IT Leadership for a new decade: CIOs on innovation

This is the second installment in our three-part series from our annual CIO Canada roundtable. Click here for part one and here for part two.  

CIO Canada: We talked earlier how the CIO is the support function and also how to manage all those ideas that get thrown over the wall. I also want to talk a little bit about innovation as a CIO and how in various ways you can either create or contribute to the efforts around that. I’m going to start with Ambles and Omri, given that one of you is at a startup and other working in an industry that is going through a lot of turmoil right now. How do you see yourself contributing to innovations in your organization?

Ambles Kwok, CTO, SPRINGBOARD RETAIL NETWORKS: I would love to help show that one size doesn’t fit all, especially in the IT world. Creativity comes with individuality as well as diversity. With all the companies I worked with, they do have a base of what most people should use as laptop images but we allowed room for selections, meaning if you’re in a certain row, you should be using certain equipment. Maybe it’s different in other industries, you need to use whatever equipment that enables you to excel in that area. That’s what our take is. I do encourage people to use different hardware. It brings different perspectives on what you’re using and you’ll see other ideas come just from how people use it. Right now, I need to push the mobile agenda, so we encourage BlackBerries, iPhones, Androids, HPCs so you name it. Just do whatever to come up with the ideas. That’s the angle. Yes, I admit that it creates a nightmare for IT to support it and to ensure all the security policy around it, but we are not nannies, we are coaches. We just need them to know why the security has to be in place. Just in case we get audited, you have to be in this baseline. Just don’t cross that line but within that line, do whatever.

Omri Tintpulver, CIO, BRUNICO COMMUNICATIONS: I try very hard to spend as little time as possible on keeping the lights on and meeting with business heads to explore new products, new concepts. The business model in publishing has changed. It’s outside of our control so we need to innovate just to stay alive. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not just meeting with business heads, I’m meeting with clients. I’m going to trade shows. I’m having conversations with a filter that you bring when you’re a CIO into those meetings and trying to come up with new products, totally new businesses. I think fundamentally we’re trying to get closer to the transactions that happen for our clients so the more value we can give them through new products, typically they’re on-line products, database products, whatever it is, then we’ll survive so innovation is number one.

CIO Canada: Ted, you obviously work in a different kind of organization. What does innovation look like to you?

Ted Kaiser, VICE-PRESIDENT IT, KIDS HELP PHONE: There are two main parts to it. Obviously, there’s service innovation and then fund development innovation, and it’s an interesting split in terms of client value versus revenue development. We have to deliver our client value primarily to the kids who use our services for free and then we go back to our supporters and make the case that we are doing something very worthwhile and effective so they should support us. My contributions to innovation from an IT perspective with service are primarily towards driving towards a hosted solution and now I’m supporting the Head of Service. We’ve got a new Head of Service. She’s been onboard for just over a year and a half. She was formerly the Head of Counselling Services for the Toronto School Board, a PhD, a very knowledge, high-performing individual and she’s keen on technology so I’m now able to partner with her. We’re exploring, we’ve got a committee ongoing to explore new modalities so we’re investigating SMS channels for kids for counselling. We’re investigating chat in a new way and other channels in other modalities. That’s a great partnership and we’re doing research together. We had actually done a RFI several years ago and actually picked out a great chat technology. Well, that chat technology isn’t even available in the marketplace anymore so we’re also responding to the innovation that’s in the world, in the world of IT and in the world of Web-based services in particular so just keeping pace is part of innovating. There is structure, there is culture and there are processes so I’m following that new thread of thinking and trying to innovate around that within our organization. How do we operate? How do we get things done? We’ve been fortunate that our new President, our new Head of Service and our new Head of Marketing are recently arrived people with lots of great experiences from elsewhere so we’re generating a lot of new thinking. Just being part of the executive team is important for me as the CIO of a new organization to help contribute to innovation too.

Sandra Haynes, CIO, BORDEN LADNER GERVAIS: You know, at the risk of oversimplifying things, I think that the purest innovation is really about bringing new ideas to increasing profitability, increasing your competitive edge or advantage, kind of the same old, same old but again, the key is in finding new ways to do things. There are certainly some challenges in learning and practicing innovation but again in spirit, to me that’s what innovation is about. It’s about finding ways to increase the organization’s profitability.

CIO Canada: Stefan? How does that correspond to your efforts?

Stefan Viehmann, CIO, KUEHNE + NAGEL: I would consider myself, not my Help Desk or my network guys but myself, my role, as part of the business and I consider myself as a business developer to a certain extent. Yes, I have to keep the wheels on the bus. I have to manage costs and I have to run the shop. I know this; otherwise, I’m gone but if this is done, if the machinery room is working fine, I go up to the deck and I visit customers too. My personal objective is really to visit one customer in a month. Last year, I met nine or 10 so I’m almost there. I try to be successful and to develop my skills further. Also, what leads to innovation is to listen to the market needs. We all want to grow. Our companies have to grow, so this is when I have to be at the customer’s side — at the excellent customer’s side — and try to come back to develop products.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Shane Schick
Shane Schick
Your guide to the ongoing story of how technology is changing the world

Featured Articles

Empowering the hybrid workforce: how technology can build a better employee experience

Across the country, employees from organizations of all sizes expect flexibility...

What’s behind the best customer experience: How to make it real for your business

The best customer experience – the kind that builds businesses and...

Overcoming the obstacles to optimized operations

Network-driven optimization is a top priority for many Canadian business leaders...

Thriving amid Canada’s tech talent shortage

With today’s tight labour market, rising customer demands, fast-evolving cyber threats...

Staying protected and compliant in an evolving IT landscape

Canadian businesses have changed remarkably and quickly over the last few...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now