Chief information officers across Canada have been driving change in their organizations, and in some cases, have helped accelerate digital transformation projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the role of the CIO is constantly changing and sometimes stays shrouded in mystery due to the many ways it touches business operations. As the Canadian CIO Association’s new president, Philippe Johnston says he wants to bring more clarity and visibility to the role.
“We have to strengthen the voice of the CIO,” Johnston told IT World Canada after his appointment. As Transport Canada’s director general of digital services, he’s been helping to digitize Canada’s transportation sector for more than a year, and before his role with Transport Canada, Johnston helped established the Cyber Defense program at the Communications Security Establishment. He says he’s confident he can move the organization forward to new heights after the good work done by his predecessor Humza Teherany, chief digital officer for MLSE.
“I want to thank Humza Teherany for serving as our president these past few years. He truly guided our organization to new heights with his leadership and vision. Thank you Humza Teherany, for your dedication to the CIO Association and I look forward to continuing to work with you as the past president,” Johnston said.
The digitization of the economy, a process that’s been accelerated during the past eight months, has moved IT to the forefront of business discussions, something Teherany is very familiar with at MLSE. It’s gotten beyond simply giving IT and cybersecurity teams serious attention in the boardroom.
“We’re building digital companies inside existing companies,” he told the publication. “Many companies have taken after that line of thinking.”
In addition to a roughly 30 per cent growth in membership since 2016, the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) remains the only national organization of CIOs across the country, and over the past four years, doubled down on business transformation on top of its ongoing efforts to guide CIOs through the technological landscape. Teherany helped the association launch a CISO division in 2017, a mentoring program, and a Montreal chapter earlier this year.
“The organization is in fantastic hands with Phil and the rest of our national board,” he said, noting he’ll stick around for the transition period and will remain on the national board. “I’m excited to watch the organization continue to grow.”
That growth will mostly happen from home as CIOCAN members continue to operate remotely in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
“CIOs were faced with an incredible task of moving organizations forward from a five-year timeline to a much more condensed plan,” Johnston said. “Early on, I think a lot of our members were focused on just keeping the lights on.”
But now that focus has clearly shifted. The latest CanadianCIO Census suggests their top concern is not about technology or cybersecurity; it’s their employees’ well-being. Based on 165 responses and a priority scale from 1 to 10 – 10 being the highest priority – employee well-being was priority number one, with a priority score of 6.8. Dealing with the spike in cyberattacks came in at number two, with a priority score of 6.1.
While contact tracing and exposure notification apps have dominated headlines, businesses are increasingly leaning towards digital thermometer checkpoints, according to IDC Canada. When it comes to employee contact tracing solutions, IDC Canada cites “depressingly low adoption outside of utilities, telecoms and construction businesses.”
It’s unclear what technology solution is the ideal choice for preventing further spread at the office, but most employees have come to terms with the fact that working from home will be part of their working lives for the foreseeable future.
“I never want to go back to work in an office,” Johnston said. “I think technology-wise, we’re set up for success to work remotely.”