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Welcome Shared Services Canada

It’s official !

“The Honourable Rona Ambrose (@MP_RonaAmbrose) , Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, along with the Honourable Tony Clement (@TonyClementCPC), President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, today announced measures to streamline and identify savings in Information Technology (IT) through Shared Services Canada” , a new government agency (see full press release).

What does this mean?

The Government has over 100 different email systems, over 300 data centres, and over 3,000 network services within the Federal Public Service. This is inefficient and wasteful. The Government will move to one email system, reduce the overall number of data centres from 300 to less than 20, and streamline electronic networks within and between government departments.

How long has this been in the making?

Apparently 12 years if you ask IT insiders.

What do I think?

  1. I hope this will get rid of the archaic 5mb email attachment restriction imposed by most departments.
  2. I hope I never have to see one of my clients using I.E 6 ever again.
  3. I hope that my YouSendIt , DropBox, Freshbooks, Google and links can easily be accessed by public servants without them having to use their smartphones or go to Starbucks.
  4. I hope I won’t have to help branches/departments write justification documents for unblocking and/or downloading certain tools if another branch/department has already gone through the process.
  5. I hope this will open the Canadian government up to seriously considering the open cloud and perhaps even Google Apps (as the GSA recently did in the U.S).
  6. I hope all federal government email addresses will  have “” as the domain regardless of department.
  7. I hope this will force the big proprietary players (i.e. Microsoft) to show a clear value proposition over open platforms or be forced out.
  8. I hope this will be the end of GEDS as it exists today and platforms such as GCconnex, GCpedia and GCforums will finally get mainstream spotlight and proper funding.
  9. I hope that all public servants will be able to use that small little feature called “access to the internet” on their smartphones / BB’s.
  10. I hope that whatever is implemented will be carefully rolled out, built into training, and communicated properly to the technophobes by savvy communicators as opposed to techies.
The keyword here is “hope”. What do you hope for?



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Published inGovernmentRant


  1. A shared services solution makes total sense … and what Canadian taxpayer does not want to see our tax dollars used most effectively.

    I will be very interested to see how this vision is achieved. The scale here is mammoth, and I have NO confidence in mega-projects.

    My advice for those driving this initiative:

    1. Stay true to your vision;
    2. Develop a roadmap that is achievable;
    3. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
    4. Do NOT be seduced by the vision to the point that you think it is easily achievable … this will take a long time, be very painful and will ultimately result in savings. This is no overnight fix.

    The UK government is currently revisiting it’s massive, yet “previously doable” health care system after spending billions of pounds. Let’s not have another major failure!

    Having said all that … this is a worthwhile endeavour, and is ultimately achievable if attacked on the right scale.

  2. Shared services was already deployed to Schedule 1 and fairly recently to Schedule 2 departments. This is merely the Schedule 3 list being added to encompass all departments and agencies.

    Don’t be lofty with your dreams. This will boil down all of government to common centralised builds and service supports. Nothing here about improving software or offerings, just service support, procurement and overhead costs. Those two areas are as directly related as your career path on your food choices at the supermarket.

    How can GCconnex, GCpedia and GCforums replace GEDS? GEDS is a public directory of public servants. Those other tools are for internal collaboration. Instead GEDS should be API’d and added as a layer to to any tool.

  3. john rees

    Mkke are you trying to butter up the government for some more contracts? Good on you, can’t go wrong!
    cheers mate

  4. Hey Doug, correct me if i’m wrong but this is 44 departments and agencies that we are talking about. Therefore, even though it’s the Schedule 3 list, this is the big one.

    As for my dreams, I’ve always been lofty. 35 foot ceilings, or better yet no ceilings at all!

    What I meant by the GEDS comment was to get rid of archaic closed systems that make people cringe every time I mention the word. Eventually I see a public GEDS-like directory that is actually up to date and allows public servants to edit/update their own profiles. Otherwise, something like LinkedIn will replace it completely as it already has for many people looking for a specific public servant. I like your API idea though. I kind of envision GCconnex to one day have public facing profiles in addition to more comprehensive and secure internal ones ( kind of like Facebook does with it’s limited “public profile” option). Is that in the works?

  5. My point is that this isn’t a new thing. Shared services have been around a long time in GoC. Can you say 44 departments are being “transferred” if it’s a name change of their group within PWGSC? I would honestly like to know.

    Ironically, the GEDS you envision was proposed and worked on (called “GEDS+”, no joke), by the same department offering Shared Services. More info here (slide 12)

    You get bonus points if you know why it was never launched. I just don’t see how shared services will make it more of a reality, but less so. But keep hoping, I guess.

  6. Todd Kennedy

    The IE 6 issue is related to old applications that still need it, not speed of implementation. Shared services will not help this. Client buy-in and cash to rewrite aging applications is the key.

  7. Todd, are you saying that this new agency/initiative is not meant to address such issues as departments using different software versions and/or buying licences from the same supplier without knowing it?

    • Mike, there is no cost with procuring IE6. So what you’re saying broadly about “buying licenses” doesn’t apply to Todd’s statement.

  8. Christian Shanks

    Mike: to answer question 7, yes, it will address this issue for 3 specific sectors at this point: Email server & client licenses, network related software licenses (monitoring I’m thinking) and data centre related software (monitoring again). I’m guessing another important point it will tackle is hardware consolidation and standadization. You can bet that going from 300 to 20 datacentres, they are going to virtualize a lot of servers (VMWare/Intel & IBM PowerVM (AIX, Linux). I’m guessing that the next message to be released by Rona and Tony for Shared Services Canada is that the Government is going to ONE financial system (SAP) and going to ONE hr system (PeopleSoft). It will be interesting to see which hardware platform they will choose for this. I hope they go with IBM Power7 & AIX with Oracle DB, but they may go with a Windows based platform. We shall see what the future holds…

  9. Mireille Moore

    I hope that the information management for official departmental documents will be properly taken care of including paper documents which many seems to be forgetting!
    Each department are at a SILO state right now!
    A tool that would be consistent through all departments what a great idea. Will it really hapen!

  10. I remember when this was being talked about years ago and they said it would streamline in all sorts of areas. It’s a great concept. I can’t imagine it’ll be cheap to make the transition, but ultimately it makes sense. You have to feel a little sorry for what it will do to private sector IT product and service providers who may not get the chance to contract any further with GC. I would ilke to see government employees be able to share information more easily. A lot of great work gets done, but with no central repository how can the many benefit and especially when knowledge is power and makes you more strategic. Anyway, hoping many positives are on the way from a human and IT perspective.

  11. Zip

    A great concept if done correctly. Attempt to centralize everything in Ottawa, however, and watch this thing crash and burn. Look no further than the abysmal failure of CRA’s attempt to centralize their data and messaging entirely in Ottawa.

    • Mike F

      To ‘zip’ if he ever comes back: CRA management has shared their story with other departments and TBS. Their regional IT centralization failure (btw they did successfully consolidate almost all of their Ottawa-based servers) was more about putting too much faith in a specific software vendor’s promises, and not investing in the underlying network. They were trying to do ‘cloud’ in 2006 and with a lot of slow network pipes and immature technology. This time they’ve done their homework and have a team in place that is probably among the most seasoned in government. With or without Shared Services, their next internal attempt at centralization was/is coming soon. They still run IT for CBSA (aka Customs) so they have over 20% of the public service already consolidated on a single network. What a great place to start! Yes their Data Centres are in the Ottawa area but the point is that it doesn’t really matter: they could be in Vancouver but they’d still be managed centrally with the exception of a small local hardware support group. Almost nobody needs to touch a server in this day and age.

  12. Todd Kennedy

    Your post was second in my google search on shared services canada. Congrats!

    My comment on applications was targeted at legacy in-house and procured applications. The government has many old applications that are used for core processing. They are very difficult to replace. As Doug mentioned, installing IE is not an issue. The quirk is adapting business processes to incorporate these new products. This is slow and costly.

  13. MS

    To MIKE F: CRA has probably sucsessfully implemented the centralization of some servers, last time I’ve heard they’ve realized that you cannot apply a single solution to any situation, which was pretty obvoious whent the’ve started the project. The point here is, how much did it cost and when they will amortize the investment.
    If CRA represents 20% of the public service, I suppose the next bigger organisation is the National Defence. Only by trying to put those together is going to be enormous. The complexity of those two organisations ( not including ASFC), is enough to give some thought regarding the capacity of the PWSGC team to handle the situation. And talking about expenses, my thought about this is that finnaly all will come to job cuts.
    I wonder if this kind of scale was ever tested by Microsoft.

  14. jac

    This has been 20 years in the making (since around 1993)…
    it’ll take another 20 years to implement.

    Personally, I would have done shared services with Finance and HR first, phased in and incremental. See how that goes then centralize IT. IT should be butt up against the operations for that’s what its mandate is – to support operations. IT is merely systems to aid in operations and daily data flow activities. To centralize it:
    1) adds major security risks
    2) decouples IT from operations
    3) will add to more systems over time as management realizes the cookie cutter approach isn’t working, so systems start to build on the side
    4) priorities will be all over the place
    5) its a huge monster that can spin out of control

    Personally, I like smaller IT departments for it breeds innovation and is coupled to operations.
    Big crashes hard. Big is disfunctional and can get plaqued with bureacracy quickly. Big doesn’t necessarily mean better client services – take a number … please.

    I think it will save the government almost nothing as the ROI and value added will be very very minimal.

    I’d centralize HR and finance first, then IT.

    Obviously, those driving this show are blind to the big picture.

  15. citizen

    Since some departments are on secure, isolated networks, it is not clear in any way how those could be put onto common email systems at all, since their networks have to literally bridge an airgap etc. to get outside.

    Moreover, these same departments have specific classification of data on systems. Is there an intention to have all the generic infrastructure workers have maximal security clearances?

    Finally, single points of failure are a disaster waiting to happen … (especially with the lack of guidelines about application layer security still a grave concern)

  16. Darius

    This amalgamation will cost hundreds of millions up front. The politicians will not tell you that though. It might take 15 years for a return on investment, unless of course they sack thousands of positions which is what im afraid of. The same type of initiative failed miserably in australia. Do you want to know how to cut costs immediately? Get the departments to stop paying for managers to meet at lavish locations. Stop wasting money on brand new computer hardware that is purchased in 3 year cycles. Get rid of contractors that make thousands of dollars per day. Finally, do not create new CS positions every time a manager needs to put out a fire. I work in a department that has tripled in size because middle and upper managers wanted to create empires for themselves. What they need to do is to shuffle these positions into departments that actually have a need for computer support personnel.

  17. Gilles Chiasson

    The centralization is in process
    The real question is where will it be located
    Will all IT have to work in Buckinham, QC?

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