IT Executive of the Year


Computing Canada’s first annual IT Executive of the Year feature was conceived when, despite an uncertain economy, we heard countless stories of innovative leadership in the IT departments of Canadian businesses. After reviewing an overwhelming number of quality nominations,

our judges determined an overall winner and three leaders whose accomplishments deserve recognition.

Stephen Tucker works in an industry ideally suited to his personality. As director of IT for Toronto’s Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, a hospital that provides residential, day programs and specialized services for the elderly, one of the most important ingredients he brings to the table is compassion. Tucker takes great care to ensure the centre’s 1,200 users — physicians, nurses and administrative support staff — receive the kind of attention they expect.

Of course, their expectations have changed since Tucker came on board almost four years ago. Before he arrived, network downtime was a twice-a-day frustration and a mostly non-certified IT staff struggled to keep up with the demand.

“”The network went down a lot and users calling the help desk were often greeted by a voice mail,”” says Tucker.

Under his stewardship, the department has been transformed into a well-oiled machine. Network uptime now sits at 99.913 per cent, or 45 minutes of downtime a year. Staff turnover in IT has dropped from about 50 per cent a year to less than five per cent. Most of the 14 people who comprise the IT department have been certified in at least one IT discipline.

Tucker attributes much of his success to a solid understanding of a concept many IT professionals struggle with: Aligning IT strategy with the goals of the business.

“”Stephen Tucker’s most prominent leadership strengths sit within his ability to capture the corporate vision beyond his immediate area of responsibility, and funnel it through to his team,”” says Andrew Pigou, Baycrest’s help desk manager.

Before joining one of Canada’s largest geriatric facilities in 1999, Tucker cut his teeth at Federal Express Canada, a courier company now recognized for its leadership and innovation in deploying technology. His six-year stint at FedEx earned him nine awards for excellent service and 32 letters of appreciation.

Tucker’s accomplishments are too numerous to include here, but here are a few facts from the Baycrest files that illustrate his commitment to users: Established Baycrest as a leader in e-learning; managed a system recovery after a massive network failure scrubbed the primary file server; awarded employee of the year for handling that disaster; built a wireless network to support physician order entry and bedside charting.

Looking ahead, Tucker is eager to explore the opportunities technology offers with respect to electronic patient records. He thinks if it can be done for automobiles, it can be done for patient records.

“”The other day I took my van to the dealership, but it was a different one than I normally go to,”” he explains. “”The new dealership was able to quickly diagnosis the problem because they had access to my van’s ‘health records.'””

Tucker says automating patient records will not only enable better access to those records, it will also reduce errors, a paramount concern in a health care facility.

“”When LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City implemented a computerized physician order entry system, it found a 70 per cent reduction in drug errors.””

If technology can help reduce human error and foster better care, Tucker is all for it.

What makes a strong leader?

A strong leader must be a visionary. My vision is to develop a better health care system. Today the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. is medical error. The path to solving this problem includes developing an electronic health record, using e-learning and other knowledge transfer tools, and using technology to allow healthcare practitioners to reach out into other institutions and into the homes of our sick and elderly.

What’s the best thing about IT work?

I am a creative and social person. IT allows me to be creative and social while allowing me to feel that I am doing something important.

What keeps you up at night?

Trying to understand how to deliver the vision of the hospital though technology, while trying to understand the abilities of the users to accept the new technology.

Leadership By Example

The number of outstanding nominations for IT Executive of the Year made it almost impossible to choose just one winner, so we selected three runners-up. Following are brief profiles of the finalists for IT Executive of 2002. Though they come from various industries, they share a common vision: Demonstrating the value information technology can bring to a business.

Andrew Maxwell, Managing Director, The Exceler@tor

The Exceler@tor is an information technology and telecommunications (ITC) focused incubator, providing infrastructure, support and professional services to high-potential companies that have disruptive or platform technologies. Under the leadership of Innovations Foundation (the University of Toronto’s technology commercialization company), activities are supported and encouraged by Ontario’s universities, industry and all levels of government. Its mission is to be a centre for innovation, enabling entrepreneurs to accelerate high potential technology businesses globally.

The Exceler@tor currently houses 25 companies and has a staff of about 80. It has an annual operating budget of approximately $1 million a year, but has managed to attract more than $1 million a year in sponsorship (goods and services) which it makes available to the incubation companies.

Most important quality for a good leader?

I believe that establishing a clear vision, and then allowing each person to see how they can help achieve this, brings out the best in people, allowing you to achieve incredible results with limited resources.

Biggest challenge in running your department?

The biggest challenge is there are so many opportunities to have an impact on the IT community in Ontario, it is difficult to decide what not to do.

Next big project your department will tackle?

Opening a digital media incubator, expanding the IT incubator and creating an international institute to benchmark best practices and impact of incubators on the innovation agenda worldwide.

Management philosophy?

Build a vision, create a collaborative environment, set ambitious objectives and then keep raising them.

Ken Wong, Assistant Vice-president of IT development Canadian Depository of Securities

The Canadian Depository for Securities Ltd. in Toronto is Canada’s national securities depository, clearing and settlement hub, and a key information provider for capital markets. CDS was established in 1970 to improve efficiency in the financial sector by providing securities-related services in domestic and international markets. CDS has 500 employees, $2 trillion of securities on deposit and settles $200 billion of securities trades every day.

Most important quality for a good leader?

The most important quality of a good leader is leadership by example. Be demanding of good results, but also provide the necessary tools and support for employees to deliver good results.

Biggest challenge in running your department?

The biggest is to meld two diverse cultures and skill sets that reside in two former IT organizations — a mainframe/Cobol group and a Web development/ client-server group — together as a team and get them to deliver more business value and achieve higher return on investment.

Next big project your department will tackle?

The integration of two legacy systems into one platform for all securities to reduce operating costs and implement a risk management model that will satisfy the requirements of both the extenders of credits (banks) and the receivers of credits(broker/dealers).

Management philosophy?

Tough, but fair. Delegate and give employees lots of opportunities to perform and achieve stretched objectives. Let employees swim but keep a watchful eye on them and never let them sink. Lots of one-on-one coaching. Develop good people and at the end of the day, it is good people that deliver good results.

Paul King, Director of Business Information Systems, Inex Pharmaceuticals Corp.

INEX is a Vancouver-based biopharmaceutical company developing and commercializing proprietary drugs and drug delivery systems to improve the treatment of cancer. With more than 200 employees, INEX’s product pipeline is comprised of product candidates from two platform technologies: targeted chemotherapy and targeted immunotherapy.

At the end of October, the company’s cash position was $70.1 million.

Most important quality for a good leader?

It is often easier and faster to tell someone what to do rather than explain what needs to be done. By investing the extra time to describe the end result instead of listing a set of tasks, people are encouraged to be creative.

Biggest challenge in running your department?

With knowledge of technology, business processes and a uniquely cross-functional perspective, IT is capable of aligning the company’s technology deployment strategy with the business strategy.

The challenge is that other group leaders often view IT as a purely technical group. They forget IT professionals are able to re-engineer the business processes to achieve a more productive, efficient and valuable use of information.

Next big project your department will tackle?

Over the next 12 months the company will be redesigning our supply chain process to transition from a research and development company to one that commercializes products. This will require a re-evaluation of our existing financial system.

Management philosophy?

Management is encouraging staff to expand their boundaries of responsibilities while providing them with guidance and support.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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