Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., DF/NPA, CNP, MVP
Patricia MacInnis: Editor Computing Canada
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Computing Canada Editor, Patricia MacInnis.
Computing Canada (CC) is the oldest, largest and most influential bi-weekly news publication whose broad audience of 42,000 includes a large segment of the IT managers and decisions-makers in medium to large enterprises in corporate Canada. Established in 1975, it is Canada's longest-standing business technology publication and is considered the best source of news and analysis on technology issues that matter to Canadian businesses. Computing Canada has the largest editorial team of any Canadian publication in its category, reporting and investigating on news, topics and concerns that affect the management of information systems departments in business, government and educational organizations.
The latest blog on the interview can be found March 23, 2006 in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
Q: Patricia, you are a respected voice in the Canadian computing scene. We value the time you are taking out of your very demanding schedule to do this interview. Thank you.
A: I’m always happy to speak with people who are interested in fostering a better understanding of the technology issues facing Canadian business.
Q1: Which were the top news items of 2005 that are continuing to occupy the mindshare of IT managers for 2006 and 2007?
A: The most obvious one is the RIM/NTP story, with all of its themes, including patents and injunctions. The BlackBerry has become a must-have device for busy executives in Canada and around the world and the threat of being cut off in the U.S. grabbed a lot of attention. Of course now that the suit has been settled, enterprises can go back to debating which handheld device is best for their organization.
Another area that IT professionals can’t stop thinking about is security. There was no shortage of security breaches in corporate Canada last year and locking down the enterprise continues to be a pressing challenge.
Q2: What were the top priorities for IT managers in 2004 and what will they be in 2006? How do you account for any changes?
A: I’m not so sure the priorities have changed that much in the past couple of years. IT leaders are still trying to extract value from their existing systems. Some of that is being done through integration, both at the application and the system level. There’s also a growing emphasis on teaching IT leaders to think more like business people. This one is a little more challenging because it represents a new mindset for many IT professionals who have traditionally thought of themselves as the technical gurus.
A: We have three teams of CIOs/CEOs and we’re looking to explore how those two entities can come together in a company to develop a successful IT strategy that benefits the business. Again, we’re talking about leaders who, historically, operated very much as islands. Everyone is now realizing that there’s a gap in that strategy. So, we’re looking to pick the brains of these executives and share best practices with the other IT professionals in attendance.
Q4: Provide your three predictions of future trends, their implications and business opportunities?
A: Trend 1) Service oriented architecture
Implication: Enterprises are just now getting their feet wet with SOA, but it hold great promise for true application integration.
Business Opportunity: A fully developed SOA will lower IT costs.
Trend 2) Looming skills shortage – it’s not really a trend, but it’s an important issue that will affect all IT-based organizations.
Implication: Lack of skilled resources will have an impact on both IT vendors and enterprise end users as they look to strengthen their IT shops, and in turn their businesses. Enrolments in IT degree and diploma programs at colleges and universities have dropped in recent years, and the result will be not enough people to fill the jobs.
Business Opportunity: This is more of an industry opportunity for all areas to get together and formulate a strategy for success in the next 3-6 years. It’s the type of problem that won’t be solved by one group alone (whether that’s vendors or end users or government).
Trend 3) Business process improvement
Implication: A streamlining of business processes inside the organization.
Business Opportunity: This is BPI 2.0, and is an avenue many companies are going down to achieve better quality, higher productivity. According to Forrester Research, more and more execution platforms have embedded BP modeling functionality.
Q5: Which are your top two recommended resources for IT managers?
A: 1) Computing Canada, your definitive source of IT news and analysis. 100% Canadian content. Our online vehicle, ITBusiness.ca also keeps IT professionals in the know with up-to-the-minute breaking news.
2) networking events. Any opportunity to collaborate with other IT managers is an invaluable resource for tech professionals. There’s little time to do this with the frenetic pace of activity, but it’s necessary and provides great return on investment.
Q6: There are so many notable events in your career. Which three were turning points and what lessons do you wish to share from them?
A: When I first arrived in Toronto about 15 years ago, I had been working for mainstream newspapers and radio. I had never even heard of business-to-publishing publishing. But once I started reporting on technology issues, I was hooked. It was a fast-paced, always interesting sector when anything could – and did – happen. So, I suppose, opening my mind to a different type of journalism was a big turning point for me.
A second one came with the onset of the Internet. It completely transformed the way journalists research and report the news. While you obviously have to vet the credibility of online sources, we are able to provide much better content in our articles because of the Net.
Another highlight of my career was putting together Computing Canada’s 30th anniversary issue last year. It was a tremendous opportunity to pour over this country’s rich history in information technology and familiarize myself with some outstanding people, many of whom I had never had a chance to speak with until then.
Q7: Describe your working life as the editor for Canada’s premier business technology publication, Computing Canada. How does this differ from your tenure as editor for “Technology in Government” and “Communications & Networking magazine”?
A: Computing Canada is the flagship publication of the ITBusiness Group. It’s been around for more than 30 years, so it’s the oldest and most recognized IT publication in Canada. We publish 18 times a year, so it’s a very fast-paced environment compared to working on a monthly publication, such as TiG or C&N.
These days, much of my time is spent talking to IT professionals about the issues that matter to them. It’s one of the main ways we determine our editorial direction. I also spend a lot of time attending various industry events and listening to learn where the trouble spots are for businesses vis-à-vis IT.
Q8: As the leading editor in the business technology media space, can you profile challenges, how you solved them, and the lessons learned?
A: 1) Challenge: Recovery post dot-com bubble
Solution: In the late 90s, the tech industry was booming. Our pages counts were huge, we were publishing Computing Canada on a weekly schedule, and it seemed there was no end to the growth capacity, both for the industry, and for our publications. That changed, as we all know. Companies IT budgets dwindled, and advertisers followed suit. Our page counts dropped accordingly, and we had to figure out new ways of delivering what we knew was a valuable service to readers. The Internet provided us with a vehicle to launch a daily news site, ITBusiness.ca, which has been remarkably successful owing to the leadership of editor Shane Schick and his team, Neil Sutton and Sarah Lysecki. We also started partnering with organizations to run niche-oriented events, and we’ve had some great successes here as well.
The lesson from this experience was that we constantly need to check in to ensure we’re serving readers’ needs. It’s not a matter of putting together a publication and sticking to the format forever. The industry has evolved, business is evolving, IT professionals are evolving, and we have to move right along with them.
Q9: What four goals do you have this year--either personally or for Computing Canada?
A: 1) Goal: For CC, spending more time in the field.
Reason: The nature of our jobs means we’re out a lot covering events and attending conferences, but I’ve found some of the best story ideas come from informal discussions over coffee. I’ve been trying to do this more in the last couple of years, and the results have been very worthwhile.
2) Goal: For CC, to publish more analysis-type pieces on industry trends.
Reason: Readers look to Computing Canada as the leading IT publication to provide them with insight into trends in the industry. Beyond simply covering the news or providing case study type articles, we have been doing more three-part series pieces to provide indepth coverage on relevant technologies or issues. The response from readers has been tremendous, so we will definitely be doing more of this in the year to come.
3) Goal: For CC, to continue to increase the profile of the publication as the leading source for news and analysis that matters to IT professionals.
Reason: If we’re providing true value to readers, we can be satisfied with the job we’re doing.
4) Goal: Personally, I want to decrease the amount of sugar in my diet.
Reason: There’s enough Type A in my personality without adding any artificial stimulants!
Q10: Can you provide an editorial snapshot of the features we can anticipate this year in Computing Canada?
A: 1) Feature: Storage
Benefit for readers: The growing mountains of data are a huge concerns for every organization. How to store it, manage it, retrieve it. We’ll talk to companies that have fine-tuned their storage strategies and offer tips on best practices.
2) Feature: Blogging
Benefit: Blogging is the latest tool in a company’s marketing arsenal and many have found it’s a great way to communicate with customers. But there are risks involved when corporations set a blog in motion, so we’ll offer advice on how to make the most of this tool.
Q11: Which Computing Canada topics generate the greatest feedback and why?
A: That’s a tough question. We hear from our readers about all kinds of stories we’re covering, which is always rewarding. Stories around IT professionalism tend to generate a lot of feedback, and I think this is an issue the industry will continue to struggle with for some time.
Q12: What are the biggest issues facing the print industry in 2006, and in 2007? How can they be addressed?
A: One of the big issues facing all publishers is the way information is disseminated. The advent of the Internet dramatically changed the dynamic. ITBusiness was a pioneer in embracing this new technology with the launch of our daily newsletter and Web site (http://www.itbusiness.ca). So, while it’s a challenge to provide interesting and relevant content on a daily basis, it’s also a huge opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Again, our online team has done an excellent job on this front.
In our industry, we’re also facing a slow recovery post dot-com. Corporate IT spending was flat for a few years, and has been creeping up slowly in the past couple of years. This means smaller publications in terms of page counts because advertisers are not spending the way the were during the dot-com boom. But again, there’s an opportunity: We’ve had to take a good hard look at the issues we cover and how we cover them, so it’s forced us to tighten up our focus.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and we look forward to following your future contributions on the Canadian publishing landscape.
A: Thank you, Stephen for your insightful questions, and for your continued contributions to the industry.