Careers: Interviews
Top-ranking Business and Technology Leader: Bernard Courtois President & CEO Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., DF/NPA, MVP, CNP has an exclusive interview with Bernard Courtois.

Bernard CourtoisAs the president and CEO of ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada, Bernard Courtois is an outspoken advocate for the deployment of information and communications technology tools to improve business productivity and to achieve our societal and public policy goals.

Mr. Courtois was named ITAC's leader in January 2004. He is a lawyer with over 30 years experience in the telecommunications sector. He served in a variety of executive roles with Bell Canada from 1991 to 2003, including those of Chief Regulatory Officer and Chief Strategy Officer. Prior to joining Bell Canada, Mr. Courtois practiced law in Montreal and Ottawa serving a wide range of clients in telecommunications and other regulated industries. He was an active participant in the many regulatory, public policy and judicial proceedings which have shaped Canada's competitive communications marketplace. He was Chief Strategy Officer when Bell Canada took its strong turn to the Internet, ahead of most of its peers around the world.

Mr. Courtois is also a dedicated and energetic builder of business communities. He has served on the ITAC Board of Directors since 1999. He has also served on the executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; was president of the International Institute of Communications; and is director and treasurer of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation.

Mr. Courtois is a graduate of l'Universit� de Montr�al. He is a member of the bar in Ontario and Quebec. He lives in Ottawa.

The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) is the voice of the Canadian information and communications technologies (ICT) industry in all sectors including telecommunications and Internet services, ICT consulting services, hardware, microelectronics, software and electronic content. ITAC's network of companies accounts for more than 70 per cent of the 579,000 jobs, $137.6 billion in revenue, $5.2 billion in R&D investment, $22.6 billion in exports and $11.5 billion in capital expenditures that the industry contributes annually to the Canadian economy.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:031: From your perspective, what do you hope to achieve in 2008?
"....strategy for our industry, connecting with government, the skills issue, the competitiveness issue (a big one for our industry and for Canada)...."

:01:15: Bernard shares his personal goals for the next five years.

:01:37: How do you see the technology landscape building globally as compared to Canada?
"....Everybody talks about the world being flat but some people talk about the world actually getting more, both on the production side and the employment and youth side....are permitting the spreading of certain kinds of economic activities around the world.....At the same time, the world is going to get peaky, (in the sense that), the more attractive knowledge jobs are going to continue to congregate in places that have a series of attributes such as a good quality of life and advanced education, advanced technology...."

:03:25: What are added areas of interest internationally that we should be watching and why?
"....The cost picture is going to continue to evolve, even in countries with very large pools of people (ie. India or China). The demand is going to continue to outstrip the capacity of all countries to generate the number of skilled people we need and that is causing an acceleration in salary costs and turnover costs in those countries....The other area is the environment...."

:05:18: What are your views on technology education and the projected state of enrolments? What should be done?
"....There needs to be an overarching message that gets given from the leaders in our industry and our political leaders. There needs to be co-ordination and collection of what's going on so that we can identify the gaps and we pursue this with a coherent strategy, as opposed to piecemeal as we are doing now...."

:08:44: I see news items such as: aligning IT with business needs, driving business agility, managing risk through improved governance, closing the skills gap and meeting future skill shortages, addressing the productivity gap in Canada versus other countries, improving ICT adoption rates, integrating Gen-Y and more. Can you add to your views, (over what you have already given), on the top challenges facing our industry in 2008 and beyond?
"....Not only do we need more skilled human resources than we've had, but we need an upgrading of those resources. And that upgrading involves not just technology but that juncture between business and technology so that the technologist can help the business people and vice versa...."

:10:48: You proposed some solutions earlier - do you have any added thoughts?
"....There is no doubt that we are going to have to do more things with less people; we have left the age of having to find jobs for people and we have entered the age where we have to find people for the jobs that we've got. That inevitably means that we should use technology more to do things more efficiently with fewer people - so that should be a good thing for our industry. We are going to get caught short unless we think about this with the urgency it merits...."

:12:57: Bernard shares his views on the impact of Gen Y and their impact on business, education and government.
"....People have the attitude that Gen Y was born in technology and react (to technology) in a completely different way than folks who are older. I have a caution about that. I don't believe that their use of technology is a cliff....I think there is quite a spectrum...."

:16:00: The comment comes up frequently about the concept of small and medium sized businesses in Canada and that the proportion is somewhat unique here in this country. Can you comment on that and what that means to the Canadian economy and what that means in terms of ICT adoption rates, etc.?
"....Obviously getting an advanced phone system or getting on the internet is a lot easier than what you really need to do today if you are really going to take advantage of technology. That is, to think through how you are going to use the advanced capabilities and interoperability of things today and change the way you do business. Not just to cut your costs or in your back office, but to grow faster, to have more competitive products, to have a more effective sales operation in reaching out to customers and have a more effective interaction with your existing and future customers. All those things are difficult and Small and Medium Enterprises do not have access to the skills and human resources needed to explore how you do that and implement it.......What we are exploring at ITAC, notably with the Ontario government and then hopefully with the federal government (to spread it across the country), is how do we reach out to SME's on a basis they will engage in and find a way to help them get the knowledge...."

:21:00: Considering your long history of successes in the industry, do you have more to add based on the perspective you uniquely have - looking into the future?
"....the thing we have to think about today is the package of skills that involves the combination of technology and understanding of business.....So the technological skills, the soft skills of working with people, and the business skills of business planning and helping a business achieve its objective better through technology, as opposed to simply keeping the lights on and the machines running...."

:22:18: What do you see as ITAC's priorities going into 2008? What do you hope to accomplish?
"....We are hoping in 2008 to have some traction on the skills shortage issue......both with senior level politicians and a concerted effort to tackle this issue.....The other thing we have to navigate is that because we've got a minority government at the federal level, there is always a risk of an election that could change the government, but even if the same party is elected they rethink their priorities about the competitive challenges we face as a nation. The ICT industry has a unique role in understanding this and solving this because we are an enabler throughout the economy and it is our responsibility to keep the attention focused on these competitive issues...."

:24:00: The UN-founded International Federation of Information Processing or IFIP has their Professional Practice Program which received full ratification at the world general assembly in August 2007 with their first implementation meeting in Montreal hosted by CIPS in October. This marks an historical inflection point and speaks to IT as a recognized profession with global standards, profession-based code of ethics, and widely adopted professional certification-all happening in 2009. Can you comment on the benefits of this global initiative?
"....I think this global initiative fits quite naturally and quite well with the whole skills issue that we discussed earlier. That is, we need the mobility of professionals and we need professionals with recognized advanced degrees of skills so this initiative fits on both fronts. It's also a natural for Canada as an open society and an advanced technological nation. We very often have a role on the international scene of facilitating things like this because we are able to bring people together and help understanding across different mindsets.....I'm very happy to see that and that CIPS is involved in it...."

:25:37: Take this time to comment on any topics of your choosing.
"....the whole area of confidence in the area of e-commerce, the internet and technology, particularly in the face of security challenges...."

:27:31: What are your views about what is happening in India and Asia in contrast with what is happening here? Should we be intermingling more with that region of the world and in what ways?
"....At the moment, that is the high growth area of the world economically. Those societies are changing for the better in large part because of the knowledge work or the shifting of work enabled by the information and communications technology. The world is getting smaller ..... it should be absolutely natural that we increase our interaction with that market...."


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