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Strategies, advice and opinions helping to define and develop the role of IT leaders and their staffs.

Managing Radical Technological Change

Information technology influenced disruption is impacting most organizations today. It is helping to accelerate globalization, intensify competition and transform markets, business models, ecosystems, products, services and processes. Most leaders understand that rapid advances in technological capabilities provide revolutionary organizational performance opportunities and also introduce threats that may be existential. For many, investing in and successfully applying information technology is now a much greater priority.

We are seeing this at the University of Waterloo through the requests from organizations that are asking us how information technology can be applied and used in digital transformation. Organizations are increasingly aware of the technological advances that are occurring (Internet of Things, Data Analytics, Automation, Artificial Intelligence, AR/VR, etc.) – their questions are about which should be their priority, what they should do with them, and how?

For many years, we have understood that successful application of information technology requires effective collaboration between the technology people and the business people. The technology people understand the functionality of the technology and have the skills to create, install and support it. The business people consider how that functionality might be applied and then manage its use. In organizations where change is gradual and innovation is incremental (sometimes known as sustaining innovation), research tells us that information technology projects achieve a modest degree of success – between 30 % and 70 % are regarded as successful – but these projects are becoming more challenging.

Our own research shows that organizations are changing at an increasing pace. They are reporting that projects are getting larger in scale, becoming very complex, and are more strategically important. This reflects the intensification of competition caused by technological advances and globalization. It also means that the changes that organizations desire require higher levels of organizational and individual capability than what was necessary in the past.

Digital transformation can take many forms; some gradual, and others both radical and complex. Some are carried out within existing business models, while others are revolutionary in their scope, requiring new capabilities in order to be successful. The following areas need explicit attention:

  1. The Business: If you don’t know the business, how can you know how the technology should be applied? With radical change, knowledge of the business and its markets needs to be very strong.
  2. Innovation: Improving innovation in organizations has received substantial attention in recent years. Innovation is now understood to be critical to business performance and national economic success. Radical change will be more successful in organizations that are more open to innovation and are able to imagine and achieve large scale change.
  3. Business Performance Improvement Options: Information technology isn’t simply an opportunity to automate existing processes. It also offers an opportunity to improve and transform most business areas. Knowledge of effective business organization and management will help achieve radical transformation by intelligently selecting the areas to change.
  4. Integration consistency: Change in one area will often impact others. Having a consistent approach to the changes happening across the organization will enable conflicts to be minimized and synergies to be achieved.
  5. Leadership: Effective change requires strong leadership to motivate and empower people throughout the organization. Leaders need to commit to the transformation agenda and be prepared to work to make it happen.

Of the five areas listed above, knowledge of performance improvement is often underestimated in the application of information technology. The knowledge that exists of best-practices can be used to design and manage the application of technology. For example, in operations, lean and more responsive approaches are being used in many businesses. Companies need to consider collaborative approaches to supply chain design, product development, social media marketing, and employee engagement. Substantial opportunities exist from an integrated approach across the organization. As technology application expands, businesses will quickly learn more about its effective use.

The options that are available can be illustrated in the following case: Jeff is the operations manager at Waterloo Automotive Components who manufacture brake assemblies for automotive producers in North America. He is considering how WAC might apply the Industrial Internet of Things. He is aware that IIOT technologies will allow him to install sensors in many of the processes that he manages, including the machining work done on the brake parts and the assembly and inspection areas. The sensors might provide data on the machines, materials and people in Jeff’s operation.

As with many operations managers today, Jeff’s job performance is assessed by his manager based on continuous improvement of his performance metrics. He is expected to show improvement in costs and quality while making periodic updates to the designs of the brakes that he is producing. He is considering how the knowledge provided by the sensors might be utilized and has many choices to make. Some are relatively straightforward – data can be provided to maintenance engineers to improve the reliability of the major machines – while others are more complex.

Data will enable processes to be studied to reduce costs and enhance quality. It is important to define who will be responsible for interpreting the data that the sensors provide and for determining, managing and sustaining the improvements that are made. Should these be the operators, the engineers, or other specialists? What will need to be done to manage the change in roles and responsibilities? How will the changes made be kept consistent with overall organizational priorities and systems of work? How will the performance measurement systems of the organization be impacted?

This limited example illustrates the issues involved in the application of one technological change. They are multiplied when undertaking organizational transformation.

At Waterloo, we have developed our approaches to understand effective practices and to share that knowledge. Students work with many organizations on projects that enable change. Our new 10 week program in Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship, offered online, is also intended to help implement business change. Our archive of over 1500 case studies on the use of social media for performance improvement in organizations, and a compilation of over 200 interviews on my YouTube Channel are freely available. They focus on informing the public about the radical application of information technology. If you are interested in discussing your work to digitally transform your organization, please get in touch.

Peter Carr’s work focusses on the impact of information technology in society and its application within organisations. He is the Director of three online certificate programs at the University of Waterloo in Technology Entrepreneurship, Project Leadership and Social Media for Business Performance, for working professionals.


Past Attendees

ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Avison Young - VP Global Enterprise Architecture & Integration

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bell Business Markets - Director, Strategy & Planning

Bell Canada - National Director, Digital Transformation

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT


BFL CANADA - Director, Cybersecurity & IT Risk Management

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Director, Technology & Operations Transformation

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

Bulk Barn - Head, IT

Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Goose - CTO

Canada Live - VP of Technology

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canada Protection Plan - Head of IT

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Capgemini - Service Delivery Director


Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CBI Health Group - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

CDSPI - Board Director

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CI Global Asset Management - VP of Enterprise Infrastructure $amp; Operations

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Richmond Hill - CIO

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Colliers - Head of Technology & Data

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

Crescent Point Energy - Head of IT

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Head of IT and Administration

Dale Parizeau Morris Mackenzie - VP, IT

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP - Director, Information Technology

DealerTrack Canada - Director, Technology

Defence Construction Canada - Corporate Manager, IT

Deloitte - Director, Risk Advisory

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

D+H Partnership - VP, Head of Canadian Mortgage Technology

eHealth - EVP, Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS


Equitable Bank - CIO

Equitable Bank - CISO

Equity Financial Trust - VP, IT

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

FGL Sports - VP, Information Technology

Finastra - SVP, Head Technology Managed Services

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP - CIO

Freedom Mobile - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Geotab - Board Member

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Grand River Hospital - Director, Data Governance & Analytics

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Haventree Bank - VP, Technology

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi Vantara - GVP & Global CTO

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

HSB Canada - VP IT

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

Interac Corp - Director, Platform Engineering

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KFC Canada - CTO

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT


LCBO - Director, Applications Systems


Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lifeguard Digital Health - Chief Security & Informatics Officer

Loblaw Companies Ltd - Senior Director, Customer Engagement Technology

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

Manulife - Global Head of Private Markets & Real Estate Technology

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

MaRS Discovery District - Managing Director, Fintech and Commerce

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

Metrolinx - EVP & CIO

Minto Group - VP IT

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

MullenLowe Group - Global CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

NHL Players' Association - Head, Security & Technology

Northbridge Financial Corp - CIO

OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions


Oildex - VP, Architecture & Infrastructure

OPTrust - AVP, Enterprise Data Services

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - EVP, Data & Technology


OMERS - SVP, Data & Advanced Analytics

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - SVP, Product & Delivery

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Osum Oil Sands Corp - Manager, IS

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

Precision Drilling - Director, IT Infrastructure & Security

PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

PwC - Managing Director, Real Estate Technology Advisory

Pythian - CTO

Qantas - Global CIO

Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

RBC Royal Bank - VP, Technology Platforms & Risk Management

RBC Royal Bank - Global Cybersecurity VP

Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

Revera Inc. - CIO

Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Rheem Manufacturing - CISO & Enterprise Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

RioCan Property Services - VP IT

Roche - Head of IT Americas – Operations

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT


Russel Metals - VP,IS

Salvation Army Canada - Board Director

SCI Group - CIO

Scotiabank - Head, Systems Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - VP - International Systems Technology

Scotiabank - Head, System Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - Global Head, GBM Compliance & Transformation

Sears Canada - Divisional VP, Information Technology Services

Secure Energy Services - GM, IT

Shaw - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

Shaw Communications - VP, Technology Operations

Shaw Communications - Director, Risk Management

SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

SmartOne Solutions - President & CIO

Societe de Transport de Montreal - Division Head - Security and Compliance

Street Capital Financial - CIO

Sun Life Financial - AVP, Data & Business Intelligence Services

Sun Life Financial - VP Application Ops & Services

Sunco Communication - COO

Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - CISO & Global Head of Infrastructure Services

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Parking Authority - CIO

Toronto Police Services - CISO

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - CIO

Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

Transamerica Life Canada - CIO

Trican Well Services Ltd. - Director, Business Information Systems

Tridel Corporation - CIO

Trillium Health Partners - IT Director, Applications & Clinical Informatics

UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

University of Calgary - Executive Director, Development Services

University of Ottawa - CIO

University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Toronto - Director, Centre for Management & Technology

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Valencia Risk - Managing Director

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company - Director of Innovation Outpost

World Health - Director IT

Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

WSIB - Board Director

Yellow Pages Group - Director - Enterprise Data Management

York Region District School Board - CIO

York University - Board Director

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