Transcript of remarks by Ron Parker, President of SSC - All-Staff Webinar - June 6, 2017


Thank you to everyone for taking part in this webinar for all employees.  

What a crowd. I can’t believe it; it’s really great. Usually we’re in a webinar room that has us, the participants up front and about 12 people in the room, so this is great to see, and I’m glad we could make the arrangements, and thanks to everybody who did this. 

Since we’ll soon be into the summer holiday period, this is an excellent opportunity to get together and reflect on what we’ve achieved and what lies ahead for us. 

It’s been another busy period for us. We reached some significant milestones, strengthened our organizational structure, and welcomed many new faces, and we hope to welcome many, many more new faces in the months and quarters ahead. 

Those are just some of the many changes that we’ve made to improve our ability to better deliver service to our customers. Over the next little while, we look forward to discussing these changes and any other work-related issues on your mind. 

We’re also very fortunate today to have the Clerk as a special guest. Of course we’re going to be working around his schedule. The whole day is geared to that. It’s a real privilege to have him come and talk to us. 

As the most senior public servant in the government, and just incidentally my boss, he sets the strategic direction for the public service and oversees its implementation. 

It’s his duty to provide the Prime Minister with the best possible advice, while helping the government to deliver its agenda and renew the public service. This is a rare opportunity to hear directly from the Clerk about the direction that the public service should take and the activities that will help us get there.  

The Clerk recently tabled his annual report to the Prime Minister, which we will discuss shortly. The report sets out expectations and priorities for the future. This report also deals with the public service’s performance over the past 12 months and how service delivery has evolved since Confederation. So the report is not really that long. It’s a brief summary.  

I was pleased to see the work of SSC is recognized in his report, and it notes that we’re making steady progress. The Clerk’s report also stresses what we all know, and that is there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of modernizing the government’s IT infrastructure and that many challenges remain, but we are clearly on the right track, and we must continue building on what’s been achieved. 

When I look at how far we’ve come in our young history, I feel proud, and I hope you do too. Your efforts and accomplishments have led to tangible successes that we’ve been tracking carefully, and the numbers don’t lie. When we look at the results of our customer satisfaction survey, we see a clear picture of steady improvement. When it was first done in December of 2015, the score on a scale of 1 to 5 was 2.79. When we took the measure back in December 2016, the score was 3.06. And we’re trending towards 3.2 in the most recent monthly surveys. 

I always say that a move of several decimal points doesn’t sound like a lot, but on a scale of 1 to 5 across 42 different customers, it’s huge. You just have to do the math to figure out how many scores have gone up to move it by three-tenths of a percent or four-tenths of a percent. 

We’re looking certainly to build on that score. We’re not, you know, close to where you’d want to be if you’re a customer service organization, but I’m very confident we can continue to see it increase and customer service improve overall. 

The key thing is that the needle or the dial on customer service continues to move in the right direction. Ultimately, I’d like to be above four, but realistically, if we can get a few tenths a year, that would be a major accomplishment. 

It’s possible that many of you don’t know this, but outside my office we’ve posted some large printouts of the survey results for all to see. These big posters serve as a barometer for what we’re doing to support the IT needs of client departments. They are also a huge source of motivation. Every time I look at those results, I’m determined to do better as an organization, and I’m convinced that we have the talent and the drive to reach a higher level.  

I’m basing that remark in large part on the tremendous things we’ve accomplished as we carry out our mandate.  

When SSC was established in 2011, we inherited systems that we’ve continued to have to maintain while pursuing our transformation activities. There’s no doubt it’s been a tough balancing act, but we’re getting the job done. 

An important change was the Service First approach we adopted to help us better respond to the ongoing needs of our customers. We reviewed our business practices and put some of the tools in place to improve the way we deliver services to our customers. And getting the tools in place, there’s still a lot to do, but every day we’re getting better at it. 

Overall, the initiatives include things such as our Service Management Strategy, the creation of the Project Management and Delivery Branch, the Customer Satisfaction Survey itself, and so on. All of these efforts are reflected in how we’re doing with our customers. 

In the future, our efforts will be encouraged by the changes proposed in Budget 2017. These changes, once passed by Parliament, will make it easier and faster for our customers to purchase certain information technology goods and services, such as keyboards and USB keys.  

SSC will remain the contracting authority for information technology goods and services. This will ensure a coordinated approach to security and the creation of economies of scale. 

We can also look forward to the updated Government of Canada IT Infrastructure Plan. The plan will reflect the first-ever consultations we held last year. We received more than 2,500 submissions from you, other federal employees, Canadians, industry leaders and young public servants. Overall, our stakeholders said that we got it right with our IT Infrastructure Plan, and that we’re going in the right direction. 

To update the Infrastructure Plan, we are also relying on other sources of advice, and we’ve got a lot of people who want to provide advice—parliamentarians, the Auditor General, the Independent Panel that was struck by the Treasury Board Secretariat known as the Gartner Report. The Gartner Report was released just last week, and it made it clear that the goals behind the creation of Shared Services Canada in 2011 remain more relevant today and ever before. 

It also said the set of services we offer is appropriate for a shared services organization. The report also underlined a reality that we are only too familiar with, and that’s the size and scale and complexity of the task before us are almost unprecedented at the government level, and not just in Canada, but around the world. 

The Gartner Report mostly reflects what we told them about the areas where we need to improve, so the fact base came from us and our customers. 

The government spokesperson who responded to inquiries about the report acknowledged that some of the fundamentals for SSC’s success were not in place when we were created. We’ve talked about these when we’ve gone to parliamentary committees. He said the government’s ambition is to provide exemplary service to Canadians while making the seamless transition to the age of digital government. These are positives, overall, for the digital services that we offer. 

Without a doubt, the work that awaits us will be difficult, but we’ll get it done because we’ll continue to do what we do best. Our revised IT systems infrastructure plan will help us to get where we’re going. It will set out realistic and achievable steps for successfully modernizing the government’s IT infrastructure. For inspiration, all we have to do is look at everything we’ve accomplished together so far.  

There’s so many accomplishments that we’ve had, and I’m just going to touch on a few, so I don’t want anybody to feel neglected. I’ll be happy to talk about accomplishments more in the Q&A, but overall, security is a big part of our accomplishments. The Security Operations Centre is established. It’s been reinforced. It’s got new real estate. It’s operating 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. And the perimeter defence that it has to monitor and respond efficiently to cyber security incidents is critical in ensuring Canadians that their data, their privacy is secure. 

The perimeter has become a key government asset. It gives an overall view of the networks and greatly improves our ability to respond to common cyber threats facing departments and agencies. 

Our department also helps run things – such things as space missions. It is part of the backup support that we provide to NASA as well as the Canadarm through the Canadian Space Agency. 

Other highlights of our work: The tremendous work we’ve done in closing more than 90 legacy data centres. There’s a few more to do. Last count I heard there was 695, up from something like – well, when they struck SSC, they thought there was around 300 or 350. These are like mushrooms everywhere, but to replace them, we’re well on our way. We’ve got EDC Gatineau, Barry, and Borden is currently undergoing construction and intense planning. Really, one of the most difficult things we will have done, I believe, is to move DND and others seamlessly into a new space without major interruption to their operations. It is really a very top priority for us come the fall and early spring. 

The planning is also being done to build a dedicated high-speed science network to collaborate on science work across government, educational institutions and the private sector. This is part of the immense increase that we’re going to see, I believe, in data storage, the need for compute. Science is just becoming more and more compute-intensive, and we need to find ways and efficiencies to help the science-based departments with their missions. 

I’d also like to thank our administrative and corporate employees for all their hard work. Without their efforts, our organization’s progress would not have been possible. You’ve enabled the delivery of our priorities through a range of client services and support from communications to procurement to finance to HR to our own IM/IT services and our corporate secretariat. 

This spring was particularly acute for PVR as the full force of the Budget 2016 procurement that we undertook for program integrity came more or less at that time. We pulled that off. 

I would also like to highlight the contributions of our service lines to the program integrity side of the world. This was an intense period for everybody. Identifying all of the equipment behind those applications, locating it, and being ready to receive hundreds and hundreds of pieces of equipment is no small achievement. The installation of all that equipment is taking place this year, and there’s more to do. We expect to do about another $200 million worth of mission critical equipment replacement procurement and installation. On top of the $232 million that we did last fiscal, there’s another big bucket of that to come. 

This is vital in stabilizing service delivery to our customers who in turn are delivering services to Canadians. 

This project is central to demonstrating SSC can deliver on the funding it’s provided with. That’s what we’ve had in mind as we’ve gone through the last fall and this spring. 

Those are just a few examples of the day-to-day work we do to help provide the services that our customers rely on. But there are also other details that fly under the radar every day. 

For example, when Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website was overloaded last November, some of you worked day and night to fix it. When the Apache Struts bug hit government systems around the world, we responded quickly and resolved the problem that affected our customers and Canadians.  

And yesterday, I attended a celebration event at Statistics Canada that honoured all of the people—Stats Canada employees, Shared Services Canada employees together—who not only on the network-side helped Stats Can, but were enormously involved in helping them with their application scrubbing as well, which came up several times and then again later in the month of March.

We’re able to tackle these challenges quickly because the federal government’s IT services are managed centrally rather than in silos, as was the case in the past.  

Speaking of breaking down silos, some of the improvements that our customer satisfaction surveys are showing come from our ability to collaborate. We build solid relationships with our customers, and that’s really the foundation of any good customer service. It’s really the collaboration between all teams across Shared Services, as well as with our customers. 

When the teams get together and the customers work in partnership with us, then we know everything is definitely working well. And of course, your passion, talent and dedication play a role, a big role in all of this.  

I can assure you that your individual efforts have not gone unnoticed. They are greatly appreciated, and not just by me and our senior management team, but by my deputy colleagues. 

You know, I’ve had a varied career in both the private and public sector, but I’d just like to say I’ve never worked with such dedicated and talented people—24/7, 365.

It’s important for you to know we don’t have on rose-coloured glasses. I’m not painting a story where everything’s all right and we’re just going to march ahead. I always say this is a marathon. There’s a lot of peaks and valleys on this course, but we’re getting there, and it’s one step at a time. 

Your feedback and the feedback that we’ve gotten from the pulse survey, the employee survey that we’ll be releasing very shortly, tells us that there’s still a lot to do, especially in creating the type of work environment we want to have at SSC. We want to have a work environment where people are respected, where harassment is not an issue, where there are strong values and ethics. We want to have a work environment where the workloads are manageable, not crushing. We want to have an environment where people learn and grow and know the meaning of their jobs and how they fit into the delivery of services to Canadians. 

That’s what we’re aiming for. It’s a big jump from where we started, given the turbulence everybody experienced over the last five or six years. But we can do it step by step. 

The main thing that I’d like to stress is that we’re working harder and smarter to make sure we’re fulfilling our top responsibility, which is addressing our customers’ IT needs with excellence. 

I believe SSC is the place to be if you want to be part of a generational change in how IT is done in the Government of Canada and to really make a difference in the current and future delivery of services to Canadians. Everything is going to be digital. Everything will be founded on the base that we’re building. 

Thank you again, and look forward to your questions and the Clerk’s arrival. Thank you.

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