Treasury Board CIO: Shared services plan doesn’t mean job cuts

OTTAWA — Federal IT workers can rest assured their jobs are safe, despite plans to create shared services organizations that will rationalize corporate administrative and IT services across the government of Canada, CIO for the Treasury Board of Canada told the keynote audience for GTEC Week on Monday.

“The internal service modernization program is not about cutting jobs and no layoffs are planned or expected,” said Jim Alexander. “Consolidation of staff and streamlining business processes will generate economies of scale, and while productivity gains are expected, we remain confident that the natural attrition over the next five to seven years will mean no layoffs despite any reduction in the overall number of positions. Our average attrition rate of three to five per cent a year means if we do nothing at all, we would have 20 to 25 per cent fewer personnel in place on 2012.”

Alexander, who outlined the federal government’s plans to focus its modernization efforts inward now that 91 per cent of the 130 most commonly used federal services have at least some sort of presence online, said modernizing service delivery is only part of the whole picture. The next step, he said, is to modernize management of service delivery through the establishment of shared services organizations (SSOs) that will deliver HR, IT and financial services to government clients, similar to the way Service Canada provides services to the public, he said.

“The Government On-Line service improvement initiative helped us establish a wide range of user-friendly services,” said Alexander. “However, we’re not going to reap the benefits of service transformation or modernization without dealing with what we call our back office.”

According to Alexander, the federal government spends $6 billion a year on corporate administrative services (CAS), roughly half of which is spent in human resources, finance and materials management. The feds also spend about $5 billion a year on IT – half on desktop or distributed computed services, data centre operations and network services.

“These SSOs will be held accountable for the quality of these services and will operate primarily on a cost recovery basis,” he said. “The commitments to individual client departments will be established through service level agreements.” 

But while IT workers can expect to remain employed, that doesn’t mean they’ll be in the same place doing the same thing, he said.

 “There will certainly be changes if these initiatives are implemented. First, some of our 40,000 admin and IT personnel will end up working for different organizations in the federal government. A portion will remain in departments, while others will become recognized service delivery specialists as part of a delivery organization that focuses on service excellence in those areas of internal services.”

As well, he said, the nature of the federal IT employee’s job will change. “Automating paper-based routine transactions will liberate employees to perform higher value and more fulfilling tasks, and there is a lot of change management associated with that one simple phrase,” he said. “A modernization program is going to mean different types of work but also new types of jobs.”

The change program will start with a small portfolio of easily managed projects, with off-ramps and no-go decisions built into them. “These services which complement existing Secure Channel services will be the initial focus in the IT services transformation,” he said.

The modernization of CAS will take from five to seven years, he said. At this point, ministers have called for detailed analysis and planning studies, but no implementation strategies or time frames have yet been approved.

CIOs can also expect their job descriptions to change over the next few years, he warned.  CIOs, on top of their existing responsibilities to manage IT and lead the government’s innovation strategies, will also find themselves in a considerably more complex IT environment with the implementation of SSOs.

“It’s important for us to understand the implications of this evolution, including how that might affect the government’s and CIOs’ relationships with departmental CIOs as we move forward with service transformation,” he noted.

Alexander said the government would also be paying more attention to project management.

“Although there is a public perception large government IT projects have problems or fail, the absence of a performance management regime makes it difficult to illustrate the results of our IT investments or to tackle systemic problems,” he said. “We need to establish a baseline of reporting mechanisms against which to assess and evaluate the progress and success of our IT-enabled investments.”

To that end the TBS, he said, will be re-evaluating its oversight practices and regimes for IT investments this fall and winter and working with departments and agencies to strengthen the adoption of management and reporting practices across government.

“The ultimate value of any project, though, is whether it produces the desired outcomes, and in accordance with this principle we have established an outcome management practice to enhance the probability of achieving projects and portfolio outcomes.”

GTEC continues through Wednesday.

Comment: [email protected]

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