GTEC Dispatch: Collaboration is the "booster rocket" for IT innovation
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  ibmsoftware
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Corinne Charette is Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada and was the second keynote speaker on the opening day of the 20th annual GTEC conference in Ottawa.
The theme of this year's event is Collaborating and Innovating - Making a Difference for Canadians. IBM is a gold (lead) event sponsor, with focused sessions and expo displays dedicated to solutions including:
Ms. Charette’s address focused on how increased collaboration can help IT leaders manage through tight budgets to improve service delivery and better meet changing citizen demands.“Collaboration has powered the web for the past 20 years, from the advent of the first Mosaic browser to the explosion of social media,” she said. “It’s also what’s going to power the transformation of the public service in Canada and around the world.”
Ms. Charette admitted that such a transformation is needed. Not only are budgets tight; citizens, too, now expect their public services to deliver the same streamlined and responsive experience as do their favorite consumer apps and web sites, regardless of how many systems or applications those demands need to cross behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, much like those of their private sector counterparts, most government applications and services began - and remain - in silos. Not surprisingly, these silos produce the same problems in the public sector as in the private: creaky systems that are difficult to change, that stifle innovation and are expensive to maintain.
Broad-based collaboration can help free up funds to bolster mission-critical systems and help IT design systems to meet future needs, according to Ms. Charette.
"IT professionals recognize that large-scale collaboration is essential if we really want to realize our potential to innovate. I believe that collaboration is essential in the digital economy. Canada needs to stay open for business.”
Ms. Charette pointed to two recent developments within the public service that indicate that change is under way. The first is a new openness in public sector IT leaders to conceive solutions that cross organizational and jurisdictional boundaries to pursue a common goal. “There’s a contagious interest in the public and private sectors to explore new ways to work together. New ideas come to me every week.”
The second is a long-term strategy to modernize the federal IT infrastructure through three pillars:
The first is Standardization, Consolidation & Re-engineering. Announced in the 2011 federal budget, the strategy is now yielding tangible results such as the creation of Shared Services Canada. Shared Services Canada is an ambitious project that seeks to consolidate some 43 email systems into one, move from more than 300 data centres to less than 20, and move the government of Canada to a single, shared telecommunications network infrastructure.
Other projects include a formalized program to rationalize back office applications in HR, Finance and other departments. There is also work under way to rationalize mobile device types and their associated support. In their stead, IT will be tasked to create centers of expertise with a mandate to act on behalf of all users. “We can’t afford to have every department become an expert in every device and delivery style.”
The second pillar is to Transform Service Delivery to Canadians. Canada was once a leader in providing government services online, said Ms. Charette, but it has since fallen behind other countries. “We didn’t continue to invest. We let our systems age” Ms. Charette mentioned new programs intended to “ratchet things up to the next level,” such as federated identity authentication and a “tell us once” capability that lets citizens cross jurisdictional web sites without needing to authenticate over and over again. “This is a multi-year effort that demands a strong architecture, security policy and service standards to ensure all departments make the investments,” said Ms. Charette. “Still, we must do this work.”
The third pillar is Connecting with Citizens and Business. Here, Ms. Charette cited the Government of Canada's recently announced Open Data Portal as a way to modernize Canadians’ access to information. Ms. Charette also mentioned proposed updates to the federal government’s Web presence. “We want to be more consistent and mobile in publishing our service capabilities.”
Ms. Charette admitted such an agenda was ambitious. Yet it’s also inevitable, she said. “Citizens and technology are all moving forward aggressively into the digital economy. Our government needs to keep pace with new expectations. There’s an urgency to our efforts to collaborate.”
In closing, Ms. Charette said the federal IT strategy is moving from “Incubation” to “Acceleration” and says her teams are up to the task. “We have incubated a culture of collaboration – we’re onto the hockey stick growth phase. We need to accelerate to meet the challenges. I’m continually impressed by what this community comes forward with."