A new CIO brings process and the latest IT to Canada's largest electrical distributor.

Eduardo E. Bresani's job is literally to keep the lights on in Toronto. As the CIO at Toronto Hydro-Electric System Ltd., Bresani is responsible for leading all aspects of information systems and technology including strategy, planning, delivery and operations. Toronto Hydro traces its history to 1910 when power from Niagara Falls was first used to light the city's streets. Today the company powers Canada's largest city, and Bresani is working to modernize technology at the monopoly provider, from the meters at the 700,000 homes it provides with electricity to the culture of entitlement that permeated the workplace. CIO Decisions' Michael Ybarra spoke with him recently about his IT strategy.

Interview With:
CIO Eduardo E. Bresani
COMPANY: Toronto Hydro-Electric System Ltd.

IT STAFF: 110 full time plus 50-70 consultants. Help desk is outsourced.


BACKGROUND: Nine years at IBM, then director of IS for Latin America at Chiquita Brands International Inc., then vice president of information technology at insurer Aviva Canada Inc.

What's the biggest challenge facing IT?
I joined the organization in January 2006. I needed to strengthen governance and portfolio management. We're in the middle of a three-year COBIT [Control Objectives for Information and related Technology] program that will take us to at least a Level 3 maturity. Portfolio management is basically the best use of capital in technology projects. All of that was nonexistent in the organization. Portfolio management and COBIT add value to IT, and credibility and transparency, and ensure that the business knows we're aligned with them.

What were your marching orders at Toronto Hydro?
The mandate was to become more customer-focused and -centric and bring discipline to the process. One of the most important things is to create a high-performance team. Process was weak. People were just going through the motions. One of the reasons a new CIO was hired was to change the culture. There was a new president and he decided the IT function needed to change. That was his mandate.

Toronto Hydro is almost a century old as a company. What has it been like trying to change the way people work?
There's been a push to change the culture; people just needed a little steering. There are always people who don't fit. We looked at all the people in the organization. We had to separate some from the organization. That was never done before. It was a little bit of a shock. But it sent the message: There's no culture of entitlement. My message is we're looking at performance. Those who left were given a good severance package. From now on, it's perform. If you don't, you're out.

How many people did you fire?
About 10% were let go.

This was first published in October 2007

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