Learn to lead: More business courses for IT pros

 This is the second installment of our national survey of business-oriented courses that can help CIOs with further their career development. Click here for part one: Canadian business courses for IT pros.  

University of Manitoba’s Asper School of BusinessWith just one year under its belt, the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business Executive program is serious about convincing CIOs of the value of executive education. It is working closely with the local chapter of CIPS, the Canadian Information Processing Society, to identify the best senior IT candidates for its program, says Steve Vieweg, the school’s director of executive programs.

“The program is designed to ensure proper succession planning,” he says, “Companies want to get high-performance individuals into senior leadership positions and CIOs are among the ranks of C-level individuals taking the program.”

Executive development is offered through four methodologies: professional, open enrolment, custom design and outreach programs, in a 10-day format.

One of the differentiating factors of the school, says Vieweg, is the 360-degree assessment for each student, which provides participants with peer feedback so they can better understand where their leadership skills need work.

“The program today is significantly different today from the one we kicked off with in September.”

In February 2011, the Asper School of Business will move from the Fort Garry campus to downtown Winnipeg in an effort to increase its profile.

York University’s Schulich School of Business

The Executive Education Centre at York University’s Schulich School of Business has been around since the 1970s, but it has seen an explosion in growth in the last seven years, according to the centre’s Executive Director, Allan Middleton. More CIOs and other C-level executives are interested in beefing up their business strategy and leadership acumen through a variety of programs at Schulich including management and leadership, finance and accounting and business operations.

Middleton says CIOs tend to come up the ranks through the IT silo, yet they’re being asked to think much more about long-term corporate strategy and what they can do to enable the entire organization.

“At the CIO level, it’s much more of a C-suite partnership where the entire executive team focuses on talent develop, marketing, finance and what they need to do to enable a point of difference or competitive advantage for the organization.”

Schulich’s executive education program differs from others in three specific areas, says Middleton. Firstly, it briefs instructors on the backgrounds of participants so they’re familiar with their environments and challenges when they arrive on-site. Its also focused on action-based learning projects that encourage networking among participants. Finally, to ensure participants realize the benefits of the program, Schulich has a rigorous evaluation process.

“Immediately after the seminar, we check in with participants to see if the course achieved its objectives,” he says. “In three to six months, we will re-contact the participants and their colleagues and supervisors to determine what changes have taken place in the organization as a result of the program. We want to understand if there has been an identifiable financial impact.”

Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business

When Barry Clavir launched the CIO Summit in Toronto in the 1990s, CIOs were regarded as caretakers of the IT shop, but not part of the company’s corporate strategy team. While the summit offered continuing education for CIOs and an opportunity to network with others, it didn’t provide instruction in the kind of “transformational change” companies are demanding from their CIOs. Clavir saw an opportunity.

“I wanted to provide the next generation of IT leaders an opportunity to learn in an MBA-like setting where we combined the appropriate level of theory and practical experience, and taught not by academics, but by CIOs,” says Clavir.

Clavir and his partner Craig Ballance pitched a development program for IT leaders to Ryerson University and in 2003, the first class kicked off. About 30 per cent of the participants are CIOs and the remainder are direct reports to the CIO, typically candidates that are being groomed for advancement.

Ryerson’s program differs from many of the other university-based programs in that the instructors are almost entirely made up of IT practitioners, most of whom are or were CIOs at some point in their career.

The classes are small with a maximum of 24 students in each course. The 12-day, classroom-based program is split into three modules, with each focusing on a different aspect of business leadership and IT.

“We have a reflective learning model, so the modules are separated by six weeks,” says Clavir. “The students go back to the workplace and think about what they’ve learned, and at the end of the 12 weeks, they come away with some clear competencies and confidence.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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