DigITal Magazine Snapshot – Interview with Maria Churchill, CIO at Deloitte Canada

Maria Churchill is Chief Information Officer at Deloitte Canada. In that role, she has responsibility for setting the technology strategy, being the catalyst for technology change, leading and driving digitizing the business and championing innovation.

Maria has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and professional services industries, both as an industry executive and a management consultant. Maria started her career in the consulting practice of Deloitte Canada before joining Deloitte UK. During her initial tenure at Deloitte, Maria specialized in the telecommunications sector, delivering marketing, sales and customer service and systems implementation programs for telecommunications industry clients across North America, Europe and Asia. After returning to Canada, Maria joined IBM Canada as an Associate Partner in their telecommunications consulting practice. She then held several executive roles at Rogers, including Customer Experience & Strategy, Process Improvement, Consumer IT, and Technology Demand Management. Maria is a graduate of the University of Waterloo with a degree in Mathematics. 

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Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for collective leadership in all industries to cope with the challenges and changes of the “new normal”. To help address the new circumstances, Deloitte and the CIO Strategy Council partnered to deliver the latest insights for CIOs to better respond to the changing business environments of their operations and technologies amid COVID-19. Could you share your observations from these sessions, and what has been the impact?

A: The CIO webinar series is aimed at providing practical and timely advice to technology executives as we navigate the realities, challenges, and opportunities of COVID-19. The series topics have evolved through what we have been referring to as the three stages of respond, recover, and thrive. Each session is short and to the point, and we navigate topics with the intent to provide practical advice and tips from what we ourselves have experienced at Deloitte, what our guest CIO has experienced in their organization, and also what we have seen from our clients and in the market. We have covered a range of topics including how to fund IT investments in a currently constrained fiscal reality, how to take advantage of the rapid decision making we’ve experienced and make it part of the new way of working, and how to use the necessity of remote working to accelerate digital transformation and automation. We have had great questions posed by the audience and good feedback from those who have participated. While our contexts are all different, our challenges are similar, our responses and strategies can be shared and we can take the best of what our situation has forced us to do differently and make it part of our new operating model. Most significantly, we can build on the closer relationship we’ve forged across our businesses to position the technology organization and technology executives as more than strategic partners, but as drivers of technology-based transformation.

Q: Every week the sessions cover a new topic of priority to CIOs from digitizing workflows to cybersecurity and data privacy. What have been the top takeaways or lessons that have resonated the most from the sessions that CIOs can leverage?

A: Through the series so far, there have been several takeaways that resonated with different members of the audience. The top lessons from my perspective are: 

  • Refine and improve your business continuity plan and produce a playbook for future disruptions 
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of how the business operates, determine critical business services and adjust accordingly 
  • Rationalize technology projects to those that really matter and have impact – focus on initiatives that are strategically sound, value creating, build resiliency and create agility 
  • Accelerate digitization and be methodical in automating manual processes (i.e. use cases, full automation of end to end workflows, and if required, take savings from early investments to fund your delivery roadmap) 
  • Build a trusted technology ecosystem and partner with vendors to co-fund investments or develop creative investment models 
  • Focus on the effectiveness of technology, apply a human-centered lens to architect an enabling technology ecosystem 
  • And most importantly, there has never been a time in which technology leaders have been so pivotal in shaping the future of their organization – leverage technology to emerge stronger and produce lasting change

Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up digital transformation from what was suggested as something that will take organizations years to months. Coming out of the pandemic and moving forward, how do you envision the role of the CIO will change in the next 5-10 years?

A: The table stakes for any CIO is being a trusted operator, delivering solid operational discipline. I expect that many CIOs have taken it beyond the role of trusted operator and have worked closely with the business, building trusted partner relationships to develop and enable business strategy. When I look forward to the next 5 – 10 years, I believe CIOs need to become change instigators, not just enabling business strategy, but becoming leaders themselves of technology-driven business transformation.  Being a change instigator implies having a vision and defining strategy that extends beyond the technology function but leveraging technology as a driver of business value. I believe technology leaders of the future need to be future-focused innovators who can guide strategy, communicate effectively with the C-suite and the board, and drive mission-critical enterprise transformation.  They instigate change and follow it through to execution.  And that’s not to say that being a disciplined operator will no longer be required – it’s a fundamental table stake without which, you don’t earn the right to be at the table. I would encourage you to read Deloitte’s Global Tech Executive Leadership Study. For more on this topic: click here.

DigITal Magazine, Issue #3 

This article was initially published in the CIO Strategy Council’s member-only magazine. To access the magazine and other member-only materials and information, please contact us to become a member.