IBM Canada Ltd. and a consortium of five vendors have won a $1.5-million contract to build an electronic supply chain that will become the new Government of Canada Marketplace, an e-government initiative.

The project to build a portal posting

electronic catalogues and automating routine and mass purchases is the first electronic supply chain that works across departments in the Canadian government, said Kim Devooght, vice-president, federal public sector, IBM Canada in Ottawa.

Using this service, the government expects to save 10 per cent on the cost of goods and services and 50 per cent on administrative process costs associated with purchasing.

The electronic marketplace will be piloted with Public Works and Government Services Canada, RCMP, Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Initially, the program will involve 1,300 users, potentially reaching 10,000 if it’s expanded to all government branches.

The contract, which will see AMS, SAP, CGI, National Bank and Ariba work with IBM Canada, covers a period of five and a half years with five one-year extensions that the federal government said may be offered to IBM Canada’s team if it’s deemed the portal is useful to departments and agencies.

Once the team of vendors passes a first phase in which the concept is tested over five months, it will have to contend with hurdles like encouraging the government, made up of 157 departments and agencies, to “”think as one,”” Devooght said.

“”We’re taking existing business systems and converting them to automated forms. And generally speaking, when you have those kinds of projects, it’s not the technology that gets in the way or causes concerns, it’s issues of changes to business processes themselves. Departments are going to have to agree to use this solution as opposed to their roll-your-own solution or made-at-home kind of thing. And that means giving up a bit of control at time,”” he said.

Ottawa has been investigating the feasibility of marketplace services for two years. One question the government grappled with was how to make the marketplace financially viable because it’s a self-funded project, said Marc Trépanier, director general of the electronic acquisitions program sector in the federal government.

“”The government is not putting money into this project other than funding the initial business case. After that, if the marketplace doesn’t fund itself out of savings, it won’t continue,”” he said.

The readiness of the supplier community was also a common topic, Trépanier said. Despite the fact vendors have helped put government services on the Internet over the last few years as part of Canada’s broader Government Online strategy, “”a construction company that operates off of the back of a pick-up truck may not have a computer. So you don’t want to exclude them from this environment.””

In building the supply chain, IBM Canada may take a page from partner AMS, which built eVA, a statewide e-procurement application for the state of Virginia, said Devooght. The service, linking public purchasers throughout the state with suppliers, began in 2001. It allows the government to post online vendor catalogues, handle bids, process payments and give contract data. eVA has earned the Virginia government US$1.71 billion revenues on 219,263 orders.

When first conceived, the electronic marketplace was thought to be a test project that could help “”find a path”” to putting government services on the Internet, Trépanier said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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