HR experts teach government IT how to find help

OTTAWA — Delivering citizen-friendly IT is stretching the capacity of human resource managers to the point where fresh ideas and more efficient planning is needed to keep up with the constant demand for information, experts told a conference Tuesday.

At ‘Measuring and managing IT

human capacity in the public sector,’ IT managers in both the public and private spheres recognized the need for more resources. Yet the public service doesn’t necessarily need to look far or spend big dollars to find solutions – they may be right across the hall or a floor below, said Phil McLellan, conference chairperson and a private consultant specializing in information management and information technology (I & IT) in the public sector.

“The main thing is to take advantage of the tremendous wealth of experience and competency in the government workforce. We just may not have it in the right place,” McLellan said. “The trick is to line it up right and compensate for the weaknesses by looking for other sources that weren’t previously thought of.”

But this trick doesn’t require any smoke and mirrors. McLellan said there is a massive convergence currently taking place between the IT and program and policy sectors, so the key is to get all individuals involved speaking the same language before the extra bodies can be tapped for ideas.

“There has to be a means of understanding and managing the expectations. There is a lot of confusion in the system right now as to what is needed,” he said. “The biggest issue is leadership – politically, electronically and bureaucratically. Strong leaders can communicate more effectively and properly use the scarce resources available.”

More efficient lines of communication was a theme echoed by other speakers at the conference, including Marcella Robitaille, former director of human resources and change management for the Ontario Public Service (OPS).

“The IT professional really needs to understand the business and enter into discussions with their business partners using language that everyone can understand,” Robitaille said. “They need to learn each others’ language before partnerships can happen because IT solutions cross program areas, ministries and even levels of government.”

Robitaille said frequent face-to-face meetings and work retreats between IT managers and department directors are useful in helping to streamline communication and initiate strong leadership. She also said employee surveys help identify who are key stakeholders in IT decision-making.

“IT managers would be surprised as to how many resources are available within the organization,” Robitaille added. “They think the only way to get the job done is by who reports to them directly. They need to look outside of their branch and look at who else in their organization has a stake in what they are trying to do and engage these people.”

However, McLellan and Robitaille agree the public sector also needs to keep a strong commitment on recruitment to find the dynamic leaders of tomorrow who can pool all available resources for IT management.

“You also have to grow the skills through training and recruitment to fill the gaps and cover the weaknesses that you see over time,” McLellan said.

“Look at supplementing the work through co-op students, internships and contract work,” Robitaille added. “Some of that does require money, but it’s using money in a very strategic way and not tying up all of your money in a core permanent staff, but spreading it around so you get more for you buck.””

The conference wraps up Wednesday.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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