Smarter Government solutions showcased in Canada's capital
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  smarterplanet ibmsoftware information-insights
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“It’s a wide open market. There are opportunities to be creative." ~ Robert P. Taylor, CEO, IPAC
If cutbacks are on the minds of Canada's public servants, creativity was on the order paper as IBM held its Smarter Government Summit yesterday at the Westin Hotel in downtown Ottawa. The event delivered on its promise of “Strategies to Reduce Costs and Improve Government Performance” through a day-long agenda of keynote speakers, IBM experts and successful client presenters.
"Anxiety and resistance"
David Anthony, IBM Canada General Manager for IBM Federal Public Sector welcomed the 400-plus attendees with a direct acknowledgement of the proverbial elephants in the room – specifically, the widely anticipated budget cuts looming over federal finances and the recently released Drummond Report on the dire state of Ontario’s coffers. “It’s easy to understand the anxiety and resistance out there,” he said. “But once you get over those you can think of new and smarter ways to fulfill your mandates."
Everything on the table
If the numbers are negative, the overall story - and possible outcomes - are indeed positive. The upside of having “everything on the table,” as The Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski described it, is that in response, government organizations can – some would say must - up their innovation and revisit ideas once considered taboo. To their credit, each of the morning’s three keynote presenters provided powerful arguments in favor of a new and smarter way forward.
First up was Robert P. Taylor, CEO of IPAC, the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. In his presentation entitled “What’s Keeping Senior Public Services Executives Awake at Night,” Dr. Taylor presented results of recent surveys of public sector employees conducted by his and other organizations. Among the findings:
Dr. Taylor then pointed to more upbeat findings that showed healthy levels of respect and understanding between management and staff. Further, he said, managers expressed a deep understanding of risk and a strong desire to experiment. “The problem isn’t making a mistake,” he said. “Mistakes will happen when you’re trying new ideas. The problem is when you’re making the same mistakes over and over.”
Chief Innovation Officers
Dr. Taylor ceded the podium to Alison Brooks, Public Service Research Director at IDC Canada. In her talk, entitled “The Shift towards Public Sector Innovation,” Dr. Brooks examined the impact of shared services, cloud computing, social networking and mobility on the public sector IT landscape. Dr. Brooks said that IT is moving toward what IDC calls a “third platform” built on cloud, mobile, apps and analytics. Here, volume and speed trump a focus on costs; innovation wins out over cost cutting and routers and spam give way to personal relationships:
But like Dr. Taylor, Dr. Brooks saw a more hopeful story beyond the numbers. She saw it primarily in the new skills CIOs must acquire and master as these technologies weave their way into historically rigid public-sector IT systems and in IDC’s own research that shows CIOs saying they’re ready to make the switch. “They want to be Chief Innovation Officers.”
Dr. Brooks left attendees with list of recommendations to begin that transformation. Among them were:
The opening session concluded with a talk by Anne Altman, IBM General Manager for Global Public Sector. A 30-year veteran based in Virginia, Ms. Altman cited her experience at Montreal’s Expo ’67 - specifically Moshe Safdie’s signature structure Habitat - as evidence of Canada’s innovative and forward-looking spirit. In her address, Ms. Altman explained how the tenets of Smarter Planet – a world that is increasingly interconnected, instrumented and intelligent – can help bring about Smarter Government.
Ms. Altman, too, touched on the economic conditions that weigh so heavily on our minds. But like those of her fellow presenters, her message was upbeat: “Our systems are smarter, more resilient and more sustainable than ever before. Had the same crisis happened 20 years ago we’d be much worse off than we are now.”
As an example, Ms. Altman cited the St. Anthony Falls Bridge in Minneapolis. Built in 1968 to last 50 years, it collapsed in 2007 after only 40. Rebuilt in 2008, the bridge is equipped with 323 sensors that regularly measure bridge conditions such as deck movement, stress, and temperature to help public officials informed of changes in the bridge's integrity and possible risks to motorists.
In a similar vein, Ms. Altman touched on similar stories of public sector organizations that through a combination of deep expertise, innovative thinking and sophisticated IBM analytics were able to improve not only their own performance but outcomes for their citizens. For example:
In Alameda County, a smarter social services solution gives managers and caseworkers a deep, real-time understanding of case and program status; reveals relationships between benefit recipients and programs; generates reports in minutes instead of weeks or months - for a direct savings of $11 million.
In New York city, predictive analytics capabilities help police close cases at rates 25 percent higher than the national average.
In Rio de Janiero, The Rio Operations Center integrates and interconnects information from more than 30 government departments and public agencies to improve city safety and responsiveness to various types of incidents, such as flash floods and landslides - and building the foundation for the city's future competitiveness.
Ms. Altman closed the opening session with three leadership traits in what she called “a new era of outcomes.” They are:
Learn more about about IBM solutions for Smarter Government