Innovation leaders lauded at Digital Transformation Awards

The pandemic has been all about pivoting in the face of unprecedented challenges, and the winners of IT World Canada’s Digital Transformation Awards prove just how well it can be done. 

While one of this year’s winners helped save the school year for millions of students, two other 2021 award recipients have literally helped save thousands of lives.

“This past year-and-a-half has not been easy for any of us. Our customers needed us more than ever,” said April Oman, senior V.P. of customer engagement at D2L, the winner of the Emerging Tech-Inspired Transformation category.

Millions of students attended virtual classes using the Brightspace platform created by Kitchener, Ont.-based D2L. To help public and private schools quickly shift to online learning during the pandemic, D2L streamlined Brightspace and created a quick start package for new customers. 

In the first two months of the pandemic, instructor posts and learner comments in the Activity Feed of D2L Brightspace were on the rise. At the start of this year, D2L Portfolio usage also experienced growth in adoption. D2L was thrilled to see increased customer and learner usage and engagement in D2L Brightspace.

“Organizations are going to have to find a way to build in that technology infrastructure to support this future of work and learning,” Oman said. “I think many of us have figured out that it’s going to take a combination of technology, classroom and online learning.”

Healthcare heroes

It’s no surprise that both winners in the public sector category come from the healthcare vertical, which has harnessed digital technology to cope with extraordinary pressure due to COVID-19. 

The award in the Small Public Sector category went to Trillium Health Partners, which synthesized thousands of pieces of COVID-19 data to create the website How’s My Flattening. More than 150 people have volunteered to develop and maintain the site. It distills data from various sources into an at-a-glance dashboard that helps healthcare professionals allocate resources to keep patients safe. 

“We were hearing stories from our colleagues in Italy and other places in the world who, a month or two (earlier), were totally fine, and then their ICUs were overloaded. And people like myself were very scared about what that meant for Ontario,” recalled Dr. Ben Fine, clinical scientist at Trillium Health Partners.

With help from Red Hat’s OpenShift solution, COVID-19 data was collected and  analyzed to build visuals for the website. The analytics turned daily pandemic case numbers into a cohesive data alert system to keep Ontario’s healthcare system from being overwhelmed. 

“What we wanted to do is say, hey, how do we make it clear to people what is going on here?” Dr. Fine said. “And how do we show people that this exponential growth in the number of cases, if we continue to do nothing, is going to overload our already overloaded health care system?”

Smart healthcare

Mackenzie Health took home the 2021 award in the Large Public Sector division. Mackenzie partnered with Compugen to build digital infrastructure for Canada’s first smart hospital. The Cortelucci Vaughan Hospital in Vaughan, Ont. features more than 6,500 sensors to securely track patient movement, 700 connected iPhones to enable real time patient notifications, and thousands of edge devices to capture patient data. 

The hospital’s first year in operation has been a baptism by fire. Since shortly after it opened in February 2021, the facility has taken in more than 500 patients from across the Greater Toronto Area to relieve COVID-19 related crowding at other healthcare institutions. 

Rounding out this year’s five award winners are: 

Cymax Group (Small Private Sector) – The B.C.-based ecommerce furniture company evolved beyond one website into a cloud-based multichannel enablement platform. It optimized operations by integrating vendor and supplier data and harnessing predictive analytics. Cymax now operates two SaaS platforms and three websites and is integrated into 10 different online marketplaces, including Amazon and Walmart. 

Bruce Power (Large Private Sector) – As Canada’s only private sector nuclear power generator, Bruce Power annually produces 30 per cent of Ontario’s power. Facing an end-of-life scenario in 2015, it secured approval to continue until 2064 – but was still running things from a 20-year-old enterprise asset management system. With help from IBM Maximo and Shiny Docs, Bruce Power used analytics and cognitive tools to condense 15 million disparate documents into three million with actual business value. 

Accelerated DX

According to a survey by McKinsey, organizations around the world have accelerated their digital transformation strategies by three to seven years within the span of just a few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Recipients of IT World Canada’s annual Digital Transformation Awards were honoured in a virtual ceremony on July 13. A panel of independent judges selected this year’s winners from 50 industry submissions. Past winners include Loblaws, RBC and Canadian Blood Services. 

The awards are part of IT World Canada’s Digital Transformation Week Conference, a virtual event that concludes on July 15 with the CIO of the Year Awards.

July 16: This story was updated to reflect the correct opening date and patient count at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital

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Christine Wong
Christine Wong
Christine Wong has been an on-air reporter for a national daily show on Rogers TV and at High Tech TV, a weekly news magazine on CTV's Ottawa affiliate. She was also an associate producer at Report On Business Television (now called BNN) and CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos. As an associate producer at Slice TV, she helped launch two national daily talk shows, The Mom Show and Three Takes. Recently, she was a Staff Writer at and is now a freelance contributor.

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