It’s been a slow process — nearly five years to be exact — but the federal government has formally embarked on starting the consultation process on its IT transformation agenda to revamp internal IT services infrastructure. According to Canada’s national ICT business association, it’s a process that’s well overdue.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote announced that Shared Services Canada (SSC) is launching a consultation to seek feedback from Canadians, federal public servants, client departments, and industry on its IT Transformation Plan. Canadians can provide their feedback before Oct. 31 of this year, by visiting www.ittransformationconsultation.ca.
A summary of the feedback received will be released before the end of 2016.
“The plan will drive the overall modernization of IT in government, and will help Shared Services Canada ensure the successful delivery of online federal services to Canadians,” Foote said in a statement.
Shared Services: Consolidate, streamline and improve Government of Canada IT
The SSC was established in 2011 by the then-in-power Conservative government to “consolidate, streamline and improve Government of Canada information technology” across 43 government agencies and departments. This includes the email, data centres, telecommunications, network and IT security services, and government service delivery to citizens.
The IT transformation initiative is part of the federal government’s overarching Information Technology Strategic Plan 2016-2020 framework. It includes IT service delivery and transformation goals such as the proposed Cloud Adoption Strategy and an updated Cyber Security Strategy. The mandate complements the Strategic IT Plan released by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) this past August, who recently tabled a strategy as draft with a request for feedback.
But there have been events in Ottawa that perhaps have precipitated this week’s announcement, specifically around the recent resignation of Statistics Canada chief statistician Wayne R. Smith. Media reports revealed that internally, Smith was unhappy with the centralized level of service being provided by SSC and felt it was hindering his department’s operational progression.
“All of you are aware of my view that this loss of independence and control is not only an apprehension, but an effective reality today, as Statistics Canada is increasingly hobbled in the delivery of its programs through disruptive, ineffective, slow and unaffordable supply of physical informatics services by Shared Services Canada,” said Smith in an letter email sent to media.
And while the initial SSC plan was to streamline IT infrastructure across department units, including the more than 600 data centres, CBC.ca reports that as of this year, only 80 data centres have been closed and plans to centralize the email system have been placed on indefinite hold. Moving forward, the SSC is now seeking feedback from employees, ITC industry firms and Canadians with an interest in IT and large modernization projects.
On Monday, Ron Parker, SSC president, noted that the process is also underway to connect with Canadians online to discuss the strategy. In a press conference, Parker told media that it is still to be determined how much the government will potentially save under the plan.
“That would be in the profile of what we report to Parliament in the winter of 2017, or the early spring,” Parker told media.
ITAC: Government of Canada can tap into best practices
Despite the delays, it is encouraging the federal government is moving forward in consulting Canadians, according to the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). In a statement, ITAC noted that it “encourages and supports SSC in receiving industry feedback on the IT Transformation Plan that is designed to outline how the department will carry out its mandate to deliver IT services across the Government of Canada.”
This week’s announcement represents how the current Liberal government is doing things differently, according to ITAC president Robert Watson. “The ICT sector sees IT transformation and modernization strategies being deployed successfully around the world – by consulting with our sector, the Government of Canada can tap into these best practices.”
To support the initiative, ITAC is presently encouraging its members to respond via SSCs online consultation portal in addition to consolidating member feedback with the aim of presenting formalized comments to SSC to support the final development.
According to Kelly Hutchinson, ITAC’s vice president of government relations and policy, the organization intends to do the same for the federal government’s overarching strategic IT plan.
“It is refreshing to see that ITAC members will be engaged on all of the moving pieces versus the per-project engagements we have seen in the past,” said Hutchinson. “They want to get it right and so we are seeing collaborative engagement from the bureaucrats to the ministerial staff.”