KNBIA’s Jenna Sudds spearheads new national CIO strategy council

Jenna Sudds
CIO Strategy Council Executive Director Jenna Sudds. Photo by Craig Lord

After four successful years at the organization’s helm, today marks Jenna Sudds’ final day as the executive director of the Kanata North Business Association.

As she moves on from Canada’s largest technology park, Ms. Sudds now widens her focus with a new national organization called the CIO Strategy Council.

The non-profit convenes chief information officers from multiple levels of government and across various industries. Every two months, members meet to share best practices and align on Canada’s emerging digital economy.

CIO strategy councils exist in many countries around the world, but “shockingly” Canada hasn’t had one until now, Ms. Sudds says.

The Ottawa tech community leader will act as the council’s first executive director. Government of Canada CIO Alex Benay, who Ms. Sudds says was the “visionary” of this initiative, will co-chair the council alongside BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie.

Thus far, Ms. Sudds’ work has involved recruiting members from across the country. There are roughly 20 members from government as well as sectors such as oil and gas, food manufacturing, banking, and, of course, ICT. She’s hoping to get that number up to around 40.

“There's obvious benefits to our technology community. … However, for the Canadian economy in general and all of our members, being able to be a part of the puzzle in really advancing and addressing digital transformation challenges is a really unique opportunity and obviously something I’m passionate about,” Ms. Sudds says.

To ensure Canada’s economy keeps pace internationally, the council is also undertaking research into emerging digital technologies to provide its members with up-to-date information on rapidly evolving fields. Thus far, members have indicated that topics such as artificial intelligence, cyber-security and data privacy and protection are among their priorities.

“The skillset needed to keep pace is also radically changing. So there’s a talent piece to it as well,” Ms. Sudds adds.

The council plans to have a role in advising and communicating improvements to procurement policies, as well as establishing specific Canadian ICT standards that don’t yet exist. Ms. Sudds is also hoping to take advantage of the Build in Canada Innovation Program to pilot new technologies.

‘So long but not good bye’

Ms. Sudds wasn’t looking for a new job, but says an “unexpected phone call” set this change in motion. The scope of what she can accomplish through the CIO Strategy Council is enormous, and therefore not something she wanted to pass up.

“This is a huge opportunity to have some real impact in Canada,” she says.

“I want to be able to look back in five years and say that through this council our member companies are in a more solid position from a digital transformation perspective, and the Canadian economy is stronger as a result.”

Still, it hasn’t been an easy decision. Ms. Sudds was the inaugural executive director of the Kanata North BIA when it launched in 2013. Many of her proudest moments, she told OBJ last month, revolved around the community-building role she has played over the past few years.

“This is a huge opportunity to have some real impact in Canada,”

Ms. Sudds took to LinkedIn today to bid farewell to Kanata North, but marked her departure as a “so long but not good bye.” She’ll continue to cheer on the tech park’s work from her new post, and says she’ll still run into community members at local networking events – “or on the golf course.”

“It was the right decision. I’m looking forward to my next chapter,” she tells OBJ.

What – or rather who – comes next for the BIA should become clear in a few days. Ms. Sudds says the organization received 105 applications to replace her, though she marked slight disappointment that only 25 were from women.

The team has conducted interviews and is in the midst of reference and background checks, but she says the successful candidate could be named as early as next week.