When I started my first interview for this series, I sat down with Corey Cox and Karim Ramji in the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, constructed in 1930.
Talking about cloud infrastructure, Internet of Things solutions, and other ‘fourth platform’ technologies in the cozy confines of the expansive log cabin on the Ottawa River proved to be a perfect metaphor for what I’d learn from my interviews. Like this famous resort that’s steeped in all the tropes of Canadiana – photos of former Prime Ministers are featured on the walls and there’s no shyness about playing up the lumberjack heritage of the venue – our interview and podcast series is also firmly located in Canada and informed by the deep histories of its organizations.
Enterprises like the Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway are not only more than a century old, but served a role in influencing Canada’s history as a nation. Yet in meeting with the CIOs of these institutions, I realized that these are new technology leaders. (Hence the title of our podcast series, 5 lessons from new technology leaders). The effect that these leaders are having on their organizations is both disruptive and transformative. These aren’t merely technical practitioners that seek to keep the lights on (or perhaps the wheels on the track) in a more efficient manner, but change management leaders disrupting the way their businesses operate.
Consider a few of the incredible technology implementations that these leaders have implemented: Bruce Ross and his team at RBC have made it possible for customers to send Interac email money transfers by asking Siri; Michael Redeker’s team at CP Rail has added a digital layer to their iron-rail network and can locate any train car in realtime; Claudio Silvestri is working on a joint-project at NAV Canada that will see the world’s first global air traffic tracking system using space satellites. These sound more like projects you’d expect a Silicon Valley firm to be pursuing than these legacy organizations.
I believe this shows that Canada is turning a corner when it comes to innovation. It’s now accepted at the most established organizations that technology is paving the road to the future. The CIO is playing a key role in that by becoming a strategic partner that aligns with the business, and assists in focusing on customer outcomes. While we used to say “the customer is always right” as a platitude, operating with a “customer-first” approach is now the clear mandate of any serious business leader.
It also made me reflect on how CanadianCIO has evolved over its 25-year history. I still feel new to my mandate as editor here, and I appreciate that most of this brand’s history is rooted in the print magazine. But in the past couple of year’s we’ve hammered out a compelling digital vision for telling these stories that is well showcased here. Accompanying our written Q&A interviews are videos featuring three of our subjects (all award recipients) and a podcast series covering all six of these accomplished finalists for CanadianCIO of the Year.
Hearing the story of innovation in the voices of its instigators is powerful. You might say that you’re looking into the face of Canada’s technology future.