Forward-thinking business leaders understand that many technology categories, including information technology, can advance their business plan. At the recent IoT North Conference in Calgary, Alberta, the keynote panel explored the opportunities and risks of new technology. The panel members discussed technologies that solve real-world business problems and the reasons for investing in technology. Organizations that respond to the problems and address opportunities future-proof their businesses.
The moderator, Jim Gibson, catalyst and community builder, is active in many organizations advancing the startup ecosystem, including the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) and Rainforest Alberta. The panel members were:
- Naseem Bashir, executive chair, Williams Engineering Canada, Inc.
- Doug Schweitzer, educational credential assessment (ECA), KC, Partner, Blue Rock Law and former cabinet minister in the Government of Alberta.
- Suzie Smibert, SVP client delivery and chief privacy officer, Celero Solutions
Organizations think too little about third-party risk, said Smibert. Often, third parties, meaning product and service vendors, are the source of trouble when it erupts.
Schweitzer said organizations that are slow to adopt new methods and technologies risk significant business decline or even bankruptcy when customer expectations change rapidly.
Bashir said senior management often finds the estimated returns on proposed IT investments neither credible nor understandable. These situations create gridlock and the risk that the organization does not embark on critical digital transformations.
The panel members agreed that the insufficiency of business understanding among information technology professionals creates cost overruns, delays, and risk of missed business opportunities when new systems are designed and implemented.
Bashir said that both vendor and customer organizations operate with internal silos that work to defeat vital changes that would enable the organization to respond to emerging opportunities in their marketplace.
The panel members agreed that American organizations handle change faster and better than Canadian ones.
There was an extensive discussion about how the lack of change management on many technology projects creates staff resistance to change, and perhaps sabotage. The staff resistance slows the project and risks undermining the expected benefits. The best way to build buy-in is with people change management tasks that include:
- Offering formal training in the new business processes.
- Providing in-person support to staff as they switch to the new way of conducting business.
- Ensuring that adopting the new business processes is a component of the employee’s annual review process.
Schweitzer acknowledged the growing complexity in society, the business environment and supporting technologies. Concurrently, stakeholders are raising expectations about the standard of corporate governance and the level of compliance.
Smibert pointed out that cybersecurity risk has finally become a discussion point within senior management and the board of directors.
These expectations about corporate governance, including risk management, are forcing organizations to make investments which produce limited tangible returns but huge reputational benefits.
Smibert said that Celero has found it helpful to ensure various customer groups are represented in most departments and on IT projects.
Bashir pointed out that staff find it challenging to appreciate various cultural groups’ concerns about the buildings some of their clients design.
Schweitzer reminded the audience that Alberta is home to many innovative startups and smaller companies offering software and related services. These companies will contribute substantially to the growth and diversification of the Alberta economy.
Bashir referred to a recent United States Geological Survey forecast of the critical minerals that must be mined globally to achieve the energy transitions. It stated that mining sufficient volumes at current rates will take hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. We need to increase investment and reduce the permitting elapsed time dramatically.
Smibert pointed to an overreliance on sizeable international consulting organizations. This situation adds cost, elapsed time and often reduces innovation. Organizations should consider smaller, cheaper and likely more agile vendors. Canadian companies must quit waiting for an American customer’s reference before proceeding.
The panel members made few references to technical skills. Instead, they often cited the need for organizations and individuals to exhibit more agility, adaptability and resilience.
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