The public sector is undergoing significant changes as citizens rely more heavily on the internet to access services and other resources and staff are forced to work remotely. We reached out to three of Canada’s largest solution providers to gain a better understanding of the problems governments are trying to solve with technology and where IT channel partners serving them can help out.
Q: Can you confirm what levels of government you do business with? And in which provinces if there are multiple?
Jeremy Erlick, Compugen’s vice-president of sales, Central and East: We do business with all levels of government: Federal, Provincial, Municipal including Agencies, Healthcare, Education; and in the following Provinces: BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Atlantic.
Anil Verma, senior specialty sales executive, cloud and hybrid IT for Softchoice: We have been working with the public sector at the federal, provincial and municipal levels across Canada for over 15 years. Our dedicated public sector teams partner closely with IT teams across all levels of the government to support their cloud transformation journey through solutions and professional services.
Dave Frederickson, executive vice-president of sales and strategic business solutions, Long View Systems: The company has Canadian offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and works with all levels of government.
Q: If you can specify, which areas of government were hardest hit over the past year when it comes to business continuity?
Erlick: Education and healthcare were probably hardest hit in terms of needing to continue operating but with entirely different requirements – for example, remote learning in Education and COVID programs and protocols in Healthcare. In general federal, provincial, municipal were challenged to enable staff to work remotely (from home) and continue operating, while at the same time tailoring their services and programs to serve citizens in a pandemic. Key challenges included equipping staff with technology, setting up remote work and collaboration platforms, security and access configuration and policies, training and staff communication/engagement programs. Specifically, the federal government was extremely challenged and took up to 6 months to get to the point where all staff were connected and productive.
Verma: When the pandemic hit last year, the need for a digital workplace was in high demand across all levels of the government as everyone had to quickly adapt to the new way of working and deploy a secure digital workplace. Within the federal government, different departments were already in different stages of their cloud transformation but when the pandemic hit all departments needed to accelerate their transformation. Currently, the focus continues on the digital transformation journey by leveraging cloud technologies to further innovate, improve experiences for employees and seamless delivery of services and experiences for the citizen. Security remains a top priority and we work with the public sector to ensure that all security guardrails and best practices are int place to support a hybrid workplace model
Frederickson: Clients that already migrated to Microsoft 365 were in much better shape than those with Exchange on-prem. The majority of government clients have not moved over and they have serious work to get in front of. They will have challenges.
Q: Can you identify the top 3 technology investments that public sector agencies are making over the past 6 months? These examples can apply to all levels of government.
Erlick: Number one is end-user devices, two is collaboration platforms, and three is security
- Workplace digitalization (collab, mobility, security).
- Backup & recovery – in order to ensure that the cloud backup is in place.
- Citizen engagement and EX- Continuous improvement to offer services to citizens in an engaging and easy manner. They are looking at ways to leverage cloud technologies to improve experiences for employees and citizens/end-user.
- Data analytics.
Frederickson: It’s a tale of different verticals and a tale of different solutions that we’re providing for clients. Anything that’s cloud-based and collaboration that helps with remote work or business continuity or helps and of course universally security … these are areas where clients are finding a budget from a business sense or opportunity sense.
Q: When it comes to cybersecurity spending, are IT teams in the public sector still constrained by budget discussions?
Erlick: New baseline security requirements are being highlighted centrally: MFA, access control and ATP. Generally funding is being made available to acquire and implement the products, however, budget constraints remain in terms of the people required to properly monitor and manage security.
Verma: As cloud adoption and spending across workloads increase, IT teams have to manage and forecast cloud spending across these various workloads. Our focus is to help public sector IT teams to deploy best practices when it comes to cybersecurity and establishing security guardrails when leveraging the cloud.
Frederickson: We’re seeing major shift to cloud security, as well as data modernization solutions. Healthcare budgets are shifting to take care of vaccines and vaccine clinics while trying to maintain strong cybersecurity.
Q: BlackBerry’s latest threat analysis says Canada’s critical infrastructure strategy is way out of date and requires immediate attention. As an IT channel partner on the front lines, do you notice some of these gaps in Canada’s critical infrastructure? What are some of the ways channel partners can convince super budget-constrained businesses and organizations to update legacy systems running critical infrastructure to the newest versions to reduce vulnerabilities?
Erlick: It’s hard to make a general statement across all infrastructure in the Canadian public sector. Many government organizations have focused and invested appropriately in security, however, there is a lack of consistent standards along with high variance in terms of how budgets are allocated, which all results in inconsistent security posture and preparedness. Generally the Federal government and Provincial governments proper have the strongest and most advanced security. It would be helpful for larger centralized government organizations to agree and communicate common standards, along with guidance for budgets and funding.
Verma: As technology partners, our focus is on helping our customers understand how they can benefit from having a modern security posture as today’s advanced security solutions are focused on a holistic security model and new emerging threats fueled by cultural shifts like remote work.
As a cloud-agnostic partner, we provide insights from our broad areas of knowledge, insights and best practices. This not only helps our customers adopt new technologies but also drives cultural change critical for a successful transformation.
Frederickson: They got to move into the cloud. That will help protect them, not completely but it will help. The modernization of infrastructure needs to happen and with that comes the opportunity with advanced security capabilities, versus throwing money on it. As a taxpayer I wouldn’t want to see my money spent that way.
The challenge is, it’s hard to attract the talent [to accomplish this]. If you’re a hotshot security consultant, you’re gonna go work what was deemed a legacy public sector org? Probably not, so the war for talent is even more difficult for some of that work.
Q: Final thoughts?
Erlick: These are the top expected spending trends:
- Remote work
- Managed services
Verma: I think the accelerated adoption of digital workplace has instilled a new confidence in the cloud. Cloud investments yielded good results by helping the public sector innovate and support IT mandates. The positive results and confidence have now led to the focus on considering more advanced workloads like dev ops, data analytic, application development etc., which will allow them to further innovate and create value for employees and end-users.
Given the rise of technology investment and implementations, organizations have realized that they can get better results out of their digital transformation projects by bringing in partners like Softchoice. Today, customers need to be much more agile with their IT environments while keeping costs under control. This is where managed service providers like us come with our deep expertise in cloud technologies and help customers deploy secure and agile environments, help with the adoption and optimization of these environments for positive results.
Frederickson: Almost everyone has put a break or some kind of shift on capital spending. Some of that spending is coming back.