Speaking Notes for Ron Parker, President of Shared Services Canada for the Information Technology Association of Canada Executive Breakfast Briefing

Speech

Thank you, Eric and Ken, for the kind introduction.

It is a pleasure to be here with you today to kick off this year’s breakfast briefing series.

This morning, I would like to update you on Shared Services Canada’s work, and to discuss the role that the private sector can play in helping SSC to achieve its objectives.

I value your experience and perspectives, and appreciate the chance to explore how we can advance shared goals.

SSC was created to build a modern, secure and cost-effective IT platform to support a public service that is open and networked, that takes government-wide approaches, and that leverages technology to deliver modern, reliable, cost-effective service.

Essentially, SSC is a one-stop shop responsible for managing, operating and transforming the federal government’s IT infrastructure systems.

Our department brings together people, resources and assets to improve the efficiency, reliability and security of the government’s IT infrastructure, increase productivity across departments and agencies, and support the vision of a 21st century public service.

The department has achieved important milestones since its creation, and much remains to be done to move government IT out of a legacy environment into a modern and transformed state that better serves government and, in turn, better serves Canadians.

Here are just a few examples of the work accomplished so far.

  • The department has consolidated 60 legacy data centres into its three enterprise-class data centres, thereby reducing costs, increasing data security and improving service to partner and client organizations.
  • SSC is strengthening security. There has been a steady reduction in the number of critical IT incidents and the time it takes to resolve such incidents. 
  • We have also established a 24/7/365 Security Operations Centre, which allows the Government to monitor and respond quickly and efficiently to cyber-security incidents.
  • We have also improved engagement with industry throughout the procurement process. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a moment.

The magnitude of the change that we are leading has rarely been attempted before.

Keeping the lights on during a period of massive disruption, while planning and executing a fundamental change to the delivery of IT infrastructure services across the Government of Canada, presents a significant challenge.

The transformation has proceeded more slowly than anticipated.

Delays have occurred owing to the complexity of the challenge; both in terms of the starting point infrastructure transferred to the organization and the project themselves.

Also, assumptions have not always panned out. For example, some procurements required more time than originally anticipated, and some projects encountered difficulty delivering on their functional requirements.

The slower rollout of the transformation means that there is a greater than expected reliance on aging IT infrastructure. Sustaining and operating that infrastructure is absorbing more of SSC’s resources than expected. It also creates stresses in the organization because our staff cannot deliver the level of service excellence that is built into their DNA. I think this is one of the main factors at the heart of the morale issues you’ve been reading about.

These issues have been front and centre on my agenda since my arrival at SSC in July.

We are focused on three critical matters.

First – reinforcing the legacy infrastructure, where the risks are elevated and our resources permit, to prevent outages in the delivery of services to Canadians.

Second – we are aiming to improve our efficiency by strengthening service delivery to our customers through new service strategies and the standardization of service processes. Improving service delivery is key to client and employee satisfaction. Steps forward will be incremental.  The key point is to get an upward trajectory.

And third – as is done every year, we are looking closely at the transformation plan, including the assumptions that underpin it, the lessons learned to date and its resourcing requirements.

Let me provide you with an example of how we are working to improve service delivery.

In recent months, we have transitioned to a new organizational model that ensures that our operational branches are responsible for the entire lifecycle of their services, with emphasis on cross-cutting functions like architecture, client relationships, IT services, project management, IT security and corporate services like finance, human resources, procurement and communications.

As a result, we now have one business lead… one point of contact… for each of our lines of business. The goal is more flexibility and better service delivery for our partners in government and our partners in the IT community.

Transformation on this scale cannot occur all at once. It takes time and the right combination of expertise, experience and technology. It also takes a sound business model based on integrated planning, collaborative relationships with partners, clients and vendors which, in turn, supports operations.

Obviously, this is a work in progress. We see this process as part of a transformation culture that focuses on the end goal while recognizing that mistakes and corrections, service interruptions and quick responses and successes are all markers along the road to achieving a functional end-state.

In short, we take every opportunity to review and tune our approach, based on experience and feedback provided by partners and industry stakeholders.

You play a role in this. We have always known that industry – large firms or small- and medium-sized enterprises – is a critical stakeholder in developing innovative and cost-effective solutions for the Government’s IT transformation initiative.

We are learning from you, as our partners, as we continue to engage ICT sector members in consultation and discussion.

We’ve learned that engaging as broadly and as personally as possible can go a long way in building support for our vision.

That’s why, shortly after its creation, SSC initiated an ongoing dialogue with the ICT sector to establish sustainable and substantive relationships.

In general, the input that we have received from industry associations –  through the Information Technology Infrastructure Roundtable… or ITIR… its various advisory committees and working groups, and through other initiatives – has been extremely valuable in the development of SSC’s transformation plan.

Specifically, ITAC President Karna Gupta has engaged with SSC from the beginning. ITAC has participated in all 10 of the ITIR meetings held so far, and you are well-represented in advisory committee meetings and in working groups.

In fact, your organization has been an enthusiastic participant on the engagement front, and has provided leadership in several areas.

ITAC and its members make a valuable contribution to SSC’s work.

Over the last year, for example, many of you directly helped shape the conversation on our transformation initiative by participating in the Architecture Framework Advisory Committee’s consultation on Cyber and IT Security, Big Data and Open Source.

In addition, ITAC’s Vice President, Government Relations and Policy, Kelly Hutchinson, was instrumental in guiding the committee work on socio-economic benefits. 
  Kelly is also a member of several of the Procurement Benchmarks Advisory Committee’s recently launched working groups, which will be focussing on limitation of liability, category management and vendor performance over the next several months.

So, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your long-term support.

In addition, SSC has sought to optimize its engagement with the ICT sector through the collaborative procurement process.

We want to make sure that industry is informed as early as possible of SSC’s plans – well in advance of solicitations being tendered – so that it can respond with innovative solutions.

We believe that the collaborative procurement process helps balance what industry can provide, rapidly and cost-effectively, with a solution that meets the needs of SSC and the Government of Canada.

Overall, it is a flexible approach that allows us to better manage procurement risk by involving the ICT sector early on and sharing these risks with industry.

SSC adopted the collaborative procurement process early in its design of procurement, and it has since launched another dozen transformation-related procurements that are working their way through this process.

Between December 2014 and March 2015, SSC’s Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive reviewed the collaborative procurement process to identify opportunities for future improvement.

Part of that review included a survey with industry stakeholders who have participated in the collaborative procurement process, and members of the IT Infrastructure Roundtable.

We took this review seriously.

In fact, last November, we hosted a half-day workshop with ITAC and other ICT sector Associations including several of your members.

ITAC took the lead on coordinating feedback and organizing the workshop, and during the session we assessed the findings of the internal review, along with the recommendations from ITAC’s white paper on Smart and Collaborative Procurement.

Our collective focus was to fine-tune the process.

Eight areas of focus from the white paper were identified, and 26 recommendations were highlighted. We are currently in the process of reviewing, analysing and addressing those recommendations.

All of this feeds into the process that aims to bring more innovation into the way we procure goods and services.

The pace of change in the ICT sector is astounding – SSC is working on ways that we can be informed of new innovations and potentially pilot those that align with our mandate.

As we do this, we will also be looking to leverage existing efforts of the Government of Canada.

Take, for example, the Build in Canada Innovation Program (formerly the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program). This program is administered by Public Services and Procurement Canada and focuses on introducing innovative products and services to the federal government.

We are also looking to build collaborative relationships with entities like CANARIE in order to enable SSC to gain access to research in priority technology areas. A number of CANARIE initiatives currently underway relate directly to SSC’s mandate.

Our department employs a range of initiatives and policies to promote Aboriginal economic development, small and medium-sized enterprises, industrial and regional development as well as environmental and sustainable development, and to support Canadian innovation in specific market sectors.

We are establishing tools for socio-economic benefits and processes to leverage the $1.2 billion in goods and services we procure for SSC and our partners and clients each year.

What this means for industry is increased opportunities as we continue to make major investment in IT to upgrade equipment and software.

So, you can clearly see that working closely with the ICT sector is top of mind at SSC, and our partnership is important.

Industry has been, and will continue to be a critical stakeholder as we work to transform the federal government’s IT infrastructure systems.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

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