The road to better tech management in the GoC starts with these steps

Organizations whose CIO reports to the CFO rather than the CEO invariably have IT departments that are more penny-wise and pound-foolish, more fearful of new and open technologies, less developed technologically, and also a less attractive as a workplace for bright young newcomers. The latter will find themselves stuck in tiny half-cubicles, forced to wear ties and enter codes into arcane financial applications, and not permitted to work at home or make unsolicited suggestions. They can also expect to be required to use obsolete technologies and tools, and have much (unpaid) overtime stolen from their families, etc.

The same applies, in general, to governments, including the one here in Ottawa. To put it another way, the greater the degree of control which the Government of Canada (GoC) Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has over a department or agency, the more their IT shop tends to be financially dominated and resemble the counterpart private sector shop. The greater the degree of independence of a department or agency from TBS, the less this form of domination is a problem. You may refer to this as the Perley Theorem of IT Management Financialization.

Unfortunately, TBS has always seen IT as nothing more than another way to cut costs. We should thus take IT away from these finance and administration folks; GoC needs to create a Technology Management Agency (TMA) as a special operating agency. Working closely with departmental IT organizations, the TMA would manage each component of the federal computing and communications technology on a life cycle basis. It would not provide communications pipelines nor computing cycles, but would provide both visionary leadership and functional oversight. The TMA would have a president/CEO and admin secretariat to handle non-technical liaison with other federal institutions and the outside world. There would be five vice-presidents: technology, architecture/standards, applications, implementation/practice and training/education/research.

The technology division would perform technology monitoring, assessing candidate technologies for inclusion in the architecture. It would track every piece of technology acquired by the federal government from beta tests to retirement and maintain a comprehensive database of vendors. The architecture/standards division would decide what standards, profiles of standards and (where standards and profiles fail us) what actual products to recommend for inclusion in the architecture.

The application division would create a complete inventory of every application owned by the GOC. For portable applications it would operate a registry of applications to permit re-use of applications and components. Based on estimates I have developed for various departments in past years, it is my view that the registry alone would reduce total federal application development, licensing and support expenditures by $200 to 300 million a year. It could also be the repository for all open source code obtained by GoC.

The implementation/practice division would deal with the how of technology management. It would create a code of good IM/IT practices, including codes of ethics for public servants andvendors. It would maintain a complete registry of all IT projects extensively cross-referenced to products, services and facilities in the vendor database, as well as to people on the community membership database discussed below. This division would also have responsibility for syndicating requirements among departments to create multi-agency procurements.

Finally, it would be responsible for compliance and enforcement. For this purpose, it would require both the carrot and the stick, not the carrot and the toothpick.

The training/education/research division would cover senior management IT orientation and ensure that every document produced by the TMA has inset paragraphs so that lay people can actually read and understand it. The division would ensure that each GoC business unit or workgroup has an information management co-ordinator and backup IMC.

Together, these measures would set GoC on the road to much better technology management.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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