Saskatchewan inks PC deal as part of province-wide IT consolidation

The province of Saskatchewan is following the lead of the federal government in consolidating its IT operations and moving towards larger procurement deals for hardware and software.

Lenovo Canada said it had won a  $14.5-million, three-year leasing contract to supply desktops and notebooks to Saskatchewan’s Information Technology Office (ITO). These include both ThinkCentre PCs and ThinkPad laptops, which Lenovo took on as part of IBM’s divestiture of its personal computing lines last year. The ITO provides technology equipment to 16 departments, which amounts to about 12,000 users, executives from both the province and Lenovo said.

Rory Norton, assistant deputy minister of operations at the ITO, said the government was in the final stretch of a plan to bring all public sector departments into one IT service organization. When it started three years ago, for example, there were 21 departments with their own IT service organization. This project in turn has given Saskatchewan some additional purchasing power, Norton said.

“We have got the volumes now that we can go and get these big deals,” he said, adding the ITO recently signed a large software contract with Microsoft. “We’re just moving down the line and doing it one chunk at a time.”

The ITO is hoping that a more streamlined technology department will also develop more best practices about procurement and IT management, Norton said.

“I think Saskatchewan was known as the place that you looked at to know how not to do things,” he said, laughing. This included its desktop refresh cycle, which included PCs that were stretched to six years or more, he said. “We’re talking about some PII stuff that was out there.”

Although the preferred pricing arrangement in the contract will mean a cost savings to taxpayers of between $1.8 million and $3.6 million, Lenovo Canada National sales manager David Yee said total cost of ownership became a very important element of its proposal. This included integration of IBM’s Remote Deployment Manager software and a biometric fingerprint reader.

“It was a much bigger picture than simply cost,” he said.

Norton echoed that sentiment.

“The base price meant nothing to us,” he said. “It was all about the tools, how we could deploy it.”

Lenovo will be leaning on NexInnovations, one of Canada’s largest resellers, to assist with product and service delivery to the ITO, while a local Regina firm, Morning Star Technologies, will refurbish and dispose of the equipment as needed.

“The deal included (provisions) where we don’t even have to box them and ship them,” Norton said.

The ITO has dealt with a mix of Dell and, before that, Compaq to supply its desktop needs, though Norton said it also worked with IBM prior to the Lenovo transition. “The IBM relationship has probably improved in my mind,” he said. “They’ve been very responsive, agreeable.”

Yee said Lenovo has major deals with other parts of the Canadian public sector, but the ITO arrangement reflects greater confidence in the company as a supplier.

“This is clearly one of our big wins this year,” he said.

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