Spotlight on Paul Hession from PWGSC’s Spotlight series profiles Executives, decision-makers and their initiatives across all levels of Canadian government.

(PWGSC Photo / Mario Baril)

Part 1 with Paul Hession, Director General of Service Qualification and Transition, Public Works and Government Services Canada. InterGovWorld senior writer Lisa Williams spoke with Hession about GTEC, his work in both the private and public sector, and the changing role of the CIO.

Q) How did your previous work, especially your CIO roles with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the National Archives of Canada, prepare you for your current role?

A) Because now I’m working with other departments in government, it’s providing me with this new mandate of a much larger picture to deal with, and the need for the IT shared services organization across the government of Canada.

In that context, the National Archives CIO role gave me a great understanding of the importance of information as an asset. In that role (and that of the Fisheries), I got to meet other CIOs who share a vision of the importance of information as distinct from the physical infrastructure. Now I have a chance to build on this work with colleagues in creating this common vision of IT shared services.


The roles I played and the committee work I’ve done as a CIO have shown me the importance of collaboration and to have a real hands on operational sensitivity towards the costs of doing this, the pressures they face, and what the impacts will be on the direction we’re taking.

I feel that both at Fisheries and Oceans and at the National Archives I got sensitized to the priorities of my fellow CIOs in their current roles. I believe that with moving towards the shared services model the role of the CIO really has to change from their traditional view where they were responsible for the plumbing and the wiring and were experts in that area.

Shifting the focus

I believe that as a community CIOs in the federal government have to focus more on the policy and program executive concerns. And move away from being just an IT business executive and provide more cost effective and timely IT services.

Stronger emphasis must be on information management, re-engineering the business process in support of changing technology and program delivery. Service Canada is a great example of that in the points of presence across the country for delivering old age security, employment insurance and other federal programs.

Q) You said the role of the CIO is changing. From your perspective and that of your colleagues, are they open to changing and growing in that role?

A) Yes, and to greater or lesser degrees because it is a function of the maturity of the organization where they find themselves. Like any change there’s always early adopters and innovators, that’s the wave we’re dealing with now. Of course there’ll be laggards and a late majority of those who don’t live in those circumstances in their host organizations. It’s all a function of time, but I’m sure we’ll get there.

Q) You spoke at GTEC 2006. What kind of role do events like that play in your work?

A) It provides us with an opportunity to share the mandate we’ve been given and we’ve positioned this within an overall initiative in Public Works called The Way Forward. GTEC also provides us with a large, knowledgeable audience of IT business leaders and senior federal program managers. There is another group in Ottawa called the Data Processing Institute and their professional development week also helped to create a common level of understanding of this initiative. Forums like GTEC help us to champion issues and broaden the understanding within the CIO community and the role of the shared services organization.

Q) The work you’ve done in the private sector includes stints at EDS and IBM Canada. What are the major differences from working in that environment to your public sector work?

A) I had 17 years in the private sector and 25 in the public. There are many commonalities; I think both environments have a customer driven focus and a need for constant improvement in operational efficiency. But those are shared by both domains and my experiences in both have helped me to marry the best practices of the two domains. That is to provide a common focus for public service staff and employees and our business partners who are already engaged in supplying technological expertise to the government of Canada. I understand where the service and technology providers are coming from. I’ve been there so I’m able to bridge the gap and communicate what they need to do to help us.

Moving things forward

Within the public sector perspective there’s a need to build partnerships and therefore we need to constantly collaborate and consult with our partners. In my work in government I always stressed the importance to get people to have a common understanding with a common purpose which really helps to move things forward. In government our role isn’t really to create the technology it’s to present ourselves with the client who drives out what technology should enable in addressing other needs.

We have to put teams together both in the private and public side to create a product that meets the needs of the public servants.

Part II is available here.

Click here to access an archive of all past spotlights.

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