Tag: #ssc

CIOs in Conversation: Dave Adamson

CIOs in Conversation: Dave Adamson

October 18, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

There’s two weeks left until this year’s much anticipated GTEC (Government and Technology Conference) and as such, we’re featuring a timely conversation with Dave Adamson, Assistant Deputy Minister at Shared Services Canada (SSC) of cloud brokering.

Dave Adamson Source: Linkedin

Dave Adamson
Source: Linkedin

The IM/IT Community Enablement team at the Treasury Board Secretariat sat down with Mr. Adamson as part of their Pathway to IM/IT Leadership Series. The series features interviews with Government of Canada CIOs and highlights their individual career paths, exploring the role of CIO on a personal level.

Mr. Adamson’s focus at SSC has been to enable science-based departments to benefit from internal and external cloud-based services in a consistent, economical and responsive manner.

He has also been the Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO) for nearly three years at Treasury Board and prior to that, was the Chief Information Officer at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Overall, he has more than 30 years of experience in both the private and public sectors in systems implementation, large-scale project management and in operations management.

How long were you the Deputy CIO for the Government of Canada and how would you describe the role?

It was just short of two and a half years, including a period of about five months as Acting CIO. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the Deputy CIO role in terms of the breadth of files seen there or really understanding the unique role that Treasury Board Secretariat plays in government. I can honestly say I learned something new every day and it was a privilege to be part of such a remarkable team at TBS. CIOs are well-schooled in the IT and IM spaces but add to that access to information and privacy, service, DSO security and project oversight – these are areas that are very active, often in the news and were key learning challenges to me.

What led you to the role of Deputy CIO and what were you doing before?

I belonged to IT organizations long before I ever heard of the CIO title. At my first summer job as a computer operator at the Unemployment Insurance Commission, I got to see firsthand what the IT world looked like and how it was changing so rapidly, even then. While I was there, I met a very interesting man who’d just come from Japan as an expert consultant in Burroughs Online Systems and he turned out to be the key to my future career. Burroughs was a big manufacturer of mainframes in those days and he was testing something quite new: computer to computer communications.

I would hang around him as much as possible on the night shift as he did his magic and he would tell me a little bit about what he was doing and why. This gave me a great appetite for knowing more about computers and programming languages. I remember going home and telling my mom how interesting I thought my work was and she more or less said “well, that’s never going to go anywhere—computers are just a fad.” (laughs)

When I was going to university, I obtained a summer job doing COBOL programming for a consulting firm. At that time I had few apparent skills apart from being able to write FORTRAN and COBOL programs—the President took a big risk and gave me the time to learn and become more proficient while earning a salary. I can honestly say that my secret for programming success was making every possible mistake in the book and then learning from each mistake.

One of the important things that the President of the consulting firm did was to bring me to the Unemployment Insurance Office to watch the people who were applying for income support benefits and looking for work. He wanted me to see how the system worked – what the experience of being unemployed looked like, so that I could see (and feel) how we needed to develop and refine products that would help citizens get back on their feet again. In hindsight, that may have been one of the most important lessons in my career – being sure to relate whatever I was doing at the keyboard to the impact it would have on people’s lives. I believe this is a key way of thinking about business problems in an innovative way.

“When a career opportunity came along, I would always ask myself: why not me?”

I initially had no ambition to become CIO or do much more than write COBOL programs. When a career opportunity came along, I would always ask myself: why not me? And that’s been my guiding star for pretty well my whole career. I haven’t had long-term goals and I think that’s probably a good thing. Since then I have had a series of great opportunities in both public and private sectors, eventually becoming a CIO at Justice Canada and then CIO at Citizenship and Immigration – experiences which gave me the background to be considered for the Deputy CIO GC role.

I knew something about online systems, but not a lot. We worked hard for probably eight months [trying to get the complex requirements for the system right.] It had so many transactions to run through, when you think about it – the external world of immigration, people coming to Canada and, and security. Imagine how many people that system has touched, including the internal workers who [used it every day.]

Can you point to a specific project that was meaningful to you?

One of the most rewarding projects I ever participated in was the modernization of FOSS – the Field Operation Support System at Employment and Immigration Canada. It was the mid-80s and online systems had really come into their own. It was also the first time I managed a team. We were given this challenge of reinventing a previous version of FOSS into a completely different technology environment – online systems on a Burroughs mainframe – and we had about 6 months to do it.

We worked around the clock in a race to create the necessary functionality while at the same time make it run on a computer that had about the same power as a 386 computer! I got to be a part of the beginning of FOSS as an online database, and ironically I returned to CIC 25 years later, just as the plan to eliminate FOSS was being finalized as the new Global Case Management System (GCMS) had been implemented for CIC business. Very proud to say that my colleagues at CIC and CBSA pulled the plug on FOSS in late 2015 – interesting to note that it probably took more work to decommission this mission-critical system than it took to build it – something we’ll need to focus on as we re-think how we will support business needs in the future.

Speaking of databases and information management, how do you see IM fitting into the CIO’s role in the future?

I think we’re finally getting to a point where we can really begin to think about the value of information, and more importantly, the value we’re not getting from all the information that we gather as a government. There is an incredible shortfall in information benefits realization as our policies, legislation and current practices get in the way of better service, more “joined-up” government and being much more proactive than we are now.

“CIOs need to focus on what could be done with our information assets while protecting privacy. Open Government is one key piece…”

CIOs need to focus on what could be done with our information assets while protecting privacy. Open Government is one key piece – developing APIs that make the use of Open Data much easier are another.

You’ve witnessed a lot of technological change in your career. How should IT professionals be looking at this change in terms of their careers?

The temporal nature of technology is something that I often think about and I pay a lot of attention to this by reading, talking to external experts and colleagues who have new and interesting ideas. We are at a major tipping point in technology in government – many industries have already tipped and we can learn from them about what works and what doesn’t.

Cloud will enable GC business units to have incredibly fast access to state of the art solutions without the long lead times of development, test and implementation. Speed will be very different. IT workers need to “tip” towards the skills that go along with cloud: business analysis, and business integration for example, as we look beyond the GC into provincial and municipal needs that we will be able to meet on a single platform. Similarly data analytics, but much more focused on tactical solutions. For example, what is all the information you need to manage a workforce, rather than how to deploy a BI tool and manage the extract, transform and load (ETL) function.

So my advice is to take the time to pay close attention to what’s happening in the bigger world; reshape your skills and move to where the demand will be. I don’t think that’s the answer everyone is going to want to hear but I think we all need to be realistic about this.

Do any metaphors come to mind to describe the type of work you do?

A teacher. Not necessarily having all the answers, but being able to ask the right questions and take people on a journey of explo-ration and to instill and encourage curiosity.

The wrecking ball metaphor as well. We had a couple of people from New Zealand talk to us recently about how they currently have a strong focus on 17 to 18-year old children who seem to be headed the wrong way. They combine information about school grades, truancy rates, trouble with the law, family situations and other indicators and focus more resources on helping these high-risk kids – sometimes 10 or 20 times more resources – including intervening with parents to attempt to avoid problems down the road. In Canada, we don’t do that. We have walls around data in the name of privacy and we do not share information, even for a citizen’s benefit. The wrecking ball will break down the barriers that need rethinking, as appropriate, especially if CIOs and their teams can show the enormous unrealized value of our collective information holdings.

“So my best advice to IT workers is to talk business, leverage our information assets, leverage the best in class platforms, and then do it again.”

So my best advice to IT workers is to talk business, leverage our information assets, leverage the best in class platforms, and then do it again. Rethink how you will contribute to this virtuous cycle for our society, our science, our businesses and our staff.

As we speak, I am actually feeling envious of our new workers who will miss the challenge I spent most of my career on in making technology work, but instead will enjoy the challenge of using technologies to make the world better – there are so many possibilities. Dig in and spend some time observing what people really want from government and the many ways that might happen.

“Lastly, keep learning.”

Lastly, keep learning. I was extremely fortunate to have attended an MBA program when I was 50 years old. The learnings from the program were a very key ingredient to my later successes and have given me a thirst for learning, an incredible network and many new friendships that will last a lifetime. There are so many ways to learn nowadays and I recommend that you dedicate some time each day to expanding your horizons, building new contacts and better understanding the business of government.

Clerk Breaks Silence on Phoenix and Shared Services Canada

Clerk Breaks Silence on Phoenix and Shared Services Canada

August 4, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

Clerk Michael Wernick gave a one-on-one interview last week, opening up about the embattled Phoenix pay system and the constant criticism from public servants and departments of Shared Services Canada (SSC).

Shared Services Canada

If anyone was hoping for the slightest possibility that the public service might do a 180 on its IT approach and devolve SSC, returning IT ownership to individual departments, think again.

“We have no choice but to move forward with SSC. The idea that over 300 federal organizations were going to fix and modernize and recapitalize their IT, one at a time, by going to Treasury Board and Finance and building independent systems, is a fantasy scenario. We had to do it together.”

The Clerk was asked if he’d given any direction to SSC since he became Clerk, “No, we have an accountable deputy minister and head of SSC. I have told the deputy minister community that Shared Services Canada is here to stay, and we need an agency that is a service provider that is listening and open to its clients, and we need clients that are willing to work and engage with the service provider. When those relationships work well then we do very well.”

But when asked how he thought SSC had been operating thus far, the Clerk replied, “It’s a work in progress, obviously. Shared Services Canada is barely three and a half years old. It is a massive undertaking to transform IT of the largest organization in the country.

The only way to have adequate cyber protection around the information that departments are the custodians of is to have a strong perimeter defence. And the only way to do that — and this has been said many times by the head of the Communication Security Establishment — is to put departments and agencies behind the firewalls and the defences of Shared Services Canada.

So there are transition issues of migrating from where we have been to where we need to go, but I am quite determined that we have to have shared IT infrastructure in the government of Canada.”


Next, the Clerk was asked about his reaction to learning that public servants had to quit their jobs because of the problems associated with the public service pay system, Phoenix.

“Every department and agency in the federal government has the ability to issue emergency cheques and advances, and there is no reason for anybody to be without cash. And in many of the cases that have popped up in the media, people have, in fact, been given cash advances against the compensation that they’re owed.

The best thing for people to do is to go to the website, file their case online, or call the call centre and make sure that the pay file catches up with them, but there is no reason for anybody to be without cash.”

Other Links

Follow the Clerk on Facebook here.

Read the full length interview here.

Highlights From Budget 2016

Highlights From Budget 2016

March 23, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

The government tabled its 269 page budget for 2016 yesterday and in it, contained a number of key points affecting public servants under “Strengthening the Public Service” in the chapter called “Open and Transparent Government.”

Some highlights:

Sick leave and pensions
  • Nothing really new here; budget 2016 reaffirmed that the government is, “negotiating in good faith to reach agreements that are fair for public service
    employees and Canadians.” Highlighted are actions the government have already taken including: “introducing new legislation to repeal the legislative provisions that provided the government with the power to make unilateral changes to the disability and sick leave system; and reversed the previous government’s decision to book savings in respect of changes to the public service disability and sick leave system in advance of the completion of negotiations.”
Transformation in the public service
  • The public service to receive $75.2 million over two years to support back office transformation initiatives; this means the replacement of departmental human resources management, financial management and information management platforms with government-wide systems.
Government travel, contractors, and advertising
  • Annual reductions of $221 million in professional services (contracting), travel and government advertising, starting in 2016–17 as a result of its commitment to, “to eliminate poorly targeted and inefficient programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective and obsolete government initiatives.”
Security of IT networks and systems
  • About $77.4 million is being proposed over five years, starting in 2016–17 to, “implement new measures to improve the security of government networks and information technology systems. These measures will ensure that the government can better defend its networks and systems from cyber threats, malicious software and unauthorized access.”
Access to Information (ATIP)
  • The Access to Information Act was once again referenced and the government’s commitment to making government more transparent, which means, “enhancing Canadians’ access to government information, streamlining requests for personal information and making more government data available.”
Government of Canada Service Strategy (web renewal, open government, and digital by default)
  • Treasury Board will get $17.8 million over five years to support the development of a Government of Canada client-first service strategy and to complete the migration of government websites to Canada.ca; it will also get $11.5 million over five years, which will double its budget for open government activities. This funding will, “allow Treasury Board to enhance its capacity to support engagement with Canadians, to design and deliver an ambitious open government strategy and to accelerate the provision of digital content.”
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
  • The CRA was singled out as the government will prioritize improving the quality and timelines of critical client services; budget 2016 proposes $185.8 million over five years, starting in 2016–17, and $14.6 million ongoing for the CRA to, “address the government’s commitments to service excellence through a number of initiatives.”
Privy Council Office (PCO)
  • PCO will get up to $49 million in 2016–17 and up to $50 million in 2017–18 to ensure it can effectively support the government’s agenda, as well as to strengthen security and make required investments in lifecycle updates to systems and buildings; the new Results and Delivery unit in PCO is also referenced as, “the government moves to a culture of measurement and impact.”
Shared Services
  • Shared Services Canada to get $383.8 million on a cash basis over 2016–17 and 2017–18 to support the transformation of government IT systems, data centres and telecommunications networks, as a result of the gaps identified in the Auditor General’s fall 2015 report.
Status of Women Canada
  • Status of Women Canada will get $23.3 million over five years, starting in 2016–17 to increase capacity at the agency.

Other Highlights

Overall, reaction from unions seemed generally positive:

As well, some of the government’s key priorities were reiterated in the document including:

  • commitment to increasing its engagement with provinces and territories;
  • putting more focus on digital communications in the public service; and
  • making changes to Canada’s democratic institutions, such as revising the processes for Governor in Council appointments and Senate appointments and implementing electoral reform.

Other Links

Read the complete Budget 2016 document here.

Shared Services Canada Confirms Email Migration On Hold Indefinitely

Shared Services Canada Confirms Email Migration On Hold Indefinitely

January 15, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

While only 12 departments/agencies out of 43 have migrated to the Canada.ca emails, Shared Services Canada (SSC) has confirmed that the migration for everyone else is on hold indefinitely until Bell can fix the hardware issues and keep the system running.

Bell was awarded the contract but constant delays have plagued the email transformation initiative, which was supposed to be completed in March 2015.

Earlier this week, it was reported that morale at SSC is “very, very poor right now” as it struggles with the consolidation of government IT systems.

A public servant at SSC was reported as saying, “They [upper management] keep telling us we have to operate at zero cost. We’re literally keeping it together with string, and Band-Aids, and gum. They keep saying it’s a ‘world-class organization’ but you can’t even get a pencil around here.”

Public servants have also been reported to have said that, “nearly every meeting is ‘dominated’ by the discussion of the poor morale and concerns over job security due to decisions being made by upper management around outsourcing.”

The union representing most public servants at SSC confirmed that, “it had on record 239 grievances that were ongoing between SSC employees and the department on issues such as workload, relations with a supervisor or management, and the constant shuffle within SSC.”

With files from here and here.

Public Servant Makes it to Final 2 MasterChef Canada Finale

Public Servant Makes it to Final 2 MasterChef Canada Finale

May 21, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

Line Pelletier from Shared Services Canada and a veteran of the Canadian military is about to find out if her dreams will come true of being crowned this season’s winner of MasterChef Canada.

She has made it all the way to the final two in a competition that started back in February. Line was actually one of two public servants competing; the other was Andrew Al-Khouri from PWGSC who was eliminated earlier on.

Line is no stranger to challenges as she was injured while in the military, had 11 knee surgeries, two of which were reconstructive. She was in rehabilitation for over nine months and was told she would never be able to walk in heels again. Determined to not allow someone to tell her that she couldn’t do something, she strived to be able to walk again in them which she did. She made it a point to wear heels in the competition which became her signature on the show, as well as to make a statement and prove that’s she a fighter.

You can root for Line by following her on Twitter at @TheSaucyLine and watching her in the season finale when the winner will be revealed this Sunday at 8pm (EST) on CTV.


Watch the preview for the finale here:

Watch an inspired Line using her mad skills in a challenge, cooking in front of her family here.

With files from here.

Two Public Servants Make Their MasterChef Debut

Two Public Servants Make Their MasterChef Debut

February 4, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

A public servant from Public Works and Government Services Canada and a veteran of the Canadian military have made it as finalists on season 2 of MasterChef Canada:

mc01 Andrew Al-Khouri from Halifax works at PWGSC by day but by night is also a musician, owns his own catering company, as well as a woodworking company. He says his storyline on MasterChef is centered around how he works in an office job and that he wants to make a change by moving into the culinary industry.

Read more about Andrew in this interview here.




mc02Meet Line Pelletier, who drew from her public service background in the competition. Her audition dish for the judges was actually called a “RCMPie” and pays tribute to fallen RCMP officers on the show.

You can listen to a Radio-Canada interview with Line here. (Available in French only).

You can follow both their journeys on season two of MasterChef Canada by tuning in on Sundays at 7pm.



rcmpie01 rcmpie02









Other Links

Why I Quit My Government Job

Public Servants by Day Who Transform by Night

Changes Announced to the Senior Ranks of the Public Service

Changes Announced to the Senior Ranks of the Public Service

January 6, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

This afternoon it was announced that Richard Fadden, current DM of DND will become the Prime Minister’s national security advisor, effective January 19, 2015.

Other changes announced:

David McGovern, currently Senior Advisor to the Privy Council Office, responsible for the Border Action Plan Implementation and Regulatory Cooperation Council, becomes Deputy National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, effective January 19, 2015.

George Da Pont, currently Deputy Minister of Health, becomes Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services, effective January 21, 2015.

Simon Kennedy, currently Deputy Minister for International Trade, becomes Deputy Minister of Health, effective January 21, 2015.

Christine Hogan, currently Foreign and Defence Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, becomes Deputy Minister for International Trade, effective January 21, 2015.

Kelly Gillis, currently Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications, Industry Canada, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of Industry, effective January 12, 2015.

Siddika Mithani, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of the Environment, effective January 12, 2015.

Chris Forbes, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Environment Canada, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, effective January 12, 2015.

The Prime Minister also announced that John A. Glowacki Jr. joins Shared Services Canada as Chief Operating Officer, effective February 2, 2015.

The Prime Minister thanked Grant Westcott for his contributions as Chief Operating Officer at Shared Services Canada and wished him success in his future endeavours.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to congratulate Stephen Rigby, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, on the occasion of his retirement from the Public Service and to thank him for his many achievements and service to Canadians during his 34-year career.

The Prime Minister also thanked Judith LaRocque, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, on the occasion of her retirement from the Public Service, noting her dedication and commitment in serving Canadians over the course of her 35-year career.

The Prime Minister also took this opportunity to acknowledge the appointment of Michelle d’Auray as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris and to thank her for her contributions as Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Read the full news release here.

Read the biographies here.

GoC Career Boot Camp 2015

GoC Career Boot Camp 2015

December 16, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

On Wednesday February 11, take part in Career Boot Camp 2015: a nationwide, interdepartmental day of learning designed for GoC employees. It is hosted by the Federal Youth Network, the Canada School of Public Service and Shared Services Canada.

This year’s theme is “Tools for Success” and will focus on honing the competencies and skills needed to best perform at one’s current level, pursuing goals and developing a meaningful career in the public service.

Career Boot Camp 2015 will take place simultaneously across the country in Vancouver, Halifax and Gatineau, with a nationwide broadcast linking the three cities and allowing participation regardless of location. It’s an opportunity to connect with colleagues across Canada and learn from them, helping to plan next career steps as a public servant.

The day will feature plenary sessions and interactive workshops led by guest speakers and experienced colleagues of all levels.

Sound interesting and think you’d might like to go? Check out the preliminary program here.

Can’t make it? The event will be live tweeted and you can follow the hashtag #cbc_cdc here.

If going in Gatineau, a set number of seats are allocated to each department. To register, get in touch with your departmental young professional network.

Theft Across the GoC in 2014

Theft Across the GoC in 2014

December 8, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

To most GoC employees, the mention of “Public Accounts” might trigger a sudden, narcoleptic-like snorefest. Public accounts is an annual report which summarizes GoC financial transactions and detailed records as maintained by each department and agency. The 2014 edition was recently just released and as one might expect, it’s a beast in size, spanning across three volumes.

Yet, a closer inspection reveals an itemized list of all reported loss, fraud, theft and damage done to GoC assets and property over the past year.

Some eyebrow-raising worthy highlights:

  • Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioners – theft of a portable hard drive;
  • Environment Canada – theft of copper wires and a defibrillator totalling 22.5k;
  • DFATD – theft of a carpet, a TV and someone else’s recognition award totalling 4.2k;
  • CFIA – theft of a boat engine, door magnet, license plates and 3 cases of tire thefts;
  • PHAC – stolen laptops, portable hard drive and USB keys;
  • AANDC – stolen beaver pelts;
  • Industry – a GPS and a weight kit stolen; someone lost a fridge; 39 cases of lab equipment being lost totalling 64k; 5 cases of servers bring lost;
  • NRC – lab equipment, metal plates and a plasma television stolen;
  • House of Commons – camcorder, camera, laptops, tablets all stolen;
  • PWGSC – 9 cases of laptops being stolen;
  • Transport – 4 cases of laptops stolen;
  • Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario – 63 cases of computer equipment being lost and 1 lost shredder all at 10k;
  • Shared Services – lost 2 routers at 50k; and
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food – 1 case of baled hay being stolen at a cost of 3k.

Nearly all departments listed had at least one case of a laptop or tablet being lost or stolen.

The full losses of public money list can be found in Volume III here.

GoC Employees Break GCWCC Record with 1 Day Blitz

GoC Employees Break GCWCC Record with 1 Day Blitz

November 14, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

A grand total of $636,213 has been raised by GoC employees in a one day blitz for the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC), setting a new record.

The total was announced at the GoC’s talent show for the GCWCC which capped off a very busy day as the blitz took place across 20 departments such as Shared Services, Canada Revenue Agency, Transport, CIC and PWGSC.