that they’re looking for improvements, and then from that be our worst critic in terms of how to do it.

ITW: What are the company’s weaknesses as you see them? Where would you like to improve?

DF: I wouldn’t say these are areas of weakness, but areas we want to continue to strive on, such as excellence in service delivery. So when you continue to become such a large services engine…you become the service delivery arm of customers when you outsource not only their IT, but procurement, human resources, finances. You want to focus on excellence in delivering that service. What are those metrics and how do you know, and if there are gaps, what are the mechanisms such that you can correct that? Because in the end, your next services opportunity in that customer or another customer is only as strong as you’ve delivered before.

ITW: What worries you?

DF: What worries me long term is that we stay on this thought of always listening to the customer. We can never lose sight of that again….I’ve been in the business for 27 years. I went through the early ’90s. It’s not so much a worry, but it’s sort of like a constant reminder: we’re only as good as what the customer is telling us today and tomorrow. I want to make sure the teams never get complacent. Never get too comfortable with your own thoughts. You’ve got to go back to the guy who’s got the wallet and understand how you’re delivering value. I want to make sure we present a very multi-faceted company to customers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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