ITAC Online - The Government Procurement Issue - February 2012
In ITAliCs

An Opportune Moment

ITAC sees great opportunities for our members over the next 18 months. For the first time in decades government is focused on improving efficiency and effectiveness as it communicates with and delivers services to citizens. In addition, there is a welcomed interest in how government can encourage innovation in Canada. Government is looking to our industry to assist. This means more than helping government become model users of ICT, it means providing know-how needed to transform the way government operates its networks, systems and services today, and the insight required for the steps beyond. ITAC members are ideally suited to provide this assistance.

ICT companies can participate in the shaping of public policy related to the transformation of government and the resultant procurement opportunities. ITAC is engaged daily with Public Works and Government Services Canada, Shared Services Canada and with the CIO for Canada to ensure our input is received and acted upon. Our new Chair of the federal Public Business Services Committee, Ken Cochrane, KPMG (you'll meet him in one of the stories that follow) and Vice-Chair, Debbie Robertson, HP, are heading up our strategic plan, which incorporates these efforts. Meanwhile similar initiatives are also underway with the Ontario government. This work is really important not only to our industry but to the future of our country. Please join us.

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Ken Cochrane on Government Procurement in Challenging Times

Ken Cochrane, Chief Information Officer, Government of Canada (2006-08) Ken Cochrane, Partner, IT Advisory Services, at KPMG Canada

As Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada (2006-08), Ken Cochrane gained unparalleled insight into the impact technology can have on the public sector. Now Partner, IT Advisory Services, at KPMG Canada, he talked to ITAC Online about his new role as Chair of ITAC’s federal Public Service Business Committee.

ITAC Online: What attracted you to the role of chair, and what are the key strengths you bring to it?

Ken Cochrane: You have to look at yourself and be comfortable with what you can contribute, so as I looked at this role we find ourselves at a unique point in time—where major changes are required to ensure government increasingly operates in a fiscally responsible and efficient way by streamlining operations and eliminating duplication. With this as a backdrop and looking at what’s going to help solve some of the challenges associated with greater efficiency, I see technology and the broad capabilities of our industry as key contributors. There is pressure to be more effective, and our industry has a big role to play in this. I spent 20 years working in the financial services sector supporting the delivery of key capabilities to the core business of the company, another 10 years working in senior level roles in government and now I’m in a consulting/advisory role with KPMG. I understand the needs of big organizations to be efficient, the unique challenges facing government and the capabilities of our industry, so I think it puts me in a position to be able to represent our industry’s ideas and knowledge and that these are reflected in what government needs to do.

What is the scope of issues facing the ICT sector regarding federal government procurement?

Government clients are generally not focused on procurement; they’re focused on their business programs, service to citizens, their technologies, on running things effectively, and the innovations and changes facing them in their programs. When they need to buy something, they are often challenged with what’s the best vehicle to use in order to acquire the services of industry to assist them. Government has done a lot of work to set up vehicles or supply arrangements for different situations, and I think they have done a good job of identifying various types of needs in establishing these vehicles. However, one of the challenges is making sure government departments know which vehicles to use when, and how to get the most out of both the vehicle and industry’s capabilities when they decide to buy.
 
A key challenge that industry faces—and I see it more now that I’m working in industry—is the tendency for government clients to bring in individual resources to support a project as opposed to looking more holistically and requesting a team of people from industry that could solve the problem or deliver a solution. The team or solution-based approach is an opportunity for industry to bring highly skilled individuals, methods and practices together resulting in a sharing of the risk between government and industry. There are vehicles that support the team or solutions-based approach, but these are often misunderstood by clients—however government procurement specialists are working to improve overall knowledge amongst departments. A second area of opportunity is creating an environment where industry is able to enter into a two-way dialogue and provide insights and advice before a procurement request is published. This is an area where we have had constructive conversations with government.

What are the challenges facing the ICT sector in selling services to the federal government in this environment of uncertainty and restraint?

With government going through its strategic operating review, both challenges and opportunities emerge. On one side, there will be tightening of spending because of the need to reduce overall costs. But, on the other side, it opens a door: the only way government can become more efficient is to be increasingly standardized, to get higher levels of reuse from investments, to connect common functions and services across organizations thereby reducing time and effort. As a result, there should be some great opportunities for government and industry to work together around solving these large horizontal challenges. It is important that industry plays a strong role with government—not just in procurement, but in the work leading up to it, offering advice and experience. 

As we know, many corporations and governments have tackled these horizontal problems and continue to tackle them. Over the past two decades many corporations had to find ways to create shared services and horizontal capabilities so they could be more cost effective. Knowledge of how to approach these challenges and the solutions to solving these problems are known to many of the industry players. This presents opportunities for industry and government to work together.

It is important when government launches initiatives that they draw upon Canadian capability and talent. That doesn’t mean that it’s all built in Canada, but that people who are in Canada participate in these initiatives thereby building the knowledge economy. It is important for us to continue to enhance our industry so we have strong players here that are able to add to the economic prosperity of the country. A big part of what industry needs to do is build capabilities and qualifications, and government is of a scope and scale that helps us do just that.

What is the main message you see your committee taking to the government on behalf of the ICT sector?

Given the current agenda, I am captivated by the opportunities to innovate and I think that it is key for us all as corporations, as governments, as a country. What we do here isn’t just for our companies but it will make us collectively more productive. This is absolutely essential; it’s about Canada’s productivity and capabilities. That is why it is important for government to partner with our industry directly and through associations like ITAC. Don’t view us as salespeople; see us as partners trying to enhance the economic future of our country, our people, our cities and our companies. That’s my overarching message.

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Lisa Carroll: A Timely Transition

Lisa Carroll, Director, Consulting Services, CGI Lisa Carroll, Director, Consulting Services, CGI

The timing was coincidental, but could not be ignored. When Lisa Carroll sat down to discuss her new role as Chair of ITAC’s Public Sector Business Committee (Ontario) sitting on her desk was Don Drummond’s extensive, controversial report on how Ontario might eliminate its deficit.

“Clearly,” she said, “governments at all levels are going through significant transformation.”

Currently Director, Consulting Services, at CGI, with over 20 years of experience at a range of Canadian ICT companies—including Sierra Systems, University Health Network and Compugen —Carroll sees technology playing a critical role in helping to address the challenges governments face.

“I think ICT organizations in Ontario can be a critical enabler for the government to realize its transformation, not just from an economic development perspective—fostering the ICT sector to innovate, and to globalize organizations so we have a healthy economy—but also for their internal needs. As they transition and create more shared services and innovative service delivery models across the government, ICT can be a phenomenal partner with them.”

Among the range of issues facing the ICT sector as companies look to sell to the Ontario government, she believes SMEs have unique concerns. “Their procurement challenges are a bit different. One is access – to opportunity and information. They are looking for a level playing field. As a new entrant looking to provide services or solutions to government, sometimes it’s challenging to compete when there are organizations with specific government experience and references, and they know the language of doing business with the government.”

Overall, though, she sees significant improvements. “The ITAC team has worked very closely with the Government of Ontario over the last couple of years which has resulted in good success and change. Some of the key achievements have included an updated limitation of liability framework, a reduction in companies’ investment needed to respond to VOR RFP’s (attestation process) and a regular VOR refresh cycle ensuring that new ICT companies interested in doing business with government are not precluded from doing so for a long period of time.  In addition, I am very pleased in the considerable increase in sector engagement by government to discuss continuous change and improvements.”

With the Drummond Report staring at her, it is impossible to overlook the challenges at hand – balancing the opportunity for the ICT sector to assist in large transformational government service delivery initiatives that will help achieve fiscal goals, while ensuring SMEs are not disadvantaged.

“I think we’re going to need to understand what this period of restraint and change means to SMEs. Likely, some of those smaller one- or two-person opportunities, or even 10- and 12-person opportunities are going to diminish because the budget is not going to exist. I think that needs to be a top priority for our committee to start brainstorming with the government on how to support the continued growth of the SME’s, within the fiscal reality. We have already begun to discuss how the ICT sector can help ourselves, and support the SME’s, by providing access and information sharing within the committee and the ITAC members to lead to strategic partnerships for growth.”

Another recent report—the results from the 2011 federal census—also held difficult news for Ontarians to swallow: jobs are leaving the province.

“I think the ICT sector in the province needs continued sponsorship from the government. We need to look at more globalization, supporting innovation here in the province and helping organizations to sell their services around the world. The Canadian ICT sector is strong and has weathered the economic challenges fairly well; we have great capabilities, world class solutions and great knowledge workers in Ontario. We’re at a point where we need to take it to another level, because I don’t think our local marketplace is going to be enough for the growth (and economic impact) our sector needs.”

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Student Assistance Goes Mobile

Anyone who has ever ventured near the financial aid office of a post-secondary institution can attest to the length and persistence of the queues that extend outside the door.

In Ontario, that level of interest in student loans reflects the fact that, between 2004-11, there was a 56-percent increase in the number of Ontario college and university students who qualified for aid from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). For fiscal 2010/11, the government provided an additional $81 million in student support.

Recognizing the increased interest for the program, in September 2010 then-Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities John Milloy directed OSAP to create a mobile interactive app that would allow students to check the status of their applications.

“The minister’s office was hearing a huge demand for this,” said Andrew Sally, Senior Technical Manager, Enterprise Business Intelligence, and project lead for OSAP Solutions. “Students wanted to be able to make decisions based on funding, and often they needed to determine the status of their loan while they were on a 30-minute break.”

Time was tight for the development of the app, too. Minister Milloy wanted to launch it with a live demonstration on January 24, 2011.

“This gave us very little time to figure out how to do it. The directive was to create something that gave students a way to check on the status of OSAP funding from anywhere with a smart phone connection.”

Sally’s team was responsible for the technology to support the app, while a second group addressed the design and business partners in Thunder Bay defined the rules of how students would use the service. Although the timelines were tight, the teams were not working from a standing start. “We had the existing OSAP system, so we just needed to figure things out so that it worked on a smaller platform. We had revamped our online system the previous year, so it was really a question of finding the right people to get the job done.”

Working without an external vendor, the members of the Community Services cluster pulled together and met the minister’s deadline, creating just the second mobile app offered by the provincial government and the first to provide a personalized log-in function.

At the launch, Milloy stated: “Our government is committed to making college and university accessible on the basis of ability to learn, not ability to pay. This new OSAP mobile app, along with recent OSAP enhancements and our new website, gives students the support they need to pursue their passion and achieve the career of their dreams.”

“Overall, the project cost just under $100,000,” said Sally, “and while it will take some time to evaluate the return on investment, there is little doubt that we will see it in decreased wait times and phone calls. Technology definitely has a place in enabling decision making, increasing our access to information, and acting as an equalizer. With more information, students can make more informed decisions.”

Sally also pointed to another, less tangible benefit. “Introducing this app has given the OSAP program lots of much-needed positive press. This shows the government is listening to the student population. It’s a great promotional tool.”

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ITAC Events

March 1, 2012

ITAC Ontario Chair to Address Empire Club

March 6, 2012

Cyber Security Forum

March 22, 2012

HR Forum

March 27, 2012

Public Sector Business Committee

March 29, 2012

Ontario PSBC Committee Meeting


For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/event_cal

ITAC News

Ottawa-based Coral CEA Invests in Digital Media Zone Companies

Ottawa and Toronto, ON – February 14, 2012 – Ottawa-based Coral CEA has invested $120,000 in four companies located at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), and Coral CEA is reviewing possible investments in even more firms at the DMZ.  “We are attracted to teams who are ‘getting it done’ versus talking about innovation and we want this type of collaboration to set a new standard in Ontario,” says Brian Forbes, Executive Director at Coral CEA. Forbes believes the DMZ has taken a hands-on approach with entrepreneurs that is a perfect fit with Coral CEA.

At the DMZ Coral CEA has invested in:

• ARB Labs Inc. designed a software application that that allows any video display to create an immersive 3D effect – without the need for goggles or glasses
• Greenguage Inc. developed a software tool for smartphone and web that blends mobile technology with the green movement allowing monitoring of Corporate Social Responsibility efforts
• HitSend Inc. offers an online platform to enable and enhance community-based change by tapping into the community’s collective voice
• ViaFoura Inc. created a cloud-based plug and play user engagement and gaming platform for online content sites

“Coral CEA’s funding will allow us to add two more people to our current staff of five. The DMZ and Coral CEA are not just paying lip service to innovation, they are not just talking, they have a plan of action,” says Warren Tanner CMO at HitSend. He adds, “There is no better business school than starting a business and that is exactly what we do.”

For more information visit www.coralcea.ca

Industry Canada Seeks Input on Talent Needs

Industry Canada has commissioned Nordicity to conduct a study of the demand/supply dynamics of ICT professionals in Canada's ICT sector. The survey seeks to identify and understand the current needs and labour market challenges in the sector.

Nordicity is hoping that key sector stakeholders will participate in the 25-minute online consultation to provide important perspective on whether the sources of supply for ICT professional talent meets current and future hiring needs. The reliability of the research depends on broad industry participation. All input will be treated confidentially, and no part of the study will be attributed directly to those who provide information.

The survey is available here

Any questions about the survey or the overall study can be directed to Nordicity's Kurt Eby.

ITAC Welcomes Second Round of Federal Kickstart Program

ITAC is pleased with the Government of Canada's recent announcement that 36 innovations have bee pre-qualified in the second round of the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program, better known as the Kickstart program.

Various federal departments will test innovations in the areas of environment, health, safety and security, and enabling technologies.