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Q. You’ve been the CIO of Brampton for just over five years. Could you talk about the work you did prior to this and how it prepared you for the work you’re doing now?

A. I held senior positions within the IT industry in both the public and private sectors. I have been blessed to have been all around the table, and have been in the public and private sectors twice each during my career. I have built and managed consulting practices, as well as delivered IT solutions within corporations; I have seen the game from every angle. Prior to Brampton I spent a few years at one of Canada’s leading energy companies during deregulation, which taught me a lot about customer service and about making sure you have the right people doing the right things within the enterprise.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges within your role and what have been the highlights thus far?

A. Most people might think technical challenges; I believe my biggest challenge is the same as for each municipal CIO in Canada: properly communicating IT’s value proposition to the corporation, council, senior management and staff. The highlights, I have to say, are the people. I work with and lead an awesome group of IT and customer service professionals. They are skilled at their craft and dedicated to serving the public. Within Brampton IT, we have breathed new life into the phrase “public servants” – we are actually the servants who serve the servants who are serving the public. And we do it with passion.

Q. The City of Brampton held its first webcast in August to discuss new requirements for accounting of municipal assets and maintenance management, and on what Brampton is doing with respect to PSAB (Public Sector Accounting Board) compliance. What prompted the meeting to be done in this format?

A. What prompted it was the desire that we had to connect with our counterparts across the country and that this particular issue, PSAB, is something that impacts all municipalities. We wanted to find out what everyone else was doing. The second thing is it’s impossible to bring a lot of people together for a meeting, so we said, ‘Let’s host a webcast.’ It was conducted in two parts: the webcast worked out really well for the presentation, but not as well for an interactive discussion, so we went to the traditional teleconference to have an interactive discussion. It was really the desire to find out what everybody else was doing, to share what we were doing, and to have maximum involvement from across the country.

Q. What sort of feedback did you get from your other counterparts?

A. A lot of people wanted the information we had because we seemed to be ahead of others in terms of figuring things out, so that was good for us in terms of validating. But also from my perspective as CIO it concerns me because I really believe depending on the organization and its preparedness could have a large impact in municipalities, but I’m only responsible for Brampton.

Q. With respect to PSAB, essentially it’s going to be used by municipalities for asset maintenance management and for maintaining inventory?

A. That’s part of the story. PSAB in a nutshell is really about having the tangible assets included in the annual financial statements. Right now they’re not, and municipalities have huge assets, not just City Hall and recreation centres, but municipalities own the roads, the water, the sewer, etc., so throughout the country, who knows how many billions of dollars of assets there are? And in each corporation those assets are not on the books, so the key thing about PSAB is creating that framework, that compliance requirement to get them on the books, so that once they are, they’re treated as financial assets.

Q. By what date will municipalities have to be PSAB-compliant?

A. The compliances are required starting January 2009, the calendar fiscal year, but you can’t just flip a switch. The key thing about PSAB is a lot of municipalities have a lot of their assets already in databases because they use them to issue work orders, or to upgrade or repave a road. The thing about 2009 and about PSAB is that not all municipalities will have the value of the asset, so when you bought that building or when that road was given to you through the assumption process by the builder or developer, what was its value and what was the condition?

Those are two key things, so in preparing for that, municipalities have a lot of the asset information and we have a lot of the asset information, but what we need to add is the value and the condition.

Q. So this preparation and the work you’re doing now to get ready, how is this something that you’re tackling from an HR perspective?

A. We’re still working through the resource piece of it. The focus right now is the project resources to do the work, to do the definition, and as we do that definition and implementation, then we start to understand what the operational impacts are. We know there will be operational impacts because it’s a shift in the way we do business and we always take a measured approach to these things but until we do the analysis and review the process, we don’t know what the details are. In terms of our financial planning that we do, any time we put forward a capital project, we always identify in that process what the operational impacts are. In the same way, as we go through this, we will be identifying that impact, and that would be true for any organization. The scale is different, based on the size.

Q. I’m curious as to the role that technology will play in this system

A. The technology being hardware, software, information data, it has an important role to play. I would say it’s more of a supporting role than a leading role. First and foremost, this is a business challenge, so our relationship with finance is really key on this; not just finance in terms of PSAB. We’re also going to review, revise and update all of our operational departments when it comes to how they manage their assets. So as you said earlier, yes, we’re going to make sure it’s also about asset maintenance management as well as PSAB, we don’t want to do the two separately. As CIO, my responsibility is to make sure that if we have a business challenge, we apply the appropriate technology information resources to meet that need and to make sure we collect the information in a single source and that there aren’t multiple versions of the information, that it’s accessible and the systems are integrated. My goal in all of this, the big issue at the end of the day when we’re in operating state, is the information. If we’re going to make sure all the information is right, and in the system from the start, then as we run the business we need to maintain the data. I want to make sure that the staff has the tools, the technology, and the systems, to have those processes integrated with our business. If somebody’s going out to do a playground inspection, they have the technology to be able to assess the condition, then that can be updated right into our financial reporting. The condition is a key factor when it comes to PSAB compliance. It’s that total integration of the information and business systems with the business process.

Q. In addition to PSAB compliance, are there additional projects or initiatives that you’re working on with the City of Brampton that you’d like to discuss?

A. Each year we identify the “Big Six” projects that are the top priorities. We have many more than six projects per year, but these are the big priorities. For 2007 these are:

1. Asset and maintenance management (including PSAB compliance)
2. Development tracking
3. Call centre and customer service strategy
4. ITS for Acceleride (2007 phase) – rapid transit
5. Fire and emergency services IT systems
6. Management reporting and dashboard

Q. How do you feel that Brampton compares with other municipalities (with respect to IT and e-government)? In what areas do you feel the City is ahead or excelling at?

A. Brampton is a player, no question. In respect to other Canadian municipalities, I believe each of us does one or two things well. We rely on each other in respect to benchmarking and sharing information. What is it that Brampton IT does well? It’s simple: when we have a problem or an issue, whether it is technical or related to managing our budget, resource planning or developing an enterprise architecture model, we solve problems well… With respect to e-government, we have focused our time and energy on creating a unique Web experience. We have changed our main page picture on Brampton.ca over 50 times in the past year; our events are current; we feature staff-based video welcomes in multiple languages; and we feature current events and happenings in the city. Overall, our city is excelling at drawing the public in to the consultative process, such that great people are working with great government to build a great city.

Lisa Williams (lwilliams@intergovworld.com) is a senior writer with InterGovWorld.com



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