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It’s all part of a master strategy Godin and Roach refer to as “buy and build.” The ultimate aim is to establish relations so intimate with the client that decoupling becomes almost impossible. The beauty of the Logica deal, they stress, is that it allows CGI to offer globe-straddling services to clients such as Rio Tinto, the Australian mining giant that bought Alcan (and with it, embedded CGI consultants), and Manulife Financial Corp., which operates in Asia and the U.S. as well as its Canadian home base. “We have the capability to follow those customers who want to go global,” Roach says. “When their supply chains are global, we’ve now got a supply chain that can match that, bring scale to their backrooms and let them focus on their core business.”

With acquisition and expansion, adds Roach, has come decentralization. “It’s all about attracting and retaining the best people. So our guy in Sweden is the Serge Godin in Sweden. He gets up every morning and thinks about the same things Serge does. In Finland, it’s the same thing: We want to be Finnish there. The relationships are local.” To bring discipline to its heady mix of acquisition, expansion and decentralization, the company relies on the “cookbook”—the company’s manual of operating principles. Or maybe it’s a bible? “We’re like missionaries,” Roach suggests before intoning a CGI mantra: “Follow our clients. Shape our clients. Grow with our clients.”

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Many of those CGI clients, today and in the future, will be in the health-care business, which is slowly catching up with the revolution in electronic record-keeping.

On a May visit to Ottawa, Ed Percy, business development director for CGI’s European health arm, offered a blunt warning to a thousand or so Canadian health information specialists gathered to talk about the interface between IT and health care. “You’re working in the last of the great supply-driven industries,” Percy observed. Driven by patient demand for better services and better information, health care is being transformed into a service industry just like any other; increasingly, Percy warned, care providers such as physicians, clinics and hospitals will have to compete for market share. “The arrival of consumerism is going to stress health care in ways we can hardly envisage.”

In the years ahead, Percy continued, health care is increasingly going to be driven by patients demanding access to reams of digital information—“data that can be produced anywhere and consumed anywhere”—about their health conditions. “Health-care data is orders-of-magnitude more complicated than any other industry,” he explained. And because this data is deeply personal and highly confidential, all of it will have to be stored and managed with utmost professionalism.

Seen in this light, it made sense that CGI was a major sponsor of the Ottawa gathering, where its global health-care head, Dr. Peake, was a keynote speaker. His central message was that “economic pressures in health care are going to turn into huge smouldering platforms for reform” and that data analysis will drive those reforms through huge investments that “we see as an opportunity.” As his boss, Roach, emphasizes, “health care is a global issue, and therefore a global opportunity. Demographics are driving health costs up everywhere, especially in the U.S. That’s why we broke out health as a separate business line. It’s growing at almost 30% to 40% year-over-year. E-health is happening everywhere.”

As a vector for CGI’s continued global growth, health care offers rich opportunity. The firm is already a major presence in health-information consulting in Canada and the U.S. Stateside, CGI has won numerous new contracts stemming from the Obama administration’s reforms, adding to the business the company already has with two-thirds of the information systems behind the vast Medicare and Medicaid systems.

Abroad, attention to chronic diseases and health care is exploding among governments and affluent consumers in emerging markets like China, India, Brazil and Russia, and global health care corporations are stampeding into these markets.

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All that data—whether it’s for the highly sensitive health-care business or clients in other sectors—has to be securely managed, which is where Peter Aglaganian comes in. He joined CGI back when its headcount was about 3,000. After 17 years with the firm, he runs its Montreal data centre, one of more than 45 that the company has arrayed around the world. Today Aglaganian is conducting a tour. Located on a side street in the city’s east end, the nondescript glass-and-steel building offers no clue to the untrained eye as to what goes on inside.

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