It turns out that I am a GTEC leadership program alumnus, having attended most of the CIO boot camps and the Next Gen CIO sessions that evolved since 2007. Every year has provided new learnings, from dealing with IT delivery issues to workforce adjustments, to making your voice heard at the management table and enabling the customer.
We have learned to define the elephant, take risks, create a CIO Action Plan, embrace agility and balance innovation with compliance. The one constant element has been transformation and change.
The topics have been interesting but, even more important, the people I have met at these sessions have been fascinating. I have learned from social scientists turned provincial CIO’s, met folks with unique perspectives and even made a few friends. Between the topics presented and the conversations I have learned a lot.
Reflecting on this history makes me realize that perhaps the most important skill for IM/IT leaders is the skill of learning. Learning to deliver vertical accountabilities by working together. Engineers learning to work with humanists. Humanists learning to work with engineers. Learning to listen, both as individuals and as organizations. Learning to share what we learn (both the good and the bad).
In a way, learning is a risk mitigation strategy. If you learn from your failures then you can make progress. If you don’t take any risks, you will never learn anything. If we don’t learn how to really take advantage of technology and information then we will never move forward.
And today we need to move forward more than ever. Cloud computing, Shared Services Canada, open government and a very dynamic world presents departments with wicked problems that simply can’t be solved with the same old thinking.
This summer I had the opportunity to travel across Canada to consult with hundreds of Canadians on open government topics. I learned from business that they want government data now so they can unlock value. I learned from not-for-profit organizations that they want information and input into decisions so they can make their communities and our country better. I learned from folks deeply concerned about the state of democracy, yet hopeful that technology can enable new partners with government to collaborate on solutions.
The future will be an age of transparency and constant change. That is an uncomfortable prospect for many, but I believe if we work together solutions can be co-created. Collaboration is the new mantra, collaboration amid change the new reality. Collaboration is not a technology or a tool, but it can be enabled (or disabled) by the way technology is implemented. IM/IT leaders need to learn to really listen to the business, to bring users into the design process and apply technology in ways that actually add value to their everyday experience.
The one constant is change. And this year’s session promises a practical approach to change that I look forward to learning. Hopefully we’ll meet up there and I can learn from you, too.