CIOs test students’ business Iqs

A case study competition held in Vancouver recently by the Chief Information Officers Association of British Columbia (CIOABC) served to underscore the fact that tomorrow’s IT executives must focus on more then the latest whiz-bang technology.

The contest was open to any B.C. resident attending

a post-graduate program, with a $5,000 grand prize for the winning team of four up for grabs, and $3,000 second and third prizes.

CIOABC president Jim Williams, who is also director of IT for A&W Food Services, said since the organization was formed six years ago, scholarships have been an important part of the group’s mandate. Last year it introduced a case study competition.

“”It requires people to identify the problem, analyze the issues, and solve it quickly,”” said Williams.

Eight teams entered, and were given the problem and three hours to come up with ideas and put together a PowerPoint presentation. The panel chose three teams to present their cases to the judges in Vancouver.

Earning top honours was a group of students in the specialized MBA program at Simon Fraser University. Avin Wadhwani, a member of the winning team, said they decided to take part after competing in a similar case competition in Montréal.

“”We thought this was a chance to take advantage of some of the lessons we’d learned there,”” said Wadhwani.

The Simon Fraser students were asked to examine a Harvard case involving a hospital in the U.S. that was implementing an electronic health records system. Williams said he liked the case studies because they involve real-life business cases.

“”This one played out the various pitfalls around what to do and not to do when implementing a complex IT business solution, the impact on the organization, and where a CIO’s focus should be,”” said Williams. “”It wasn’t just about the technology, but on the business implementation.””

While many of the other teams had a stronger background in IT and technology, Wadhwani said his team had to approach the problem a different way.

“”We had to come at it from a business perspective,”” said Wadhwani. “”I think a lot of the other teams may have gotten too technical and narrow, and had not taken a holistic business view.””

Wadhwani said he thinks that’s why the judges liked their presentation, and perhaps there is a lesson there for CIOs.

“”Technology is crucial, but at the same time you need to look at the business angle too,”” said Wadhwani. “”CIOs often forget that.””

Williams agreed. Today, a CIO needs to be part of the executive team and know business, not just technology, he said.

“”A CIO needs to sit around the boardroom table and talk about business, return on investment, and strategic issues,”” said Williams. “”They need to fly at 20,000 feet.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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