GTEC 2012 Keynote Speech

November 5, 2012


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Hello, everyone, and welcome to GTEC 2012. I am very pleased to welcome you all to GTEC 2012 under this year's theme of "Collaborating and Innovating: Making a Difference for Canadians."

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

I would like to extend my thanks to Minister Clement for once again kicking off this year's GTEC and highlighting that our information technology community is a key partner in the government's agenda for transformation of administrative operations through more efficient, cost-effective government program and service delivery to Canadians.

This is GTEC's 20th anniversary, and I hope you have had a chance to view the timeline that captures the evolution of GTEC and technology in the public sector over the past years. And while technology innovation has been explosive over the past 20 years, the themes of collaboration and innovation have resurfaced more than once throughout GTEC's 20 years.

Let me note a historic milestone in technology and society from 1993 GTEC's first year, which was the turning point for the World Wide Web. That year, Marc Andreesen developed the first graphical browser—Mosaic—which was the first to support multimedia. The browser, coupled with the World Wide Web and linking servers and information stores around the world, was a foundational innovation in technology that was the result of wide-scale, spontaneous collaboration across communities of scientists and entrepreneurs. Collaboration like this, outside of the traditional boundaries of an organization—be it a university, government jurisdiction, a federal department or a departmental team—is the booster rocket for innovation. Collaboration has powered the evolution of the Web over the last 20 years—of the explosion in social media with all of its impacts—and collaboration is what will power the transformation of the public service. The professionals within the IT community recognize that large-scale collaboration is essential if we are to really leverage the innovation potential of today's technology. In fact, IBM's 2012 CEO Study, Leading Through Connections, notes that outperformers are those who collaborate extensively. Specifically, it states, and I quote, "despite the hurdles, more organizations are deciding to partner with others, to expand the range of what is possible through innovation." Indeed, collaboration is an essential ingredient for success in the digital economy but, as the report highlights, it is not without its challenges.

I am very pleased to note that collaboration and successful, innovative IT projects across boundaries have really taken root over the last year, and the year ahead shows many more large-scale collaborative efforts to be initiated. I will note some of these in my remarks.

This is also evidenced in this year's GTEC nominees and award winners. Let me take a moment to acknowledge those teams and professionals from all three levels of government across Canada, including our showcase province of British Columbia, and who were recognized at the gala last night. Their accomplishments are, again, tangible proof of the creativity, collaboration and professionalism of our information and communications technology community.

This time last year, I shared with you some of the key elements of our emerging IT Modernization Strategy for the Government of Canada, which is founded on the basic strategy of standardization, consolidation and re-engineering. By now, it should be clear that this strategy represents a significant departure from our current predominantly decentralized information technology services delivery strategy and that it is driving us toward a hybrid delivery model that has three delivery approaches:

A few of the notable milestones in support of this strategy over 2011 are all examples of collaboration across boundaries and across all facets of our IT portfolio:

Collaboration, like social media, is a key part of the new normal for IT. It is a booster rocket that will allow us to modernize our IT portfolio in this period of fiscal restraint.

IT Modernization: From Incubation to Acceleration

Recall that in 2010 the Auditor General tasked us to develop a strategy to ensure that we would have the capacity and funding to renew and sustain our systems portfolio. Our strategy has continued to evolve since last year, and we hope to publish it over the next months because it will provide the framework that integrates all of our modernization initiatives, including our vision for IT, across the federal government. It includes the guiding principles for all initiatives and the strategic goals and anticipated outcomes for some of the modernization initiatives currently under consideration, and it will eventually set out an overall, high-level timeline and a few of the key milestones for modernization.

As I noted last year, our modernization strategy is required so that through standardization and consolidation in those IT portfolio components where it makes sense, we may unlock capacity and redirect resources to innovation and to the renewal of mission-critical systems. Currently, our capacity remains distributed too thinly over a very broad spectrum of IT platforms in each department, most of which struggle to drive innovation and renewal within their portfolios while they "keep the lights on."

We have a strategy that will allow us to build core competencies in a focused way and develop centres of excellence more successfully across the community, as we have done with our Web community. We need to extend this model further. In this day of extremely varied technology, no one department or vendor can successfully maintain all the technology expertise required for truly innovative solutions. Partnership is the way forward.

Because there are significant opportunities for enhanced, more secure and more cost-effective program and service delivery through a renewed IT portfolio, we must pursue modernization through collaboration even more aggressively over the next year.

Three Pillars of IT Modernization

In assessing the scope of modernization of our IT portfolio, and our vision for the IT environment of the Government of Canada that we will need over this decade, we are focusing our efforts under three modernization pillars that will serve to align initiatives and resources.

  1. Modernize IT: This pillar rests on the foundational IT strategy of standardization, consolidation and re-engineering, first announced in Budget 2011. It encompasses SSC's modernization initiatives that target IT infrastructure and two rationalization programs that are currently under consideration: the Rationalization Program for Back Office Applications, which I have spoken about over the last three years, and an additional Rationalization Program for End User Devices and Associated Support. We are focused on these two programs because of the extent of technology diversity and duplication in both these portfolios and, as a result, of the potential to unlock capacity required for the modernization of mission-critical applications and for innovation. For end user devices, the demand for mobile access is highlighting the need to establish standards and centres of excellence for mobility so that we can harness this potential properly from the start. Just as consumers regularly download the apps they need and want on their PDAs, smartphones and tablets, we would like to one day have a Government of Canada "apps store" that departmental users can use in the same way. Clearly, this could not be achieved by each department working on mobility independently. In addition to these areas, like other jurisdictions, we also recognize that we need to integrate more to cloud-based service delivery as this is a cost-effective way to standardize and modernize our portfolio. We will be articulating our specific initiatives in this area over the next year. Finally, another key area of work that we have recently launched in modernization is the development of an Enterprise Architecture Framework for the Government of Canada, supported by a renewed IT policy suite, which will provide the blueprint through which all modernization initiatives will be effectively designed and integrated.

  2. Transform service delivery: The intent of initiatives under this pillar is to improve the Government of Canada's e-services delivery to individuals and business by implementing modern solutions, capabilities and services policies. We need to respond to the growth in the digital society and make e service delivery the default, the first destination for Canadians seeking information and basic services from their government. Our online credentials initiative, which is nearing completion, is part of this pillar. In addition, we are working on the next steps that will enable, in addition to the federation of online credentials, the federation of identity assurance and management, first across the federal government, then across jurisdictions. Our federal, provincial and territorial colleagues are also very eager to collaborate with us on federating identity. Our work on technology architecture will allow us to eventually provide integrated multi-channel service delivery, as the private sector already routinely offers. Although it will take us a number of years to get there, this pillar will enable capabilities such as "tell us once" wherein citizens can initiate a service request through one channel and complete it through another without having to resubmit their information, and with clear expectations for service standards to be met. We have already advanced our work on a services policy, which is a necessary enabler for this evolution.

  3. Connect with citizens and business: This last modernization pillar currently encompasses two modernization initiatives: the Open Government Initiative, launched by the government in March 2011 and further developed with the April 2012 announcement of Canada's commitment to the Open Government Action Plan, as well as the recent launch of the Web Renewal Initiative, whose goal is to modernize the Government of Canada's online communications capabilities, including websites and use of social media. This will allow the government to engage online with its constituents using Web 2.0 technologies and allow more and better access by citizens and businesses to government information and services through mobile platforms. Under the Open Government Initiative, we are working with international and domestic partners to adopt an open licence that will enable the use of data from different jurisdictions using international standards for metadata under common licence terms. We believe that this should serve to encourage and accelerate the development of applications by open data enthusiasts. Although our work on Web renewal has just been launched, we expect to develop our transition strategy and plan over the next year.

    Clearly, this is an ambitious modernization agenda, but it is also inevitable. Should we do less or go forward more cautiously? Technology, the private sector, citizens and other constituents are all moving forward aggressively into the digital economy. The Government of Canada needs to, and can, modernize in pace with the outside environment by harnessing and aligning our capacity more strategically.

Guiding Principles for Modernization

The three pillars of IT modernization share these common guiding principles, which will be reflected in each initiative to be launched.

Modernization Horizon

Our modernization horizon is this decade. We will need to work on both shorter-term and longer-term initiatives that will be initiated independently, when they are ready, and that will progress at different rates, depending on the scope and the complexity of the initiative. We must be cognizant of the Government of Canada's collective capacity to properly resource, manage and execute the initiatives in our three pillars, including the capacity of our program and business sponsors and users to work side by side with the IT community toward this shared goal. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Chief Information Officer Branch, Shared Services Canada and individual departmental chief information officers will all need to review and align our individual plans and resources in support of modernization and the new hybrid IT service delivery model.

Security and Risk Management

One of the key drivers for creating Shared Services Canada was the opportunity through standardization and consolidation to strengthen the security of our systems and to strengthen the protection of our information stores. Since last year, we have redefined our IT Incident Management Plan to reflect the addition of a large, very capable partner in government security—SSC—and to more quickly and effectively respond to cyber incidents in collaboration with Public Safety (PS), Shared Services Canada (SSC) and Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). Together, we recognize that cyber security is a discipline that we must keep focused on as the threats continue to evolve rapidly. Development of our enterprise security architecture has been initiated to guide the implementation of modernized infrastructure and systems designed and built to significantly enhance the strength of our cyber defences. In addition, we are working on tactical solutions for enhanced security during the transition period.

Working Across Boundaries

Over the last three years, I have observed increasing support for matrixed, often self-forming teams, spanning departments, all committed to the delivery of a common shared goal. This is apparent in our programs for open data, GCDocs and HR programs, to name a few. I am very proud to affirm that the Government of Canada community of IT professionals has answered the call to collaborate. From CIOs to CS-01s, they are ready to promote enterprise-wide goals and let go of department-centric positions when these no longer make sense. The synergy and the clout that this collaboration is driving is impressive. It is not always easy, but it is tremendously gratifying to all those who choose to be real enterprise team players. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank each of you in the audience who have figured out that we can do more, better and faster, together.

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Collaboration

Over the last three years, working with my provincial, territorial and municipal colleagues through the Public Sector Chief Information Officer Council, I have noted a similar growing desire to collaborate across jurisdictions as well. This is evidenced in our pan-Canadian model for federating identity, which we published earlier this year, and in a number of initiatives we are collectively working on. For example, we are in the process of studying how we can aggregate demand for IT services and solutions on a pan-Canadian basis. All jurisdictions are facing fiscal challenges and looking to see how they can maximize their IT spending. We have initiated discussions with the Information Technology Association of Canada on this topic, and there are a number of studies underway to explore more collaboration.

Impact on Vendor Community

I recognize that despite the Government of Canada's goal to modernize IT, the past year has been difficult for our partners in the vendor community as we have reined in IT budgets in anticipation of modernization initiatives that have not yet advanced to the procurement stage. As I mentioned last year, there is a lot of systems modernization work to be done, and planning is proceeding as quickly as possible. Over the last year, we have conducted a few consultations with the vendor community and hope to continue with more over the coming months on our procurement plans. The Government of Canada, although benefiting from an extensive portfolio of IT capabilities, still has much more potential to leverage technology solutions that can have a transformational impact and will require much collaboration with the private sector.

A Few Final Words

Our ability to quickly and effectively collaborate across borders—departmental, jurisdictional, with the private sector and other constituents—is essential to meeting the challenge of modernization in 21st century. We have successfully incubated a culture of collaboration across the public service, and we must now nourish that culture so that we can accelerate our progress and meet the digital and economic challenges of the decade. I am confident that we will succeed because we are a strong, professional public service and because our own beliefs are firmly anchored in our strong commitment to public service values. Thank you for supporting our work as an enterprise, and I look forward to enumerating our accomplishments this time next year.

An ancient Chinese proverb says, "When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, and others build windmills."Footnote 1

We are about windmills!

Thank you very much.

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