Integration across business, technology, and energy: A conversation with Enbridge’s CIO

Integration across business, technology, and energy: A conversation with Enbridge’s CIO

Bhushan Ivaturi, senior vice president and chief information officer at Enbridge, shares his leadership experiences and advice for leaders integrating information, technology, cybersecurity, business process, data, and digital.
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In this podcast, Heidrick & Struggles’ Sean McLean speaks to Bhushan Ivaturi, the senior vice president and chief information officer at Enbridge, a multinational pipeline company headquartered in Canada, where he leads the information, technology, cybersecurity, business process, simplification, operational technology, data, and digital functions. Ivaturi shares the leadership skills and strategies he considers imperative to success as a CIO and what derailers to avoid when leading through transformations, including mergers and acquisitions. He also discusses what Canadian leaders must do to initiate productive dialogue and engagement in the clean energy transition and ESG goals.

Some questions answered in this episode include the following:

  • (1:43) What is it that attracted you to this CIO role and to Enbridge?
  • (4:26) Based on your broad background and experience, what are the most exciting growth opportunities you see in Canada and around the globe? And what types of leaders do you think those will require?
  • (6:49) What leadership strategies and skills have you discovered are imperative to success as a CIO? And what are the biggest derailers as you lead transformations?
  • (9:09) What must Canadian leaders do to initiate productive dialogue and engagement in energy transition and ESG?
  • (15:36) What have you observed in your three-and-a-half years as an executive in Canada that is uniquely Canadian? And how did you navigate with your team?

Below is a full transcript of the episode, which has been edited for clarity.

Welcome to the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. Heidrick is the premier global provider of senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services. Diversity and inclusion, leading through tumultuous times, and building thriving teams and organizations are among the core issues we talk with leaders about every day, including in our podcasts. Thank you for joining the conversation.

Sean McLean: Welcome to the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. I'm Sean McLean, partner at Heidrick & Struggles and member of the global Industrial and Financial Officers practices. Our Canadian Leadership Series podcasts provide timely and relevant insights on what organizations and leaders are thinking about to stay competitive, both in Canada and on the global stage.

In today's podcast, I'm excited to be talking to Bhushan Ivaturi. Bhushan is senior vice president and chief information officer at Enbridge, a multinational pipeline company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. At Enbridge, Bhushan leads the functions of information, technology, cybersecurity, business process, simplification, operational technology, data, and digital. Bhushan has shaped the digital strategy for the company, including the launch of technology-plus-innovation labs, all while transforming technology services into a strategic enabler for Enbridge. Bhushan has over two decades of international leadership experience in the business of technology, shaping and leading transformations in multiple industries with diverse cultures and in different business cycles through his previous roles at AP Moller Maersk and General Electric.

Bhushan, welcome and thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Bhushan Ivaturi: Thank you, Sean. I’m glad to be here.

Sean McLean: So, our listeners are likely curious how it is that your international career brought you to Canada. What is it that attracted you to this role and to Enbridge?

Bhushan Ivaturi: When I was exploring the opportunity with Enbridge, the first thing I felt was that my ideals of integrity, humility, curiosity, and openness were aligned with the company. Enbridge is a large multinational organization and had, at that point in time, embarked on a great deal of change and integration from the course merger activities. So, it had doubled in market cap. What I saw was an opportunity to play to my strengths, so it was perfect. And [there was the opportunity] to transform. I felt that, by shaping and leading meaningful change in areas like strategy, operations, and behaviors, and certain initiatives that would unify and digitize the business, I could make a difference. So I was attracted to making that positive impact and turning some of the challenges into opportunities, but also doing that while delivering on financial outcomes, such as getting to a top core tunnel cost performance.

Another attractive element of Enbridge was that it’s a critical part of North America’s infrastructure and economy. Being a critical energy infrastructure company brings with it a fair share of scrutiny and challenges, and so it's area where I could add value in improving safety and reliability and operation, as examples. Also, risk management and cybersecurity. And some of that doesn't entail working with external stakeholders, such as regulatory bodies and government agencies. So, in the process, I felt that I could create some opportunities for people, to contribute in a way that will make a big difference.

One example was to shift the digital strategy for the company: we did that by creating the mechanism for strategy execution so that people are able to apply technology and innovation, which is producing positive outcomes both for the individual—through up-skilling or development—and for the organization. And we are seeing the returns in improved returns on invested capital. And we’re also delivering our embedded growth targets.

On a personal note, I've been fortunate to have an international set of experiences, but that is because of my family. I'm so grateful for the sacrifices they've made, which afforded me those opportunities. And my relocations, for example, resulted in my son attending over eight different schools. Moving to Canada got us closer to family. It also gave my son that stability for his final years of high school.

Sean McLean: That's an interesting journey and we're delighted that you've chosen to bring your family to Canada. I just couldn't agree more that Enbridge is a critical infrastructure company on many levels. So I’m just delighted to see you bring your international experience to Canada and to Enbridge in particular.

Bhushan, one of the great things about your background is that you've had the opportunity to work with large international organizations at transformative inflection points. Based on your broad background and experience, what are the most exciting growth opportunities you see in Canada and around the globe? And what types of leaders do you think those will require?

Bhushan Ivaturi: Well, I'll say this: it's an amazing time for experiencing change. And I'm sure every generation says that, but I feel that what we are experiencing is the globalization–localization energy shift. Innovations that have been enabled through the internet and movements for social justice and equity impact investing. All of that, is not just material to Canada; it’s global. And what is also universal is the increased pace of change, which, in the large part, is also due to an increased pace in innovation in technology and, more specifically, digital technologies.

So, I feel that the space has changed. It’s going to continue to drive more business destruction, which, in turn, is going to create opportunities for those businesses that are willing and able to adapt. And, to me, the intersection of energy and technology is a great place to make a positive impact.

Energy is critical to improve quality of life and the standard of living. When combined with technology—which is critical not just to solve environmental challenges but create solutions that are going to improve governance, for example, transparency, accessibility, and equity—energy can be a force for good for society. So, I think in terms of leaders, what is important are leaders who are able to demonstrate being both innovative and driving excellence.

At the same time, innovation and experimentation helps drive the growth and optionality for the business and excellence helps unlock efficiencies and, in the energy industry, improve safety and reliability.

Sean McLean: That's great insight and we couldn't be more aligned. One of the things we talk a lot about as a firm is the notion of agility, which we break down into foresight, learning, adaptability and resilience. And we just couldn't agree more that the pace of change demands that leaders really have that agility. Thank you.

You've held the title of CIO with GE, Maersk, and now Enbridge. While CIO can mean different things at different organizations, it's safe to assume that digital transformation has consistently been one of your prominent mandates. What leadership strategies and skills have you discovered are imperative to success? And what are the biggest derailers as you lead these transformations?

Bhushan Ivaturi: What's worked for me is to be a business leader with a deep passion for technology and innovation. I've operated at that intersection of technology, innovation, economics, and finance and found that it's an important ingredient for success in all transformations. I often say it's good to know your trade, and having a passion for technology innovation and systems thinking helps.

One skill [that’s been necessary] for success has been being effective at integrating across business and technology. Integration is more than just being a translator, because it's not just strategy and plans, it's also the execution that produces results. And the ability to integrate across functions has helped me build the mandate for the application technology and innovation to drive, be it business optimization or business strengths. So, a passion for technology, I believe, helps me stay current and understand the different nuances of how innovation price performance can be applied in the context of an industry in a specific business situation.

One strategy that has served me well is to switch between different personas. In the early stage, for example, I'm more about piloting and energizing others on a strategic vision. And then, during leader stages, for example, scaling the operation, I shift more to being a collaborator and a producer.

One derailer is not figuring out how the clock ticks in an organization. You need to know both what makes the clock tick and also how to work with the speed of the clock, that is, when to speed up and when to slow down.

Sean McLean: Interesting you say that. One of the real key themes in our functional practices, whether that's technology, finance, or human resources, is business partnering. It's really key that our leaders build upon a foundation of understanding and then ultimately use it to enable the business. It sounds like that's something that you've consistently done within your prior mandates.

The energy industry is at a critical juncture across the globe. Specifically within Canada, we're seeing leading organizations taking a far more public stance on ESG matters than we've seen them do previously. I personally believe there is more awareness needed that the Canadian energy companies are global leaders in R&D and clean tech investment. In your view, what must Canadian leaders do to initiate productive dialogue and engagement in energy transition and ESG?

Bhushan Ivaturi: Yeah, I think the media chatter does have a lot of people believing that energy companies are stodgy or have technology from the dark ages or are stuck in the past, but that's not quite the truth. At Enbridge, we are quite focused on doing our part in leading the energy transition.

There are four intrinsically linked initiatives, global movements around environmental and social causes. The four things are about modernization and innovation. We're upgrading older and less efficient equipment in our operations and enhancing our maintenance programs to reduce emissions technologies. Innovation is at the core of de-carbonizing the use of energy. So, our own applications of new energies, such as solar self-power projects, are helping us reduce our carbon footprint. We're investing more in renewables and lower-carbon energy. And we're also doing our bit to drive offsets and carbon reduction through appropriate [measures.]

For us, it's all about making sure that companies like Enbridge play a leading role, an important role, in this transition. And it's about making sure that we're leveraging all our assets to provide an energy system that we can transition to in and effective in an elegant way; we can provide the demand and we can satisfy the demand and provide safe and reliable and affordable energy.

Building on that, I think we're also making a lot of progress when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the energy sector, specifically in oil and gas. For example, we have strengthened the diversity of our workforce at Enbridge, and we’ve achieved 31% female representation overall. And now we have accelerated our timeline to achieve 40% representation—we brought it down from 2028 to 2025. And we also have appropriate goals for the representation of different ethnic and racial groups, people with disabilities, and indigenous people. And we're going to continue to not just set these targets but take specific actions.

Beyond the broad set of goals, what we're doing is applying technology to help find insights to fine tune some actions we're taking. So, for example, in my own shop, we've launched an initiative called women in technology: it's based on data and analytics and it's meant to strengthen the pipeline for first-time supervisory roles and drive up the representation of women in managerial roles. It’s key to driving the sustainability that we're looking to achieve. Another initiative I’ve started is making sure we have intentional early-career-talent identification. And the representation in those cohorts is really very energizing and shows some good proof points on diversity numbers, on equity—we have 40% gender diversity, 60% racial, and it's further strengthening the culture of inclusion that we're trying to advance.

Sean McLean: I'm just thrilled to hear your commentary on D&I. Just as we advise our clients, it's not only the right thing to do—it has the added benefit of demonstrably driving improved decision-making and business performance. It’s great to see leading Canadian companies be leaders in this space.

You've had a great deal of experience with M&A, in particular, post-merger integration, which is always an intense leadership challenge. Based on the integrations you've led, what are the critical leadership lessons to drive value through business combination?

Bhushan Ivaturi: I think it's all about human capital. An important job is to help people find a way to apply their energies in the right direction. My experience, having been on both sides of this trade, is that it's never as good as it is sold to be, but it's never as bad as it's rumored to be. Acquisitions bring emotional change, especially for the acquired; most people are through the process of interviewing and have generally opted into a company. But that is not the case for a person who is acquired, because the decision has been made for them. So, I think recognizing those emotional states and having a plan to navigate them is important.

Some other tactics that I've found helpful are, one, to be as transparent as possible as soon as possible, be it about the business rationale, the economics of the deal, or the expectation for synergies, be it about the top line or the bottom line or both. Another tactic is to resist, if you will, initiatives like embarking on a culture change. Instead, focus on behaviors, which, to me, are more visible. They can be easily described and generally understood, as opposed to culture, which is often hidden. It's complex, it's contentious, and it can take years to shift. So, here, again, being transparent helps in that if there is a predetermined approach to integration, it’s important to share. It could be a bear hug, it could be to harmonize, it could be a reverse integration into the way of working of the acquired company. But at the end of the day, real, sustainable change only happens from within. So accept that despite all good intentions and effort, not every person will opt to be a part of the future. But it's important to just help people. That is key to that intrinsic motivation, which is key to that ownership mindset to unlock the values of a merger or an acquisition.

Sean McLean: It's really profound to hear that after all of your experience in M&A, the human factor is central to your playbook. It’s certainly consistent with our experience. The deals almost always made sense financially or operationally; it's the human factor that is too often overlooked. That's great.

From your international experience, what lessons and experiences have been most valuable in shaping your leadership approach and style in your current role? Following up on that, what have you observed in your three-and-a-half years as an executive in Canada that is uniquely Canadian? And how did you navigate with your team?

Bhushan Ivaturi: Well, I have a situational leadership style; it's an adaptive style that helps me integrate a very diverse set of stakeholder needs and employ the right leadership approach to deliver the outcomes needed. What served me well in my current role is having dealt with a situation that involved both a turnaround and a realignment. These were two different situations that demanded some diametrically opposed leadership styles. What I've really come to appreciate is how much being good at the “and leadership” is helpful. So, for example, I would say, be kind and be true. Truthful leadership does not have to be brutal; leaders can also be kind. The other thing I demand is being nice while also being good at what we do and how we do it. Another dimension of leadership is care: care for the well-being of people and care for the productivity of the workforce.

So, to me, it's both relationships and results. One thing I do that has served me well is falling in love with the people and the culture of where I am. It helps me really see the world from the eyes of the ground, meet people where they are, and find their strengths. And finding what we have in common rather than amplifying differences is helpful. All in all, it's helped me build on a shared set of interests to unlock value quickly and then focus on the forward-looking priorities, more willingness to change for the better and, eventually, success and transformations.

Sean McLean: Well, we know that now more than ever people want purpose in the organizations they choose to work for. And it sounds like that is a key part of how you approach that very balanced leadership.

As we bring this conversation to a close, let's touch on the past year and a half. We've had a global pandemic, social justice movements, polarizing political battles, and shifting work environments. What is the most important way your organization is building on all of the lessons learned and what leadership attributes are most needed in this new normal?

Bhushan Ivaturi: Well, Sean, you're right. There's a lot going on in the world around us.

I think curiosity and a learning mindset has helped to improve not just what we do but how we do it. And learning, to me, guarantees both humility and empathy. For example, when I'm exploring something new or different, it just makes me feel this comfort. There's a period of being unsteady and that feeling is wonderful beginning. I think it's an important one to have in order to empathize with those at work that may be new at something or haven't quite had the benefit of knowing what to do or how to do it. And also, that drives an appropriate allocation of leader investment, for example, in people development, through upskilling or discretionary time and coaching.

From a leadership standpoint, another important lesson is to continue to run the cycle of planning and adapting. What do I mean by that? You mentioned foresight. I believe it's important that leaders do the hard work, that is, thinking ahead and planning, and even creating warning systems. But expect the unexpected and don’t be dejected when all that hard work or what may have been a perfect plan doesn’t quite pan out. What helps me—and what I think is needed going forward—is passion, of course, but also the dispassion needed to help step back and then adapt quickly. So, elegantly changing and improvising what we work on and how we work. And, finally, recovering: after implementing the adaptive plan and learning from the experience, you need to bounce forward, which is one way of being resilient.

Sean McLean: Thank you. Bhushan. I think all leaders would benefit from leading with empathy and curiosity, and it sounds like you can do that without sacrificing performance and accountability. I appreciate that insight.

Bhushan Ivaturi: Well, thank you, Sean. It was a pleasure.

Thanks for listening to the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. To make sure you don’t miss more future-shaping ideas and conversations, please subscribe to our channel on the podcast app. And if you’re listening via LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube, why not share this with your connections? Until next time. 

About the interviewer

Sean McLean ( is partner-in-charge of Heidrick & Struggles’ Calgary office and a member of the global Industrial and Financial Officers practices.

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