GTEC 2013 Keynote Speech

Agile Government: Open, Collaborative, Mobile

Hello and good morning. It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to launch GTEC 2013 under this year's theme of “Agile Government: Open, Collaborative, Mobile.” Welcome to the 21st GTEC conference, under the theme “Agile Government: Open, Collaborative, Mobile.”

On behalf of the GTEC Board of Governors, which includes information and communications technology leaders from within government, leaders from a number of our key partners from the private sector and from academia, I am very happy to welcome you to this conference of our Government IT community.

This is my fifth year as honorary chair for GTEC and I'm pleased to have this opportunity to continue our conversation around the role of technology in the Government of Canada.

I will cover some of the highlights of the last five years, where we are today, what we should expect over the next five years, and lastly, what key challenges and risks we will need to collectively address as we move forward.

I am very pleased to be continuing our conversation around the role of IT and our journey together over the last five years by looking at where we are today and how we must prepare for the next five years, as well as key challenges that we will need to address collectively.

Key milestones over the last 5 years

In 2009 we began our IT transformation toward our service delivery standardization, consolidation and re-engineering strategy.

In 2009 I spoke of our need to move away from costly and unsustainable department-centric IT service delivery towards consolidated, standard systems and reengineered IT service delivery that would see us work across the GC, with other jurisdictions and with our private sector partners, in greater concert. In looking back I am very pleased with our progress.   

We have taken some critical and irreversible steps towards behaving as one IT enterprise where we need to – this whole of government IT service delivery approach has become our new normal. 

Let me begin with a few significant milestones we have achieved since 2009's GTEC. It's an impressive list.

  • Gcpedia was launched in 2009 – Today we have over 60,000 public servants actively collaborating on our GC 2.0 platforms across departments and regions. Gcpedia is also serving as a platform for a dialogue on the Clerk's Blueprint 2020, which articulates a vision for a revitalized and world-class public service.
  • On IT modernization, much has been accomplished:
    • Last December the public service pension system was successfully deployed, replacing a 40 year old system. Work on the next 2 phases of this enterprise system continues as it will also serve the pension needs for the RCMP and for DND.
    • We are in the final stages of testing of our new HR system configuration for Peoplesoft 9.1, which will start to be deployed across departments early in the new year.
    • Modernization initiatives on dated departmental systems are in active execution in most departments:
      • at CRA for tax systems,
      • Industry Canada for the Spectrum Management System
      • and PWGSC on pay and on real property management systems to name a few.
  • Shared Services Canada, created in 2011, recently launched its Email Transformation Initiative – one of our flagship GC enterprise projects; SSC has also established the IT Incident Response Center, a key component of our cyber protection strategy for the GC.
  • By the end of this fiscal year, departments will have largely completed their migration to a standard desktop with the necessary security safeguards. They will also have consolidated the procurement of EUD software for all departments on schedules 1 and 2 at Shared Services Canada.
  • Starting as a grassroots effort by a few departments on open data, our open data portal has had over 1.7 million visits in the last 12 months.
  • Progress on our EDRMS implementation and on information management has been driven by the enterprise project management office for GCDocs, first launched as a pilot at CIOB, and now transferred to and established formally this year at PWGSC SS Branch.

While we have accomplished much, there are many other areas where we need to take a similar approach. As you will hear from the President later this morning, our shared challenge is to build on the excellent progress we have made in enterprise-wide efforts.

This time last year I told you that we were on a journey from Incubation to Acceleration of this whole of government approach. Our progress to date confirms that we have crossed the tipping point. We are now on the road to sustainable transformation.

So - Where are we today?

As you know, one of the biggest challenges right now is to fundamentally transform the way we deliver services externally – to citizens, businesses and other constituents through the front office, as well as how we transform our internal service delivery in the back office.

While we need to modernize and transform service delivery in both, we need to aggressively shift more of our strategic focus and IT capacity to the front office where it can effectively enable and sustain innovative program and service delivery.

To do this, we must seize the many opportunities for innovation that surface almost daily in this world of technology-enabled transformation. And we need to be more agile in doing this if we expect to meet the growing demands for efficient, modern services – from both external clients and internal users.

This is the context driving our IT transformation agenda in government today which will address three main themes:

  1. A renewal of our policy suite in order to enable and sustain whole of government approaches to IT Modernization;
  2. Improved delivery of external services through modern, integrated eServices;
  3. The continuing consolidation of back office applications, and the ongoing modernization of mission critical systems enabling program delivery.

Policy suite renewal driving a whole of government approach to IT Modernization

Whole of government IT solutions require a policy suite which reflects, enables and sustains this change in direction. We need to integrate new approaches across the full life cycle of IT solutions delivery: starting from IT investment planning, applications portfolio management, policies requiring departments to seriously consider cloud based solutions and architectural review boards which will ensure that individual initiatives are aligned with our whole of government approach.

Traditionally, departments approached IT project investment planning individually – usually unaware of similar projects being launched in other departments which they could have potentially leveraged as well. As a result departments were obliged to allocate their finite investment capacity across too broad a suite of systems needs – both for new capabilities and for renewal of existing systems in the front and back office. This has contributed to the “rust out” issue we have across our portfolio which is now unavoidable – deferring renewal further will only drive an increasing risk profile. Shared Services Canada has the challenge of rust out in the data centers and departments must face the challenge in their applications – and over the same 5 to 10 year horizon. I will talk a little later about the challenges that this confluence of modernization is raising.

Therefore, we are continuing to renew our IT policies for planning, delivering and monitoring IT initiatives to gain a clear, consistent whole-of-government view of what, where and how much we are investing.

As a companion strategy to IT investment planning with a whole of government view, we are working to have a better understanding of our entire applications portfolio through Applications Portfolio Management or APM.  This will help us to better align the many consolidation and modernization efforts underway and aggregate our demand, aggregate our investment and execution capacity. Agile, collaborative – I'll get to Mobile later.

APM will give us a clearer understanding of those unique mission critical apps which do exist, so that departmental IT investment funds can be progressively reallocated more and more towards these priorities and away from administrative back office systems.  

We will also expand our suite of named standard IT solutions for the back office in selected areas where it is required to drive APM forward effectively.

The last key element of our future IT policy suite renewal is the creation of a directive for Cloud First. We want departments to seriously consider cloud based solutions for new or renewed applications, which would allow them to deploy applications capabilities more quickly, to leverage the investments, capacity and expertise that these commercial solutions make available, provided they meet security, privacy and service level requirements. 

We believe that this policy renewal will enable us to break away from our dependency on staff augmentation as a standard solutions delivery practice. Through Cloud First and APM we will see more and more projects delivered in close partnership with the private sector. This is critical for our modernization agenda because it will facilitate parallelism in the execution of initiatives. While departmental capacity is finite – it can be multiplied through judicious turnkey solutions delivery with private sector partners who are prepared to take on these challenges and to share the risk with us.

Let me now talk to theme 2: Innovative service delivery to external clients

Canadians now expect to interact seamlessly with different departments and different orders of government, through secure and e-enabled delivery channels that respect their privacy.

That said, improved identity management will make it possible for us to provide a citizen-focused service in a more effective and cost-effective manner.

To achieve that objective, we will optimize private-sector services that are cost-effective, able to evolve with changing market requirements and able to adapt to an ever-changing risk environment.

In December, we finished the deployment of our cyber-authentication online credentials replacement project first launched in 2009. This is a whole of government solution delivered in active partnership with the private sector with the same technology now being adopted not only by other jurisdictions in Canada but also in the US by the Postal service and which was nominated for a GTEC Award. This is a key milestone in our journey to federated identity management and has laid a foundation for improved online service delivery that can be integrated seamlessly with our other GC delivery channels and support a ‘tell us once' approach.  

Over the last year we have made significant progress on our vision for federated identity across the GC and with other jurisdictions. We are developing a business identity pilot on the establishment of a business number hub for the GC, which will ultimately allow businesses to tell us once – because every department and every jurisdiction needs to definitively know which business they are dealing with. 

On federating identity for individuals, we are building upon the great work done since 2007 with provinces using the National Routing System and our recently completed online credentials solutions to get to a standardized pan-Canadian approach which will let individuals ‘tell us once'. We are similarly working on a pilot in this area to securely and confidentially federate identity across the GC and with our FPT and municipal partners.

Better online service is the key objective of our Web renewal initiative, which we have been consulting the industry on. We are working collaboratively and – I would add – with great agility on the re-launch our new web presence for the GC:, as referenced in Budget 2013. Contrary to our existing web presence, we want our new site to be optimized for mobile access – on tablets, PDA's and all other mobile devices we will be surprised with regularly. Maybe the GC will one day send you an RSS feed to your car! We also want to increase the number of  mobile apps that support our service delivery.

But we want to adopt mobile thoughtfully. We can't expect every web shop in every department to become an expert in mobile apps. So we will move forward by adopting a concept of centers of expertise where we can pool our skills and raise our capabilities cost effectively. We also hope to work with PWGSC to establish procurement vehicles in this area that departments can leverage and that will enable the rapid, economical delivery of secure mobile solutions. 

Theme 3: Applications Consolidation and Modernization

The GC is today actively engaged in consolidation and modernization in the back and in the front office. Departments are retiring, renewing or replacing the impressive legacy of information technology systems implemented over the last decades. A few examples:

  • ESDC is actively pursuing modernization of its portfolio of benefits related systems and has recently completed a major milestone in its OAS project to pre-enroll eligible seniors.
  • CBSA has an important portfolio of renewal and of implementing net new capabilities, as do most departments.

Over the next 5 years it is essential that we focus as much of our GC capacity as is possible in these mission critical areas and that we actively explore greater partnership with the private sector in the delivery of these IT solutions. As I have said, we want to leverage the expertise, enable parallelism and share the risk in as many solutions as is feasible.

Consolidation of our back office applications is another key change of our GC IT universe.

Our Human Resources and Financial Management Transformation initiatives anchor our broader back office transformation agendas driven by the CHRO and by the OCG. We have started consultation on both of these initiatives, and we will steadily move forward with procurement over the next year, in both cases actively evaluating solutions delivery models which are progressively transitioned over the next 5 years from full in-house delivery to IT services managed by the private sector, much as SSC has done with the email transformation initiative. Cloud first is also being considered from the start.

These initiatives are complemented by our initiatives for GCDocs in the records management areas and our work on web renewal that will see us move away from independent in-house web platforms.

Finally, we are working on a few other applications and consolidation initiatives. We will soon be consulting the industry on a modern solution to support the access to information community which would allow us to more efficiently manage the growing number of requests. And we are working on implementing a common applications solutions framework for Grants and Contributions with the community and a lead department that will see us leverage our existing financial (SAP) and GCDocs standard with new capabilities for customer relationship management and for workflow management.

The centralization and consolidation of our data centres by SSC and the regrouping of our administrative service applications will make it possible to both increase efficiency and free up resources to renew our systems and foster the innovation that will enable us to successfully complete our operations in the future.

A last challenge that is looming large is the sheer extent of change which is and will be initiated as a result of our consolidation and renewal initiatives. We recognize that this is a substantive challenge bringing with it the need for extremely detailed implementation planning across departments and across portfolios. This planning will involve integrating SSC's plans, with our plans on whole of government initiatives and with ongoing departmental plans. We will be initiating this work shortly and expect that it will require significant effort across all organizations: particularly over the next year as we continue to procure and over the next decade as we implement.

So, those are three big drivers that are shaping our world.

Let me move into my final message this morning on the cultural and skills changes that this community will need to make to sustain our transformation agenda and achieve our goals.

The traditional role of CIO organizations is evolving

With all this change happening around us, it is easy to see that the traditional role of CIO organizations in the government is itself in flux. The transfer of approximately 6,000 IT professionals to SSC has caused a profound change to the focus of CIO shops around government and they are finding their new normal.

I have met with senior government officials and with the CIO community extensively in recent months to identify and articulate what we expect of our future CIOs and IT leaders. And it's clear to me that our traditional role is evolving away from technical specialist to digital leader and business partner.

At the same time, skills shortages are now very real. I am quite preoccupied with our collective ability as an IT community to marshal the necessary skills we will need over the next decade. As you may already know, the ICT industry in Canada has an unemployment rate roughly half of the median rate – sitting at roughly 3.2%. Add to that the inevitable wave of retirement which is proceeding across the public service (and affecting many of our teams supporting mission critical applications) and the fact that enrollment in IT programs of all types took a sharp dip in 2008 before coming to more normal levels only this year. 

We are definitely heading to a skills crunch, if not an all-out war for talent! We are already seeing arbitrage in key skills across departments and in the private sector as well. Getting the right types of senior skills is becoming increasingly difficult and time-consuming at a time when our needs are growing. It is a seller's market for capable IT professionals both inside and outside of the public service. The turnover in CIO's across departments over the last months has been significant and is a leading indicator for this.

Clearly, we must become more strategic to ensure the sustainability of our IT organizations, so that we can provide an informed challenge function to our colleagues, peers and senior management in the design, sourcing and delivery of IT solutions.

I know many of you are already acting in a leadership role in your organizations. Some of you are aspiring CIOs.  In the workplace of the future, CIOs will increasingly be seen as “Chief Innovation Officers.”

I see the future CIO as one of the key senior executives that drives a department's business efficiency and effectiveness, using innovation powered by IT as a key enterprise enabler.

As such, I envision a different composition for the CIO organizations in the future – organizations that are not bigger, probably a little smaller, but that have more senior specialists as the Government of Canada moves towards the strategic sourcing of off-the-shelf applications and services to drive business performance.

Clearly, future CIOs will need to recalibrate the capacity of their organizations with the right skill sets and carefully plan for this substantive shift over the 5 to 10 years in their organizations.

The emerging skill set for IT specialists in the GC

One thing is certain, however. An aptitude for technology will not be enough to progress in the CIO organization of the future.

You will need a very different set of skills. This includes strong skills in areas such as project management, strategic sourcing and vendor management, business analysis, architecture, project cost estimation, systems integration, testing, cyber security, for analytics and business intelligence and for change and relationship management. This will be important as you find yourselves working increasingly with partners both inside and outside the government, as we are doing with our Email Transformation Initiative.

I can tell you that retaining those professionals with the skill sets to thrive in this environment will remain a priority.

We need to understand the skills and competencies of  our workforce, and work on both retention and retraining strategies.

This is why we are working on a well thought-out and executed approach to Chief Information Officer Talent Management, including succession planning. We want to ensure that current Chief Information Officers, their potential successors and their teams have a clear understanding of the skills, knowledge and competencies required for career advancement. Just as we can reconfigure our IT platforms and solutions delivery model, we also can redirect our IT professionals to higher value activities and responsibilities.

So, what type of CIO organization will stand out in this increasingly horizontal and collaborative world?

It will be those CIO organizations that are truly agile, collaborative and mobile: that can quickly and effectively partner on solutions delivery and leverage skills across departments, with vendors and with other jurisdictions to respond to citizens' needs and drive transformation across the public service.

A good example is the partnership I mentioned earlier between ESDC Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency in support of the development of the automatic process for the Old Age Security benefit. This collaborative effort will eliminate the need for many seniors to apply for this retirement benefit and reduce program administration costs.

The collaboration between Public Health Agency of Canada with seven provinces and territories to develop the CANRISK questionnaire, which is part of the Canadian Diabetes Strategy, is another. This innovative online tool helps Canadians to determine their risk of developing diabetes and can be accessed at thousands of drugstores across the country, thanks to public-private partnerships with pharmacy chains.

Those are just two examples of how the government is already seeing the benefits of innovation and collaboration. We need to build on these best practices.

In Conclusion

To conclude, we are well on our journey to transform government IT services and there is no going back.

I'm confident that you and you and your teams will rise to the challenge during this period of renewal.

Whether you are a CIO, a departmental executive, a member of our CS community, or new to the government at any level, I challenge you to take a leadership role in your organizations.

I challenge you to embrace this paradigm shift from technology specialist to strategic business enabler. 

As an important step, I will be launching an online – internal to the GC – consultation using GCpedia and GCconnex to obtain input from the IT community and a broad cross section of professionals on how best we can move forward in the new normal, on skills development and on providing the right opportunities to professionals to contribute to this transformation. It can only be achieved through the efforts and dedication of a capable, confident and high performing workforce at all levels, dedicated to upholding our public service values and ethics.

We have been offered a wonderful opportunity to improve the public service, to grow personally and professionally, and to advance our careers. The world is changing and we must change with it!

As Victor Hugo said:

“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” 

That idea is IT transformation through whole of government solutions.

Thank you very much.

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