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PwC Up front | Issue 5 | Harnessing technology

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Up front Summer 2014 15 Former Auditor General Sheila Fraser was never shy to present blunt and often sobering audits of federal government operations to Canada's political leaders. A section of one such assessment in 2010 was particularly frank and concerning, even though it went largely unnoticed by most Canadians. In it, Fraser raised alarms over the federal government's aging information technology infrastructure – everything from email systems to data centres. Not only was that infrastructure rapidly reaching obsolescence, she found that most federal departments had no strategy or funding to update their technology, and couldn't assess IT vulnerabilities and risk areas. The report only underscored the importance of the government's sweeping Administrative Services Review, which had been initiated as a way to reduce the federal budget deficit. In 2011, the review resulted in the establishment of Shared Services Canada (SSC), a new department tasked with the consolidation and rationalization of the federal government's IT infrastructure. The objective was to create a more efficient, reliable and secure IT platform for the government of Canada. The challenge would be herculean, to put it mildly. Over decades, the federal government's IT infrastructure had been built department by department, resulting in huge systems diversity, duplication and complexity. The job of helming SSC and achieving what many considered an impossible goal went to Liseanne Forand, previously Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada, the department that administers everything from passports to social insurance numbers. The veteran civil servant knew what a challenge lay ahead. "We had more firewalls between departments than with the outside world," Forand recalls. "If there was a piece of IT equipment built anywhere that was available in Canada, we had bought at least one of them." SSC was charged with bringing together more than 6,000 IT staffers from across 43 departments and updating systems that in some cases are up to 30 years old. That also meant merging 485 data centres spread across dozens of federal office buildings. Another challenge: each department had its own wide-area network, and together the departments had built thousands of local-area networks within their individual worksites. That's not to mention the 63 email systems used by various federal departments, or the staggering number of commercial-grade video-conferencing systems. Prior to SSC's creation, the federal public service had deployed more than 80 such platforms that were often not compatible with one another, making conferencing between departments difficult. SSC is working to shrink that number down to one to promote video-conferencing as an effective alternative to travel and as a means of involving regional teams in a wide range of initiatives. Technological revolution For Liseanne Forand, President of Shared Services Canada, modernizing the federal government's IT infrastructure comes down to planning well and motivating people By Chris Atchison The leaders Up front Summer 2014 15 BLAIR GABLE

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