OTTAWA -- Canada will begin to see positive results and “harvest some savings” from an effort to streamline the way federal government IT services are delivered by 2014, says its chief information officer, and departmental CIOs in collaboration with the newly minted Shared Services
Canada will be driving that change.
That was the message Tuesday from Corrine Charette at GTEC 2011, one of Canada's largest government technology events, who kept shared services front and centre in her keynote speech.
Shared Services Canada, under president Liseanne Forand, has been mandated by Treasury Board president Tony Clement to reduce the number of federal government service across 44 departments to 30 from 300. Consolidating e-mail servers, data centres and networks in the most IT-intensive departments would reap “significant economies of scale,” Clement said Tuesday.
Charette said some important government systems are more than 25 years old and at risk of obsolescence. Meanwhile, the government's application portfolio has become too diverse, granular, customized and extensive, increasing costs and causing interoperability problems. There are 500 application components in human resources alone, she said.
“It became clear that renewing our IT environment as-is was not feasible,” Charette said. “There are simply too many newer applications, newer technologies, that we haven't harvested.”
It's impossible, though, to go from a completely decentralized IT delivery model to a completely centralized model, she said. Shared Services Canada is aimed at creating a mixed environment: clusters of smaller department combining their back offices, like an effort already underway led by Agriculture and Agrifoods Canada; data centre colocation, a road that Canada Revenue Agency, the Bank of Canada and the Finance Ministry have already started own; and horizontal consolidation. For example, there's no consistency across departments for Web publishing and content management; many even have “roll-your-own” solutions, she said. There's an opportunity to consolidate on a single platform with more powerful tools.
It will change the game for departmental CIOs, but they will also be increasingly involved in finding opportunities to transform the way IT services are delivered in government, she said. They will have to develop more extensive business cases, comparing more solutions and including options like clustering and private partnerships.
That kind of change can take people out of their comfort zones, said Carol Stephenson, dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Change has been “a constant companion” in her career, as a Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. executive at the end of the long-distance monopoly, the leader of telecom conglomerate Stentor, and CEO of Alcatel-Lucent in Canada when an industry collapse forced massive restructuring.