Canadian exec urges cabinet position to address IT

The Canadian government has come a long way in the areas of information management and service delivery, according to Jim McIntyre, vice president of public services with SAP Canada. “Governments are getting it,” he said. “But I’d like to see the federal government have a cabinet position that addresses information management and IT needs.”

In his role with SAP, McIntyre has worked on projects with all three levels of government, and most recently with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) and Treasury Board.

“The biggest change I’m seeing with government, whether it be federal or provincial, is there’s been a shift in focusing on the citizen,” he said. “Information is expected 24/7, and CIOs today – whether they’re with a major government department or municipality – are recognizing that they’re really there to service the citizens.”

“Canada has been a leader in government, and a leader in recognizing that they need to service the citizens, and that’s been the biggest shift I’ve seen, especially over the last five years.”

McIntyre also referenced the project SAP has worked on with the DND, referred to as MASIS (Materiel Acquisition and Support Information System).

He said that the MASIS project began in 1998 and was prompted by the Auditor General’s report, and the standing committee which was looking to address both information needs and visibility with respect to maintenance orders and asset tracking.

“We took a manual process that was for maintenance, parts and engineering, which was taking up to a month just to understand their maintenance repair status,” he explained. “We’ve implemented an integrated workflow, essentially helping them understand their business planning for maintenance which has helped drive these costs down, inventory costs are down 50 per cent.”

Kevin Radford, director of materiel for policy and procedures at the DND, spoke to delegates at SAP’s Sapphire Conference in Orlando, Florida earlier this month about why it was so urgent for the department to take an integrated approach.

Radford said that essentially, they (the DND) “needed to get our act together”, with respect to information and acquisition management.

“We’re accountable for all acquisition for services and equipment,” said Radford.

Currently, the assistant deputy minister of materiel employs approximately 3,777 employees (civilian and military), and manages an annual budget of $2.8 billion for capital expenditures, and $2.4 billion for maintenance and upgrades.

Radford said that there is a transformation occurring within the Canadian forces, led in large part by Canada’s Chief of Defence Rick Hillier (who is set to retire this summer). Radford credits Hillier with recognizing the importance of integrated work being done within the department.

“This system (MASIS) from SAP will enable us to get that work done in and around the world in order to work towards a unified national command and control system, and to adopt a unified approach to operations,” he said.

MASIS has been rolled out to the Canadian Navy, and is set to be deployed by August 2009 to the army and air force as well.

Radford also referenced the benchmarking that has occurred with organizational support across defence organizations, of which the findings included: critical stock shortages, priority demands were not being satisfied, no clear and coherent support strategy, inadequate asset tracking and visibility, and a segmented supply chain (as opposed to end-to-end).

He also outlined the “way ahead” for the DND when it comes to their acquisition and materiel management, which includes improved materiel acquisition and support.

To boost their future support environment, they will be purchasing $20 to $30 billion of capital equipment, and replacing their tanker fleet with joint support ships, he said.

“The army, navy and air force are starting to think together about operational requirements that we need, as opposed to operating in silos.”

McIntyre said that the next wave of technology to be tackled by the government is service-oriented architecture (SOA). “This is essentially taking legacy systems, back-office systems and making them Web-centric, so you can better manage the information,” he said.

“As they reach out from the back office to citizens through operational systems they need the standardization, and to interact in a manner that’s consistent.”

McIntyre said that all types of governments are in the process of rationalizing their applications, to lower their costs and to create standardization and “a common centre of excellence.”

“Whether it’s on our system or on our competitors, they’re doing this to drive costs down but also to manage information better.”

Related content:

DND employs integrated approach to equipment maintenance

Defence initiative gives Canadian Forces IT ammunition

Spotlight on Combat Camera, Department of National Defence

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