Defence initiative gives Canadian Forces IT ammunition

OTTAWA – Canada’s Department of National Defence has embarked on a five-year consolidation and rationalization initiative that will see the country’s largest federal department providing centralized IT and information management services across the department.

The DND’s information management services transformation initiative, spearheaded by its information management (IM) group, is envisioned to provide a service-oriented model for delivering shared IT and IM services to support the business needs of the Canadian Forces, said Len Bastien, director of the DND’s IM services management transformation, who presented at this week’s GTEC 2007 conference in Ottawa.

The transformation will streamline the department’s previously “decentralized, inconsistent and non-cohesive” IT and IM environment, said Bastien.

“We need to consolidate the platform and provide shared services.”

The effort is also envisioned to help the DND achieve the federal government’s $150 million per year savings requirement, he said.

The transformation initiative is twofold, Bastien said. The first phase, which is currently underway, involves the consolidation of all IT and IM assets – including software, hardware and staff – across the department into the IM group. Where previously the various DND offices were provisioning their own IM and IT systems according to their respective requirements, all that service provisioning will be centralized and provided by the IM group, he explained.

Such consolidation aims to provide the IM group visibility into the entire department’s IT and IM resources, said Bastien.

“(Without consolidation) the IM group only has visibility on about half of the (DND’s) IT spend…so the need for realignment is critical,” he said, adding that by aligning IM resources, assets and processes, they can get a better handle on IM and IT capacity and be able to make more strategic decisions with regards to service delivery to the business units.

The consolidation initiative is also being undertaken in stages, beginning with the DND headquarters in Ottawa and gradually expanding to all the regional offices. Target completion for consolidation is 2008.

During Bastien’s GTEC presentation, some members of the audience raised questions around staff consolidation, where the elements of human factor and affinity to co-workers may cause some resistance among staff members who will be affected by the consolidation.

It may even cause people to leave the organization, one of the attendees commented.

Bastien admitted that has been one of the challenges with the consolidation efforts. “In their minds they are changing teams, but we’re all part of the same team and our message has been, we’re merely reallocating assets to the group that is accountable for them.”

He also acknowledged that having a full-blown communications strategy that will help staff understand the objectives of the change has been one of the lessons learned from the Ottawa consolidation.

Once consolidation is complete, the IM group will begin the process of rationalizing IM services, establishing service delivery standards and processes. This will involve the establishment of a client relationship management group in the front end, supported by a services management centre, functioning as a capacity resource centre for IT and IM services, Bastien said.

By 2010, the IM services group is expected to be able to provide IT and IM support services to the Canadian Forces, said Bastien.

Further strengthening its role as IM service provider for the largest federal department, the DND’s IM and IT service delivery model will, in the future, be used as a framework for desktop provisioning and services for other federal departments, under a recent memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Public Works, according to Martin Blumenauer, a communications officer with the DND.

The DND expects to serve around 100,000 desktop clients within the Canadian Forces, Bastien said.

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