GTEC Day Two: Manitoba, the Flemish example and the trade show disconnect

OTTAWA– Wednesday was another busy at the Canada's Government Technology Event,and my last. The event continues through Thursday, but I had to head back to Toronto. However I leave youwith some news, notes and observations from day two at GTEC. (Here's a link to day one's blog.)

Spotlight on Manitoba:Every year GTEC picks a spotlight province which highlights theirtransformative work with information technology, and this year the focus was onManitoba. And not (just) for the return of the Winnipeg Jets, but for their impressiveIT transformation that began in the lead-up to Y2K.

In his keynote, John Clarkson,Manitoba’s deputy minister for the department of innovation, energy and mines(he says that seemingly odd combination is an asset because it links IT toeconomic development) outlined how they made a decision in the mid-1990s manyorganizations probably wish they made: if they’re going to have to investheavily in IT to prepare for Y2K, why not take the opportunity for a completeIT rethink and overhaul.

They built a centralized datanetwork and a comprehensive desktop program with a single image and a commonapproach to e-mail and communications across government. On top, they layeredan enterprise resource planning system from SAP. This government-wide sharedinfrastructure has provided the platform to provide better service to citizens,and allowed it to break down silos and provide citizens one window into theirgovernment. No more having to run from department to department, providing thesame information over and over again.

Looking at lessons learned,Clarkson said standardization shouldn’t mean the lowest common denominator. Itmeans making it easier to communicate, manage operations and provide serviceswithout having to support different technologies and services.

Manitoba also had some advice onprocurement. They broke transformation projects into gates, which allowed themto manage costs and decide at each stage if the project should go forward. Somevendors carried through multiple gates, while others didn’t because they didn’tdeliver results.

Follow the Flemishexample: Clarkson’s Manitoba keynote was followed by a presentationfrom Kathy Garcia, global senior vice-president, applications and businessservices with Hewlett-Packard Co.’s enterprise services group. It was apresentation that left attendees buzzing, particularly for the examples sheprovided of international government service delivery transformations that HPhas been a part of.

One example that caught theinterest of many, and was even talked about by federal CIO Corinne Charette ina concurrent session that followed, was an example from Belgium. In a projectcalled MAGDA, for Maximum Data Sharing between Agencies, the Flemish governmentbuilt a single platform based on service-oriented architecture (SOA) to bringtogether more than 70 agencies providing government services to citizens. Atthe core is the concept of once-only data collection or, as HP dubbed it, “tellus once government.” The goal wasn’t to just digitize bureaucracy, but puttechnology at the heart of the process to drive efficiency.

The example scored with the publicsector attendees at GTEC, so expect to hear more of the Flemish example in themonths to come as Canada embarks on its own IT transformation.

The show floor/educationsession disconnect: There are two key components to every GTEC. There’sthe trade show floor where technology vendors and partners, as well as somegovernment departments, showcase their offerings and their work. And there’sthe keynote addresses and break-out education session panels. I’ve beenshuffling between both, but a channel veteran made a good point that hadn’t occurredto me: not a lot of partners are attending the education sessions. And that’s amistake.

The channel community iswell-represented on the show floor. But many of the partners are spending theshow there, pushing their respective hardware and software offerings tothe public sector attendees. That’s not without value, but it’s also the oldselling model that the government is signalling a move away from as it goes downthe road of shared services, procurement reform and IT service transformation.

It has been rare to see partnersattending the education sessions. But the thing is, that’s where they’re farmore likely to find their potential customers. The federal IT decision makersare attending panels and break-outs, getting ideas on how to restructure andreform IT within their departments and across government.

If they’re smart, partners wouldbe in those sessions hearing and learning what their potential customers arehearing and learning, so they can restructure their businesses and be ready forthe coming changes as government IT begins to be transformed.

The future of their businesses isin the break-outs, not the trade show floor.

Follow Jeff Jedras onTwitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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