Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Front Page - WRIT­TEN BY KRYS­TLE CHOW

A new govern­ment depart­ment is set to make big changes to the way IT ser­vices are de­liv­ered through­out the fed­eral bureau­cracy, with planned sav­ings of at least $100 mil­lion. The fed­eral govern­ment’s so-called “shared ser­vices” ini­tia­tive – the idea of pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy ser­vices in a stream­lined man­ner through one depart­ment – has long been in the works, be­gin­ning with the es­tab­lish­ment of Pub­lic Works’s In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Ser­vices Branch sev­eral years ago.

How­ever, crit­ics ar­gue the ITSB model lacks the bite needed to force govern­ment de­part­ments to rely on Pub­lic Works for IT ser­vice de­liv­ery, that it doesn’t prop­erly con­sider dif­fer­ent de­part­ments’ unique needs, and that small and medium-sized busi­nesses are not prop­erly con­sid­ered as sup­pli­ers.

En­ter Shared Ser­vices Canada, a new cen­tral­ized en­tity within Pub­lic Works that was launched in early Au­gust with the goal of con­sol­i­dat­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing the pub­lic ser­vice’s 100 dif­fer­ent e-mail sys­tems, more than 300 data cen­tres and more than 3,000 net­work ser­vices.

There are op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­dus­try in this ef­fort, es­pe­cially as the fed­eral govern­ment in­di­cates in­ter­est in us­ing pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ships to de­liver the new IT ser­vices.

The plan is to move to a sin­gle e-mail sys­tem and fewer than 20 data cen­tres, and to stream­line net­works. Shared Ser­vices Canada will take over for ITSB and within the next two months, roughly 7,000 tech­nol­ogy-re­lated staff from the 44 most IT-in­ten­sive govern­ment de­part­ments will trans­fer to the new body.

As well, the depart­ment is de­vel­op­ing a deficit re­duc­tion ac­tion plan to iden­tify five-per-cent and 10-per-cent sav­ings op­tions, trans­lat­ing to sav­ings of at least $100 mil­lion and $200 mil­lion.

Ot­tawa Tech­nol­ogy spoke with tech ex­ec­u­tives to gather their thoughts on the newly re­for­mu­lated shared ser­vices strat­egy, and whether it’s likely to pro­duce the hoped-for sav­ings and ef­fi­cien­cies.


Alarge part of the dis­cus­sion over the last 10 years has been go­ing to con­sol­i­da­tion. Pub­lic Works has al­ways had the man­date to pro­vide a cen­tral ser­vice, but no­body wants to buy it be­cause the ser­vice is bad and it’s far too ex­pen­sive. So why is that the right model?

My con­cern is that the ac­tual bu­reau­cratic re­sponse is very self-serv­ing, which is “ let’s con­sol­i­date, we couldn’t man­age when it was small but when we con­sol­i­date it all to­gether, we’ll then be able to man­age.” And I think that’s fal­la­cious think­ing at best. Cen­tral plan­ning didn’t work in the So­viet Union and it didn’t work any­where else be­cause peo­ple are not that smart.

A lot of IT has to deal with in­no­va­tion, and typ­i­cally large govern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies don’t deal well with de­ploy­ing in­no­va­tions. You don’t need what I call rules-based or­ga­ni­za­tions to deal with in­no­va­tion, and you don’t want govern­ment, just like you don’t want the mil­i­tary – which is also a rules-based or­ga­ni­za­tion – to be in­no­va­tive; you want them to ex­e­cute their mis­sion.

In­no­va­tion de­mands cre­ativ­ity, free­dom of thought and ex­plo­ration and – pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant – the free­dom to fail. You don’t want that if you have only one unit. It’s very dif­fi­cult to say we’re go­ing to have 10,000 peo­ple run­ning a cen­tral in­fra­struc­ture and we’re go­ing to let loose a thou­sand or a hun­dred cow­boys to see what they can come up with. It’s very dif­fi­cult to do that.


There’s a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence ( be­tween ITSB and Shared Ser­vices Canada); Pub­lic Works was mak­ing some pro­pos­als on the ser­vice be­ing of­fered, and then try­ing to host and ne­go­ti­ate on its own these en­ter­prise li­cence deals, while clearly hav­ing other govern­ment de­part­ments pur­su­ing their own de­ci­sions.

With Shared Ser­vices Canada now be­ing truly em­pow­ered as its own govern­ment depart­ment, it will have ac­cess to the as­sets of the other govern­ment de­part­ments to bring in and to cre­ate some ef­fi­cien­cies, to make some big de­ci­sions.

Typ­i­cally there’s a bucket of costs with 80 per cent op­er­at­ing and main­te­nance and 20 per cent cap­i­tal. I see mas­sive sav­ings on the cap­i­tal side and that’s eas­ier to prove than, “Hey, we’re con­sol­i­dat­ing many of these li­cences down to one li­cence, or all of this in­fra­struc­ture to this (one) in­fra­struc­ture.”

But where the real sav­ings are – and it’s a tricky con­ver­sa­tion to be had – a lot of it’s in the labour … re­sources that are work­ing on these par­tic­u­lar sys­tems.

I think that as Shared Ser­vices is pulling in ( labour) re­sources from all dif­fer­ent de­part­ments and hav­ing these peo­ple at the ta­ble and un­der­stand­ing the ef­fi­cien­cies that come with some of these ini­tia­tives, where five or six govern­ment de­part­ments are all do­ing things very sim­i­larly or du­pli­cat­ing ef­forts, this does pro­vide a lot of cost sav­ings.

Those peo­ple that were maybe work­ing on things that were a lit­tle bit lower-value (can) then fo­cus on what’s key to their depart­ment, which em­pow­ers the govern­ment depart­ment to be more pro­duc­tive. It’s a big-pic­ture per­spec­tive.


I f (the fed­eral govern­ment is) re­ally go­ing to do this right, they need to make sure they re­ally in­te­grate rather than try­ing to move to a straight stan­dard­iza­tion. They need to make sure that they lever­age ex­ist­ing sys­tems and not throw away past good in­vest­ments. Legacy sys­tems should be re­placed first, and at some point, there’s go­ing to be a cer­tain level of stan­dard­iza­tion. But in the mean­time, they need to find ways to have ex­ist­ing sys­tems com­mu­ni­cate, which in­cludes the tech­nol­ogy as well as the pro­cesses. You’re al­ways go­ing to have the unique needs of each depart­ment, so it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that they need to fo­cus on bridg­ing sys­tems, the ex­ist­ing pro­cesses and the ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies to­gether so that sys­tems are not in­ter­rupted.

Pro­vided they have the proper ser­vice man­age­ment strat­egy that in­cludes the in­volve­ment of many com­pa­nies, both big and small, a multi-source so­lu­tion, the govern­ment will have a very good sound­ing board across the in­dus­try. If they want to es­sen­tially out­source the ser­vice to one or two large in­te­gra­tors, they’re go­ing to be sub­jected to the pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures of those one or two com­pa­nies, and I don’t think that’s in the best in­ter­est of the tax­pay­ers. I think mo­nop­o­lies have proven to be in­ef­fi­cient and not as cost-ef­fec­tive as a com­pet­i­tive environment.


( Be­gin­ning with net­work, e-mail and data cen­tres is) a good start­ing point, but with where the world’s go­ing, the in­tel­li­gence lives in the net­work it­self. The govern­ment will need to get to this is­sue of how we en­sure that we have any de­vice hooked to net­works ev­ery­where. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of tablets and mo­bile de­vices, and the de­mo­graphic changes where younger mem­bers of the work­force ex­pect to be able to work that way, will drive the govern­ment to deal with that is­sue.

If you think about, for ex­am­ple, the whole no­tion of tele­work­ers, it means you re­ally don’t have to be in a phys­i­cal of­fice any­more to ac­com­plish your work. It doesn’t ap­ply to ev­ery func­tion, es­pe­cially in the pub­lic-

sec­tor con­text, but these tools will re­sult in the govern­ment say­ing, “Maybe we need to look at dif­fer­ent ways of man­ag­ing our work­force. Maybe we don’t need all this real es­tate we have.” The end re­sult is the sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings on real prop­erty and re­duc­tions in en­ergy emis­sions as a re­sult of peo­ple not hav­ing to com­mute all the time.

How­ever, you have to walk be­fore you run, so to start with the foun­da­tion of net­works, data cen­tres and e-mail is per­fectly good. But where it needs to lead to will be to look at chang­ing the way peo­ple work and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the tools that are out there. The end re­sult will be work­ers will be more pro­duc­tive and govern­ment will spend less money in terms of the tech­ni­cal sup­port re­quired and the level of phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture they have to put in place to sup­port them.


The shared ser­vices ini­tia­tive is the per­fect con­text to ex­plain the value of cloud com­put­ing. Cloud com­put­ing is a tech­nol­ogy that al­lows mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions to share in­fra­struc­ture for the pur­pose of find­ing greater ef­fi­cien­cies be­tween them.

There are dif­fer­ent mod­els of cloud com­put­ing: the af­fil­i­ate/pub­lic cloud like Ama­zon, which is gen­er­ally avail­able to ev­ery­one, on one end of the scale, and the other end is a pri­vate cloud where one or­ga­ni­za­tion im­ple­ments their own pri­vate cloud ded­i­cated to them­selves in­ter­nally. Govern­ment can’t eas­ily use some­thing like Ama­zon be­cause of pri­vacy re­stric­tions, but do­ing a pri­vate cloud in­ter­nally means you’re not lever­ag­ing the fun­da­men­tal ben­e­fits, which is the more peo­ple shar­ing the in­fra­struc­ture, the greater the cost sav­ings for each user.

In be­tween is the com­mu­nity cloud, which is the ideal model. It al­lows any num­ber of com­ple­men­tary govern­ment agen­cies to pool their in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments, so that rather than each of them go­ing out and buy­ing their own ded­i­cated servers and soft­ware, they cre­ate one sin­gle com­mu­nity cloud plat­form that they all share in. They’re get­ting a more modern plat­form and the costs to each of them is greatly re­duced. And that’s ac­tu­ally called shared ser­vice com­put­ing, so you can then see the im­me­di­ate anal­ogy be­tween the depart­ment they’re cre­at­ing and the func­tion of this tech­nol­ogy.

The abil­ity to move to cloud com­put­ing, which is fun­da­men­tally about be­com­ing more ag­ile and mov­ing quicker, is part of the mod­ern­iza­tion which could see ( govern­ment) be­com­ing more nim­ble, which is part of the so­lu­tion to their or­ga­ni­za­tional na­ture as well.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.