IT procurement reform awareness campaign getting results

Some four weeks after the Federal IT 911 campaign was launched to draw awareness to proposed changes to federal government IT procurement procedures that could have serious impacts for the IT channel, and three weeks after an awareness event in Ottawa, the campaign appears to have gotten the attention of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

The organizer of the campaign, Kelly Bizeau, president of MarketWorks Ltd., said the awareness campaign has been a great success so far. There were 57 people at the Ottawa event and another 28 watching online, representing 37 different small and medium-sized channel providers. To date, the fax campaign has seen over 1700 faxes sent to Public Works and to Member of Parliament offices, expressing the concern of channel partners over the proposed procurement reforms.

“The main focus of the campaign is really just to raise awareness of the changes happening with procurement reform, stuff we would know if we kept our fingers to the pulse,” said Bizeau. “It’s really just empowering resellers to take charge of their information flow and start engaging government before the other shoe drops.”

The concern centres around the concern that IT procurement reforms currently underway at Public Works, which oversees procurement for the federal government, as well as the department’s stated desire to move toward a government-wide shared services model for IT products and services, could lead to a consolidation and reduction of the government’s IT spend that would leave most channel partners, who are generally SMBs themselves, unable to compete and offer the level of scale necessary, costing them their government business.

As a result of the pressure the campaign and the IT channel have brought to the issue, Bizeau said there are signs of increased scrutiny being brought to the procurement reform process. Bizeau has been contacted by the office of Christian Paradis, the Minister of Public Works, and his staff indicated they are working on the file closely and will be getting back to the community soon with more information. She has also been contacted by Shereen Miller, director general of the small and midsize enterprise office within PWGSC, and had already been meeting with the IT Services Bureau within the department on the issue.

“(Miller said she’s) working closely with the respective divisions to make sure she’s aware of what’s happening internally and the impact on SMB, and we’ll be working with her,” said Bizeau.

The government’s desire to ensure an efficient and cost-effective procurement process is understandable, and Bizeau said PWGSC already has excellent processes in place designed to save the government money. She said it’s a matter of working with the department to find a solution that is beneficial to both the government and the SMBs that support PWGSC providing IT services to the government.

“SME partners have been modeling their business processes to government procurement procedures for decades and they’ve shown good value, but you can’t just rip the rug out from them and expect them to be able to recover in time,” said Bizeau. “I do believe because our community has banded together to raise awareness, it has increased the amount of scrutiny around procurement reform.”

That doesn’t mean it’s time for the channel to take its foot off the gas, however. Bizeau said PWGSC still appears determined to move forward on shared services, with an aggressive timeline that would see major changes in place by the end of 2010.

“We’ve got to be able to slow down the boat first. That’s the main goal, and right now that hasn’t happened,” said Bizeau. “If we’re not engaging the government and coming up with collaborative solutions this ball could be rolling a lot faster than we’d like.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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