City of Toronto creates governance for eCity projects

The City of Toronto’s IT department has made a lot of headlines during the MFP inquiry, but the city’s executive director of IT hopes to generate some positive press for the city’s planned 311 initiative.


Davies said the 311 project, which will provide access to any city service through a single number, now has a preliminary design, strategy, implementation plan and budget. It is being presented to city council this fall, and if approved by both council and the CRTC, the city will proceed with pilot projects next year. But it won’t be for two to four years before the project is actually mature, he said.

“”We think we’ve generated some enthusiasm and we want to ensure we keep ourselves top of mind with the politicians, hopefully in a positive way,”” said Davies. “”I think to some extent this could be our crowning achievement if we continue to build political support.””

Although 311 is a massive project that will consume huge amounts of city resources and money, Toronto also has a number of other IT initiatives underway under the eCity umbrella, the four cornerstones of which are e-government, or citizen engagement; e-services, the self-serve Web component for things like signing up for recreation programs or paying taxes online; e-business, which focuses on improving the city’s internal systems; and e-foundation, the core IT that will make everything happen.

Davies said a few of the city’s six departments and its various boards and agencies – all of which have their own IT groups — had undertaken their own projects in the past but there was no cohesive approach that would tie them all together.

“”The pace was slow, there was no co-ordination and we didn’t have a long-range strategic plan, so it was pretty much an ad hoc approach,”” he said. “”We realized we’ve got to get our act together. There has to be a greater level of co-ordination and we felt the way to do this was to create an eCity governance framework.””

The framework was developed by appointing leads for each of the four areas of e-government, e-business, e-services and e-foundation, along with senior management from each of the city’s departments, to drive the development of the eCity project. An eCity program office was created to provide project management as well, he said.

“”Our intent is to take independent business departments and bring them together, have them share with corporate what they’re doing and build some consensus as to how we should go forward,”” he said.

The goal, he explained, is to create a best practices approach to planning portfolio management in a large organization.

“”Our primary objective is to build a multiyear investment plan with the city,”” he said. “”We don’t currently have one and that’s something we’re going to be embarking on in the next six to 12 months. We want to make sure we have an ongoing vehicle for ensuring collaboration and synergy between the departments.””

Along with the eCity and 311 projects, the city is also working on a meeting management project designed to provide councillors with more technology during council meetings, so they can do things like retrieve information as needed and create motions online. The city also plans to videostream council meetings.

It is also in the process of refreshing about 17,000 desktops and 300 to 500 servers — an RFP has been issued — expanding the scope and complexity of its network, “”dipping its toes into e-procurement”” and putting in a wireless network, as well as enhancing its Web portal.

Davies also noted that the city made a major investment in SAP during the Y2K period — an investment it now wants more out of. To do so, it plans to become an SAP center of excellence, reengineer a lot of its major business processes and implement a number of new modules, such as facilities maintenance.

“”We’re going to put in place a number of integration projects to make SAP the hub for all the information and applications that reside in the city,”” he said.

But it can’t meet that goal without a little help, he said. It needs more IT staff with SAP smarts, he told the audience, adding they should spread the word.

“”We’re hiring right now.””

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