CIO resignation slows British Columbia’s IT efforts

Key elements of British Columbia’s IT strategy will be pushed back while the government searches for a new skipper to helm the province’s chief information office.

A provincial spokesman confirmed the departure of Lee

Denny last Friday to take a position in the private sector with SAP Canada’s Calgary office. Denny, who became B.C.’s CIO just over a year ago, reported directly to premier Gordon Campbell.

“The position and the technology sector are very important to the premier. He’s very interested in the wired world, access to broadband, and doing a lot of government services through the Web,” said Andy Orr, a spokesman in the Premier’s office. “We are in the process of looking for a new CIO, we’re certainly very sorry to lose Mr. Denny.”

Denny could not be reached for comment at press time.

Before he resigned, Denny’s agenda included the province’s portal project, a program to make all government services available online through a single storefront. Orr said that project was already running behind schedule, and will be delayed even further with Denny’s departure.

“It’s unfortunate when you lose someone of Denny’s caliber, and when you lose someone in a senior executive position it does tend to slow you down a bit, but these things happen,” said Orr, who refused to give a new target date for completing the portal. “We don’t want to miss any dates, but the project and the work in the rest of the CIO’s office is continuing, and we hope to have new leadership in there as soon as possible.””

Internally, the CIO’s priority has been in standardizing platforms and procedures across government ministries to enable one-stop shopping and seamless interaction, and headway has been made on that front, Orr said.

However, due to the slow progress on the portal project, Denny’s departure and budgetary constraints, he said B.C. has been forced to scale back its participation as a showcase province at the Technology in Government Week (GTEC) conference in Ottawa this fall.

“We felt we weren’t in a position to show leadership at the conference at this time,” Orr said, adding the government is in the process of negotiating a smaller role.

Barbara Wynne-Edwards, executive director of Technology in Government Week for Key3Media, confirmed B.C. will not be playing the part it had planned.

“They were going to be showcasing some of their provincial applications, which would have given the opportunity to other provinces to share in their solutions. That’s the purpose of the showcase province,” she said. “It’s disappointing that B.C. will not be participating as fully as a showcase province would normally participate, but we’ve got a great program this year.”

Dan Gunn, director of information technology for the Vancouver Island Advanced Technology Council, said Denny’s replacement will need a mix of skills.

“I think it needs to be someone who can trust the details to the skilled people and understand this is not just a technical position, but in many ways a political position and customer services position as well,” says Gunn. “Getting the right person is imperative to the government maintaining a competitive advantage in the technology sector.”

Denny’s background included a stint as the first CIO of the Smithsonian Institution in 1994 and the management of computer facilities for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defence civilian and military airports prior to the Gulf War.

Someone from the private sector would be preferable, Dunn said, but the ideal candidate also needs to know how to work within the government bureaucracy, and the political skills to deal with politicians and the public to implement their goals.

“Corporately, we’re still seeing that this position is still finding its role and finding its responsibilities, and that’s even more true with the province, since it’s much more publicly visible,” said Gunn.

To date, Gunn said the CIO’s office seems to be doing well, particularly with harmonizing IT standards and practices across the various ministries. The challenge, he added, will be getting employees and vendors trained on those new standards to ensure a continued competitive bidding process.

“I’ve met with some of the senior decision makers in the CIO’s office and I was pleased with what they recognized as far as industry trends, and what they should be working on,” Gunn said.

Jeff Jedras is ITBusiness.ca’s Vancouver correspondent.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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