GTEC Day One: An iPad cabinet and where the feds are spending on IT

OTTAWA — Abusy day one at the Canada's Government Technology Event (GTEC) is inthe books. I filed a piece on what shared services and procurementreform could mean for the channel and colleague Dave Webb reported ontimeline and potential savings, but here's a look at someof the other news and notes that caught my eye on Tuesday in thehalls of the Ottawa Convention Centre.

Shared servicesbuzz: For the channel partners, the technology vendors, andcertainly the government technology workers attending GTEC 2011, thebuzz is around the government's move to a shared services model forIT service delivery and procurement, and all stakeholders werelistening carefully to keynotes from Treasury Board president TonyClement and federal CIO Corinne Charette for more hints on where thegovernment is going here. There's a general feeling that morespecific details on the direction are needed, but the partners I'vespoken to are generally positive on the direction. They're taxpayerstoo, after all, and the government isn't talking about anything thathasn't been the norm in the private sector for years. But it's notsurprising that the partners attending GTEC are bullish: they're theones that are engaged, and have made that transition up thevalue-stack from box-pusher to trusted adviser. It's those thataren't at the conference that are probably concerned, and withreason: change is coming and it's not going to wait for them to catchup.

Where the feds arestill spending on IT: Just because the government islooking to cut costs across the board, including in IT, doesn't meanthey're not still investing in strategic areas of technology, andthere were hints on where the channel should focus on day one atGTEC. Video got a shout-out from Clement, signalling the governmentwill be looking to “high-definition immersive video” orvideo-conferencing to help cut travel budgets and support. He's asinterested in modernizing government as cutting costs, also pointingto social media as a tool for citizen engagement. And fCharettepointed to cloud computing as an area the government is exploring,and will be looking to vendors and the channel for best-practiceadvice on.

An iPad cabinet:Clement also has a pet technology project of his own in mind that, ifadopted widely, will provide major channel opportunity around bothhardware as well as document management software and services: hewants to take cabinet paperless. The minister, who like manyministers and MPs has a Parliament of Canada-issued Apple iPad, isdrawing inspiration from the Dutch government's recent move to takeits cabinet paperless. He'd like to do the same in Canada, replacingthe “reams of paper” to cabinet ministers and their stafffor every cabinet meeting with electronic documents they can accesson their tablets. He plans to start by taking the Treasury Boardcommittee, which he chairs, completely paperless, and if that pilotproves successful work to roll it out across the rest of the cabinet.

Three criticalleadership lessons for times of change: History shows thatyou can have the best idea in the world but, if you don't manage yourteam through the change by bringing them on board, it can easily gooff the rails. As the federal public service embarks on a majorchange exercise around shared services, Carol Stephenson, dean of theRichard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontarioand a former IT executive that managed through a lot of change,shared three critical lessons she has learned managing in times ofchange. The first is to not just talk, but listen, and engage yourteam in making decisions around implementing the changes. The secondis to build a clear set of values amongst your team, and live thosevalues. And the third is to understand the big picture and what itmeans for your group, but also what it means for others. The goal,she said, is to foster a environment where people buy into the changeand contribute to making that change happen.

GTEC is back:I attended my first GTEC back at the height of the technology bubblearound 2000 and it was a massive conference, taking over the WestinHotel, the Ottawa Congress Centre and the movie theatres in theRideau Centre Mall. Over the intervening years the show shrunk, andseemed to have a questionable future. This year may mark a turnaroundfor the event though, with organizers expecting over 7000 people forthe week's conference sessions and trade show. Many of the day onebreak-outs were packed, with some turning people away as the roomshad reached their fire marshal-mandated capacity. And part of themomentum is around the location, in Ottawa's beautiful newly-openedConvention Centre, with it's glass wall and panoramic vista of theRideau Canal and Parliament. The new venue also allows all thesessions to be under one roof, after construction forced them todisperse last year. We'll see if the momentum can continue to nextyear, but it bodes well for public sector IT in Canada.

And so is Cisco:After an absence of several years at GTEC, Cisco Systems is back. Andwith a bang, as the lead sponsor of the event. Cisco Canada'svice-president of public sector, Kim Devooght, told me Cisco islooking to send a message with its heavy presence at GTEC: thenetworking vendor is making a large, renewed push for public sectorbusiness in Canada. With its heavy push around the network-centricdata centre, no doubt Cisco is eyeing shared services and thegovernment's planned data centre consolidation initiative and seesbig opportunity for the vendor and its channel partners.

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