Linda Lizotte-MacPherson, CIO of the Government of Canada, has three big priorities for the new year: infrastructure, people and risk management.

Lizotte-MacPherson shared insights into the government’s strategic information management (IM) and IT directions with attendees at the Technology in Government Week forum held recently in Ottawa.

In addition to general staffing shortages, Canada faces the additional challenge of its workers’ impending retirements, she said.

“In less than three years, over 50 per cent of our IT workforce will be in a position to retire. When you put that together with the global shortage of IT and IM workers, I can tell you we’ve got everyone’s attention.”

She quoted a Gartner group study stating that companies focused on worker motivation are twice as likely to attract and keep qualified people. The government is currently implementing new development programs, she said, enhancing mobility across public service sectors and maintaining competitive salaries and benefit packages to help keep Canada’s current IT staff happy.

But in a later presentation, Grant Chaney, assistant deputy minister, Information Management and Technology Services for the Government of Alberta, said that when people focus on Canada’s brain drain, they are missing the point.

“I think what we really need to be driving towards is surplus. In other words, we should move towards a position where we are a brain magnet,” he said, “and have people come to our province and to our country.”

Jill Velenosi, deputy CIO of the Treasury Board Secretariat, said some areas the government needs to focus more on include enhanced electronic directories, increased network integration and a stronger emphasis on security.

“Governments cannot accept the staus quo. We need to move quickly to adopt a secure electronic service delivery agenda,” she said.

Grant Westcott, assistant deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, said the critical area of electronic service delivery to focus on is citizens’ expectations and preferences, their technology options and their business requirements. Security is another big issue, he said.

“We need to assure Canadians that they can conduct transactions with government in a secure manner, that their privacy will be maintained.”

Managing economic risk is another big issue, Lizotte-MacPherson explained.

“Each year the government of Canada invests four to five billion dollars in IM and IT – and citizens and businesses expect government to manage these resources with care. They expect tangible results and they expect clear accounting,” she said.

“The record shows we haven’t always been successful in giving them those things. But if it’s any comfort, we are not alone; we share this less-than-stellar history with the private sector,” she added.

As a first step, the government has developed a program called the Advanced Management Framework (AMF), which is “a menu of principles, best-practices and methodologies” which will provide “a much closer alignment with IT and business,” she explained.

“This will ensure that our IT and IM investments fully support business functions, can deliver expected benefits and can deliver our projects on time and on budget.”

As the close of her speech, Lizotte-MacPherson offered attendees some personal observations about her role as CIO.

“I’ve been on the job a year now. And the complexity of tasks inside government is certainly unparalleled to anything I’ve seen in my career,” she said.

“As a CIO, I knew that a big part of my job was going to be communicating and marketing an IM/IT agenda. But I can tell you that this is the biggest communications job that I have ever undertaken…and there are days that I say to my staff I’d like to be able to put my pom poms in my desk drawer.”