Social Connect via:
So what does the typical day for the bureaucrat look like? The new bureaucrat logs into their computer which takes about 10-20 minutes to start up because it has one processor with 1GB of RAM and was built about 5 years ago. After login, they pop open Microsoft Outlook 2003, check their e-mail and calendar for the day. They notice that they have to review a briefing note received via e-mail. They open up the briefing note in Microsoft Word, make some changes, re-attach it to a reply e-mail and send it back out. Does anyone else notice something wrong with this scenario?
Adoption of cloud-based solutions is not small nor is it new. Nearly every user interacts with the cloud in one way or other. This is an amazing infographic that shows the stats on cloud computing and provides an excellent overview of how just large cloud computing has become.
The scenario of walking into the office and simply having a workstation with Microsoft Office is not an outdated analogy from 2003. In 2012, there are many public servants whose computers simply run Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office. In many cases we are still running the 2003 version of each piece of software. A majority of the work of the public service is still done by traditional desktop or local server based software and e-mail clients. For much of the public service, the reality faced is one where work is conducted on 5-6 year old desktop tower computers in localized applications using outdated desktop software that stifle collaboration, create version control problems and ultimately cost the government more money to run and administer. The world of the bureaucrat exists within an IT environment considered average in 2005. While the government of Canada did announce the creation of Shared Services Canada, the jury is still awaiting judgement on the new concept as it begins to be implemented and true evaluation metrics are collected and analyzed.
So why are public servants being asked to do work using outdated technology? Is it because of senior management who are happy with technology and fearful of change? Is it because of budgetary constraints as IT costs continue to raise? Is it because of perceived security or privacy risks? I argue that it’s a little bit of everything I mentioned. Even more than those factors, it’s the double edged sword that the public service often faces when it comes to program spending. As a public servant, you have to get “value for money” or show that every cent spent achieved results. It is often difficult to quantify an “IT” dollar spent and its effect on your mandated goal/objective vs. “direct service delivery or programming” dollar spent and its effect on your mandated goal/objective. To illustrate that point even further, if I told you that you had $2 and after spending the money I wanted you to show me how many candies you had (value for money), how would you spend the money? Would you invest in IT maintenance and infrastructure or just spend it all on candy? While one offers “possibilities” of getting more candy (IT), just buying the candy directly gets the more immediate and apparent positive result.
So where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us in a place where we don’t have the tools to do the best job possible for Canadian citizens. We don’t have the technology to connect with Canadians in the spheres and spaces they use. We don’t have the technology we need to be mobile public servants who are able to dock into a station when we need to sit down and think then step up and become mobile when we need to be on the go. We don’t have wifi, docking stations, tablets, cloud based apps that let us take our work with us and don’t restrict us to a cubicle. Our work continues to be planted physically within the government firewall restricting our ability to be a more agile and responsive worker regardless of where we are. And don’t tell me it’s a security issue because if Finance and Treasury Board Secretariat have taught us anything, the government can be hacked even when behind the government firewall.
Scott McNaughton, thenewbureauacracy.ca