How Canadian CIOs are leading change in a digital business environment

As we adjust to the digital business opportunities that are rapidly becoming the expectation and reality for business stakeholders and executives, Gartner has identified three leadership challenges that need to be abruptly adjusted — or “flipped.” Organizations planning to take full advantage of digital must address leadership related to information and technology, value, and people and culture.

Gartner’s annual survey of more than 2,800 IT leaders worldwide reveals that a significant majority of CIOs, both globally and in Canada, believe that the digital world is creating new and additional risks in their environment.

In light of this, it is interesting to note that, in comparison with global CIOs (83 per cent), Canadian CIOs seem to have heightened concerns (92 per cent) over the ability to deal with these risks from either a management or an agility perspective.

The influence of government policies is particularly noticeable in the response to risk when compared to global attitudes, with a strong contribution of public sector to the Canadian percentages. Government sovereignty concerns over control of the two key digital elements — cloud and data — combined with a focus on risk identification and assessment, would account for the stronger responses to risk.

The top five technology priorities, with minor variations in order, are the same between Canada, and global responses, indicating consistency in the highest priority items for CIOs – BI/Analytics, ERP and infrastructure/data center. Within the balance of the list, however, Canada CIOs are still focused more on legacy modernization, application development and IT services, compared to global environments.

The public-sector influence is apparent here, where we can see the influence of the auditor general’s report, making legacy modernization and shared services specific priorities for government. Given the unique nature of most government applications and systems, application development would be a consistent priority as IT organizations work on updating, replacing or integrating systems as part of their legacy modernization activities.

Use of cloud options for infrastructure and software follows the same pattern for Canada and global CIOs, but there is a slight variation, with Canada more likely to use software as a service (SaaS) on an exception basis. When compared to the U.S., however, although both regions are equally committed to using infrastructure as a service (IaaS), U.S. data indicates CIOs are more likely to select SaaS as the first or second option, compared to Canada. The U.S. may have greater availability and easier access to U.S.-based SaaS providers. In Canada and globally, concerns about the Patriot Act are still influencing cloud software decisions and constraining use of SaaS, especially in the public sector.

There is a striking difference between customer-facing use of mobile options in Canada (49 per cent) compared to global (62 per cent). Canada still significantly lags behind on employee-facing mobile as a first choice (5 percent), with selection skewed in Canada toward secondary (36 per cent) or minority (43 per cent) use, rather than the global first (12 per cent) and second (36 per cent). This reticence of Canadian organizations to embrace mobile solutions seems inconsistent with the high profile of mobile device usage across Canada.

Part of the business/service resistance to the adoption of mobile technologies may be due to the strong relationships with telecom providers and high investment in telecom infrastructure, combined with longer-term fixed contracts. World markets, especially Europe, have the advantage of less stringent and shorter-term telecom contracts, resulting in greater flexibility to embrace new opportunities. Canada also has fewer mobility providers in the market, reducing competition to drive better contracting terms.

The interest and active pursuit of SMART technologies — sensors, maker machines (3D print), augmented humans, robotics and thinking machines — varies between Canada, U.S. and global markets. The survey indicates that Canada CIOs are slightly more likely to be interested in 3D printing (42 per cent) and sensor/IoT (78 per cent) compared to global (39 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively). The use of sensors in Canada for the energy and mining industry, as well as agricultural and biological use, may be a contributing factor to the slightly more forward-looking interest level in Canada, but that has not translated into increased project activity.

Similarly, although robotics shows approximately the same level of disinterest between Canada (64 per cent) and global (63 per cent) data, there are significantly more active robotics projects underway globally (21 percent) versus in Canada (16 per cent). Canada appears to be falling behind both U.S. and global trends in the planning and leveraging of robotics, thinking machines and augmented human technologies.

Suzanne Adnams is a research director in Gartner’s CIO research group, focusing on the IT service leadership challenges related to strategy, governance and organizational challenges of IT service management.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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