Ontario government to realign wayward apps

TORONTO — Ontario’s public sector workers may lose certain applications following a province-wide examination of its IT infrastructure.

The government is conducting what one official called a “”horizontal review”” as part of an ongoing effort to standardize the kinds of IT products and services

it deploys to its employees. The review will also look at how well employees are served by various technology products.

“”There are e-mail issues — we have a number of different e-mail platforms being used by various departments,”” said Wayne Arthurs, parliamentary assistant to Chair of the Management Board Cabinet Gary Phillips. “”We also want to determine whether everyone needs all the applications they’re using, and have all the training associated with those applications.””

Arthurs discussed the province’s plans as part of a speech to ITAC Ontario, which held its annual general meeting in downtown Toronto Tuesday night.

The review coincides with a recent decision by Management Board to appoint a special task force to determine ways to improve the management of large-scale IT projects in the public sector. Reporting directly to Phillips, the task force will examine the government’s experience with large technology projects as well as recommend best practices for the future. The task force will provide general strategic advice to the government. A report is expected to be made public early next year.

The expert panel will be chaired by L. Denis Desautels, a former Auditor General of Canada. The other two members of the task force are former Lucent Canada chief executive Carol Stephenson (now the dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario), and David Johnston, the President of the University of Waterloo.

“”It’s a pretty tight timeline,”” Arthurs said. “”They will be looking at all the existing initiatives, and certainly best practices from other governments.””

James Sharp, customer segments analyst at IDC Canada, said when the research firm spoke with the government late last year, their top priorities were electronic service delivery, expense/cost control and key indicators/metrics.

“”Much as the private sector has had pressure, there is pressure on government to continue to defend and justify its IT investments, to make sure they’re getting bang for their buck,”” he said. “”I think the increased scrutiny that you’re seeing in the formation of task forces actually mirrors some of their articulated program and policy objectives.””

Arthurs defined the scope of the task force as looking at multi-million dollar projects that require significant system development and have a major impact on the delivery of government business. There are around 25 of these projects going on at any given time, he said.

The horizontal review is distinct from the task force because the government needs to get a better sense of what it’s got to work with, Arthurs added.

“”After the blackout in Ontario last year, we discovered servers in Queen’s Park we didn’t even know existed,”” he said. “”We need information about the basic infrastructure.””

Ontario is also planning to create a supply chain management organization that will strengthen procurement practices across the province, Arthurs told ITAC Ontario.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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