City of Toronto’s first CIO faces unique challenges, opportunities

Blazing a new trail is not exactly a novel experience for David Wallace.

It’s something he’s had to do quite a few times during the course of two decades spent in several senior IT positions within the province of Ontario.

Wallace being named on Friday as the first CIO for the City of Toronto is but the latest example of this.

The announcement was made by Joseph Pennachetti, deputy manager and chief financial officer, City of Toronto.

Creation of the CIO post complies with a key recommendation of a review conducted last year with a view to bringing Toronto closer to realizing the eCity vision, Pennachetti told IT World Canada.

He said the IT Governance and Organization Design Review sought “to develop a model for information technology that would enable the City to meet strategic and service delivery directions.”

The new CIO’s mandate, Pennachetti said, is to “provide city wide leadership and direction for information technology”, and to “ensure the full range of city programs become IT enabled.”

In a previous role as chief technology officer (CTO) of the province of Ontario, Wallace was also the very first person in government to hold such a position.

“The technology office is a new position because there aren’t any that we have found in any other government,” he had noted in a media interview at the time.

But Wallace very quickly got into that role, created a team, and defined a mandate for himself that was fairly unique in a government setting.

Now, when he assumes his new role as CIO of Toronto on May 14, he’ll find himself again in a somewhat of a unique – and challenging – position.

Working in tandem with the city IT Governance and Transformation Project Office , Wallace will be responsible for overseeing the city’s IT services.

According to Pennachetti, the main goal of this project is to develop and implement an IT governance and organizational structure that enables the City to meet strategic and service delivery targets.

The transformation project, he said, “will consolidate service delivery functions such as desktop support and data centre management and establish or formalize a number of new IT functions.”

With Wallace at the helm, it’s also likely that the “consolidated services initiative” launched by the City last year will get a shot in the arm.

Under that project, since June of 2006, online access to all City services has been made available from one site . T

he initiative – part of Toronto’s 311 project – was aimed at offering Torontonians a single portal to gain information about and access to the City’s entire breadth of services.

As CIO, Wallace will provide support to the 311 project, Pennachetti says. “The information technology component of the 311 project is critical to the overall success of that initiative and IT staff will continue to be heavily involved in that exercise,” he told IT World Canada.

While several Canadian cities have launched 311 initiatives, the actual rollout is not easy. For instance, at the Lac Carling Congress held last May, presenters focused on the challenges in implementing such a “unified services” vision.

Concerns were voiced about inter-jurisdictional issues, and the difficulties, for instance, regions with two-tier municipal government structures would confront with 311 implementation.

Part of the ongoing success of Toronto’s integrated services initiative hinges on the consolidation of various functional groups connected with these services, and it seems Wallace has the background and expertise to make it happen. As CTO of Ontario, he worked with disparate groups and helped coordinated their efforts towards a common end.

For instance, putting together a mobile and wireless strategy for the government involved coordinating the efforts of at least four separate groups: an architecture group, a change management group, an applied technologies group, and a breakthrough group. Wallace says his strong business background – he majored in business computer science and later acquired an MBA – has given him a very definite perspective, and the conviction that in the last analysis technology is just another tool, and should be treated as such. He says he evaluates issues in business language first, and then applies technology, as appropriate, instead of trying to force fit technology to a business situation.


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