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PwC Up front | Issue 5 | Harnessing technology

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16 Up front Summer 2014 All about Shared Services Canada Founded in August 2011, Shared Services Canada (SSC) is a new federal department that's responsible for operating and transforming government-wide IT infrastructure. That involves consolidating and standardizing the numerous IT platforms used by 43 departments, while finding new efficiencies in areas such as procurement and licensing. Part of that process has involved bringing together more than 6,300 IT and internal services professionals across four new branches: Transformation, Service Strategy and Design; Projects and Customer Relationships; Operations; and Corporate Services. At the helm is President Liseanne Forand, a career federal civil servant who has held senior positions at various departments, including Service Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Privy Council Office. Forand is no stranger to overcoming major organizational obstacles en route to streamlining operations and providing better service to Canadians. She's also the first to concede the challenges of the job, as well as the importance of positioning the Canadian public service for a future of fast-paced innovation, mobile communication and big data. "The need to make connections is becoming increasingly important in any line of business," Forand explains. "Modern IT infrastructure is a critical building block to enable the government of Canada to move forward and take advantage of what technology has to offer." So, how are Forand and her colleagues accomplishing this massive effort? She says it involves taking a measured and strategic approach – one that could offer lessons to private-sector companies looking to update their IT infrastructure. For SSC, the first step was embracing the need for patience and unprecedented organization. "There was 18 months of planning work that was done before the department was created in August 2011," Forand recalls. "It was a well-planned piece of work where the government took the time to decide the reasonable scope for the project. If the scope is too big, it can fail." After taking stock of the government's myriad IT systems, SSC's mandate was restricted to modernizing IT infrastructure and not departmental applications. Forand credits that narrowed scope with helping to create conditions for SSC to maintain continuity and avoid service disruptions to hundreds of critical government programs such as Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan. Forand and her team then rolled up their sleeves and began executing SSC's ambitious IT infrastructure transformation plan, which extends until 2020. They started by carefully migrating those 6,000 federal government IT professionals to SSC and using their internal research to set out strategic infrastructure upgrade priorities. The department then engaged Canada's information and communication technology industry associations for input on how best to manage the mammoth project. As a result, SSC created an IT infrastructure round table bringing together representatives of those organizations, as well as IT vendors, for an ongoing dialogue to discuss new strategies, highlight mission-critical objectives and overcome challenges that would emerge along the way. But the most important aspect of the process, according to Forand, was managing the human element. Between November 2011 and February 2012, SSC staged town-hall meetings to outline the department's mandate and objectives to its new employees. Public-sector union representatives were also engaged, and regular internal SSC communications became a top priority. At that point, ironically, the department lacked the infrastructure to speak to its employees. "They were all still on individual departmental email systems and the firewalls among them didn't allow us to communicate, so we created an extranet and started posting blogs and staging webinars to multiply the opportunities for communication," Forand explains. "We had to make sure we conveyed to employees that our objective was to make things better, make them more secure, to improve the service being delivered and to talk concretely about where that standardization and consolidation was going to lead." To communicate with the 43 federal departments, SSC also created a Projects and Client Relationships branch to organize outreach on a regular basis. Since its inception, SSC has identified savings totalling more than $200-million by amalgamating email systems, finding software and hardware provisioning efficiencies, and renegotiating licensing contracts. What truly excites Forand, however, is The leaders

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