Celebrating our 20th anniversary with a message from CIOCAN National Past President, Gary Davenport

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it is living the life of a CIO.

Being a CIO can be a wonderful career experience. However, it is not for the faint of heart nor the weak in spirit. There will undoubtedly be the opportunities for both great triumphs and unfortunate setbacks along the way. The key from my personal experience and perspective is to maintain focus on the end goals and a belief in your own abilities to achieve positive outcomes despite whatever obstacles that may be encountered along the way.

Of course, all CIOs will face a number of challenges. I would summarize the key overarching ones as never enough time, never enough financial resources, never enough talent and sometimes inconsistent senior executive support. Any one of these challenges in and of themselves can be quite difficult to overcome, but when there are multiple of these conditions at play in a situation, then the resulting scenarios can be overwhelming. This will stretch any CIO’s business, technology and leadership skills. 

Given the torrid pace of change and the unending need to redefine the status quo, CIOs are at the heart of the move to the digital economy and the unfolding future. In essence, today’s CIOs will find themselves trying to meet a multitude of these demands and expectations. While there is no singular right approach and style to being a CIO, experience has taught us some valuable lessons about how best to manage for success.

One such lesson is that there is great benefit in being a member of the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. With membership now at 500, CIOCAN provides the opportunity for members to connect with other CIOs across Canada to share best practices and lessons learned, to promote executive development and to develop a shared perspective on issues of significance impacting the CIO profession. I have had the privilege of being a member since 2009 and serving as the National President for five years from 2011 to 2016. Since that time, I have continued to volunteer my time and experience to the Association as a way of giving back and staying connected to what is happening.

As a not-for-profit industry Association, there is no other similar organization that exists solely for the benefit of helping senior IT leaders advance their careers and to help Canada from a competitive positioning perspective. Of course, value is very dependent on what you are prepared to invest in terms of your time and attention, but it is very clear to me that the more you participate, the more you will get back in return.

It is also abundantly clear to me that the level of sophistication for today’s CIOs has risen quite dramatically since the early days. This evolution is very apparent in the focus areas of CIOCAN and the level of discussion that is much more strategic and business focused than days in the past. A great example of this evolution is the work of the Association is doing on setting the standard for IT professionalism with the recently launched Rotman and CIOCAN CIO Executive Leadership Program and the official CIO Designation (CIO.D). Another example is the quality of the nomination submissions and quality of accomplishments for both the CIOCAN Impact Awards and the industry-wide Canadian CIO of the Year Awards. Finally it is also evident in the number of strategic partnerships that CIOCAN has developed across the industry, which is truly impressive and beneficial for its membership.  

In summary, the CIO profession continues to be one of the most critical in business and industry today. CIOs have the responsibility to drive the digital transformation agenda through innovation, productivity and competitiveness for their respective organizations. At CIOCAN we not only provide our members with an exchange forum for best digital leadership strategies and practices to enhance business results, we are also developing a strong voice to ensure that CIOs are represented at key industry and government decision tables, in other words: Growth; Influence; and Impact.

It is indeed an exciting and rewarding time to be a CIO and to be an integral part of the CIOCAN journey. Don’t waste the opportunity!

Gary Davenport, CIOCAN Board Member & CIOCAN National Past President