John Cannon, the popular CIO for the Toronto Transit Commission who also dedicated much of his later career working to promoting education and peer relationships among his fellow chief information officers, died last month. He was 56.
Cannon, who had been in the CIO role at the TTC since 2001, spent more than 34 years at the organization and described himself as a “lifer,” working in corporate security, equipment management and management services. His career began as an Investigator in 1978 and later Chief Storekeeper, where he was responsible for controlled stores operations for the TTC and for the implementation of the Divisional Stores Project.
His move to the CIO role came at a turbulent time for the organization’s technology department. “When I came in, we were just coming off of Y2K, so we were patching our current systems instead of outright replacing everything,” he recalled to ComputerWorld Canada, later adding he was trying to make IT investments that were both responsive and responsible. “We’re not just ramming something in so we can say, ‘See — we got something in.’ It’s not about that,”
He became known internally for leading the Information Technology Services Department through a multi-year improvement plan, which earned the Gold Award for Excellence from the National Quality Institute of Canada in 2007. Other successes included the installation of LCD TVs in subway stations to broadcast service delay notifications and the arrival of incoming trains, an online trip planner and a major Web site redesign.
In 2006 Cannon joined the CIO Association of Canada, where he became president of the Ontario chapter and contributed to many of its regular events. Sharing best practices was important to Cannon. In an interview with CIO Canada last year, he spoke at length about the need to stay in touch with his peers.
“I found that many of the problems I was dealing with at the TTC were universal. All of the CIOs I came in contact with had the same kind of issues to a greater or lesser degree,” he said. “We’ve overcome a lot of the issues that some people are currently struggling with, and I’m happy to be able to share some of the things we’ve done within the TTC to help others resolve their issues.”
Mr. Cannon is survived by his wife, Sue, and children, Lisa, Julie and Michael.