Automated language translation … a solution to public sector communication requirements


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Automated language translation … a solution to public sector communication requirements

  1. 1. September 2009
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  3. 3. FROM THE EDITOR September 2009 It is hard for me to believe that summer has passed and here we are in September already. While the weather is cooling, many things are just heating up, including a variety of seminars, conferences and training opportunities designed with you in mind. And as always, in the information technology sector, things move as fast as the seasons seem to pass. Our fall Focus on IT issue highlights how evolving technology makes more and more possible… and also how technology evolves to support our evolving world. The influence that each has on each other seems to create a circle of increasing productivity. In this issue, we focus on the procurement challenges of acquiring open source software, on the developing translation software and on how enterprise software properly acquired and implemented can change the public sector workplace. We also look at some procurement issues in the area of Ontario’s eHealth system. In my recent Editor’s note, delivered to you by email, I requested your participation in a short survey on how your organization handles e-waste disposal. Please take a few minutes before September 30 and take the survey at I would like to welcome as publisher of Summit magazine, Steve Bauld. His experience in both the public and private sectors and his passion for procurement offer much to benefit this magazine and you, its readers. . Please also note the information on our You Asked for It! Regional sponsor: Ontario Institute of PMAC workshops, designed with input directly from you. Information October 16, 2009 in Ottawa on our fall workshop is now available in the notice next to this letter and also at . Fee to attend is $500 and includes workshop materials and two books by Bauld and McGuinness. Enjoy. . September 2009
  4. 4. CONTENTS September 2009 PUBLISHER Steve Bauld Editorial EDITOR Anne Phillips Automated language translation No matter the language, IT translation software is increasingly providing a solution for public CONTRIBUTORS: Mike Gifford, Hannah Grap, Andrew MillerRalph Blauel, sector communication requirements. Steve Bauld, Kevin McGuinness by Hannah Grap PHOTO/ILLUSTRATION/GRAPHICS COVER Procuring “free” software Circulation Governments face some challenges when CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Terry Gray deciding to procure open source software. Understanding the value and the options open are Subscription Information key to success. by Mike Gifford Tel: 1-800-575-1146 or 613-688-0768 Online : Subscription Rates (1 yr) Government, citizens, services, growth Canada: $21.95 + applicable tax Ontario’s Halton region maximizes its IT International: US$21.95 investments to support organizational efficiency and citizen service. Publications Mail Agreement: 40016453 by Ralph Blauel Business No: 87996 3791 RT0001 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Summit Group 263 Holmwood Ave, Suite 100, Ottawa ON K1S 2P8 Advertising Dovetail Communications Inc. eHealth lessons Beth Kukkonen, Sales Manager What can we learn from the procurement Tel: 905-886-6641, ext. 306 processes being scrutinized at Ontario’s eHealth, agency? Robyn Cooper, Account Manager by Andrew Miller Tel: 905-886-6641 ext.305 Email: Editorial Advisory Board opinions Lynda Allair, Consultant David Ash, Government of Manitoba A house divided George Butts, Consultant municipal matters Sue Cork, City of Toronto …It is “particularly critical that the exclusivity of staff and Howard Grant, Partnering and Procurement council responsibilies be made both express and manifest in Bill Michalopulos, Canada Post relation the purchasing function.” Bauld and McGuinness look Stephen Whittaker, Ontario Education Collaborative Marketplace at this important element of municipal government. Summit magazine is the professional publication of choice for members of the Canadian Public Procurement Council and the Canadian Institute for Procurement and Materiel Management. ________________________________ I want to welcome Steve Bauld, as the new publisher of Vol. 12, Online No. 6 ISSN: 1481-4935 Summit: Canada’s magazine on public sector purchasing. Steve has worked in procurement for over 20 years in ©2009 Summit: Canada’s magazine on public sector purchasing both the public and private sectors. He is a noted author Published by Summit: The Business of Public Sector Procurement Inc. and speaker on procurement issues. His experience and o/a The Summit Group knowledge will help Summit magazine serve you in even Tel: 613-688-0762 Fax: 613-688-0767 more and better ways. Any errors, omissions or opinions found in this magazine should not be McEvoy Galbreath attributed to the publisher. The authors, the publisher and the collaborating President, Summit Group organizations will not assume any responsibility for commercial loss due to business decisions made based on the information contained in this magazine. No part of this publication may be reproduced, reprinted, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in part or whole, in any form or by any WWW.SUMMITCONNECTS.COM means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior w ritten consent of the publisher.
  5. 5. Automated language translation … a sol utio n to p ub lic sect or comm unicatio n requir em ents by Hannah Grap The Web has closed the gap between countries organizations that need to communicate and and people, allowing users around the world to access information in and across multiple exchange opinions and information in entirely languages. new ways and in more languages. Nearly 1.5 billion people are now online. What’s more, the Enabling government objectives Web is increasingly used as a communications Government organizations need solutions that medium through social media – including social enable mission-critical decision making. This networks, message forums, blogs and email – typically includes rapid access to all relevant allowing people to interact and share information, and the ability to search and information around the world, regardless of quantify unstructured information from a variety location. of languages. This growth of content creation and distribution around the world has created an enormous challenge for both government and commercial September 2009
  6. 6. For hundreds of years, these organizations have Deploying automated translation for relied on translators for this work to meet government intelligence, commerce and diplomacy For government organizations, the key objective objectives, but the digital era poses special is to get as much content into one language as challenges for translators. The volume of content quickly as possible so that decision makers have to be translated is now so massive that it vastly timely access to relevant information from a exceeds the limits of the world’s human variety of sources. translators, even working at full capacity. To make matters more complicated, digital content Currently, Language Weaver deploys automated appears in a variety of different formats and language translation solutions in a variety of languages – and it’s growing exponentially. ways in the government sector. In many of these deployments, the automated language translation Today, there is a solution to this challenge. software is seamlessly integrated with existing Language translation software offers third-party applications to accelerate access to organizations innovative and expanding foreign language information. Below are some possibilities. Translation technology has examples of automated language translation in advanced to the point where it can offer a action: trusted, reliable level of translation quality that conveys meaning quickly and accurately. By Foreign broadcast monitoring: Users see dramatically lowering the cost of translation and hear the original news broadcast in a while still delivering translation quality, foreign language and see a transcription of automated translation software offers a range of the original broadcast with a translation opportunities inconceivable just a decade ago. provided by Language Weaver. Using trusted technology from partners, all of Language Weaver, one of the leading developers this is done in near real-time (5-30 minute of translation software, commercialized a delay from live broadcast). statistical approach to automated language translation and natural language processing. This Multilingual search: Users are able to breakthrough technology overcomes the search the web in another language, such weaknesses that have limited commercial as Arabic. The application translates an success for automated translation in the past and English query into Arabic, searches the now can enable human communication across web in Arabic and returns the original languages. Arabic search results, with the English translation. Users can translate each page in the results on-demand using Language Weaver's software. Users retrieve much different and more relevant results than if By adding automation to the translation process, they were searching only in English. government organizations can quickly translate documents, blogs, websites, and focus on Cross-lingual chat: Users can instant supporting language efforts where it is difficult message or “chat” in their native language to scale human translator resources. Only with foreign language speakers. The relevant documents need to be sent to humans application provides a translation for each for a more accurate translation and analysis, message sent, allowing human communi- allowing governments to prioritize and cation across languages. maximize translation resources and gain significant improvements in productivity. September 2009
  7. 7. Ad-hoc document and website information, regardless of the original language, translation: Users are empowered to can be analyzed and escalated as needed. translate documents and websites to and from a broad list of languages. This initial In today’s digital world, content volume is translation enables users to escalate massive and the growth of content is critical information for further analysis overwhelming. Web-based communications and interpretation. channels are numerous, expanding in number, and in continuous use around the world. Leveraging automated translation in Government organizations rely on innovation government through advances in automated language Automated translation software cost-effectively translation to stay informed. enables government organizations to translate everything in near real-time so that all Hannah Grap, director of marketing at Language Weaver (founded in 2002), has addressed audiences in North America and Europe on the value of translating new types of content and providing more focus on multilingual communication. She is in charge of Language Weaver's international marketing initiatives and works with the company’s strategic partners. Her background is in marketing and technical communications and she previously worked in the financial services sector. Hannah holds a Master of Science degree in technical communications from the University of Washington. September 2009
  8. 8. How can government responsibly procure free software? by Mike Gifford Free software is “free” in two senses: it is In this age of the Internet and mature, enterprise- distributed free of charge, and can be freely used ready, open-source projects, commercial off-the- and shared because it is unencumbered by shelf software is an outdated concept. There is onerous and restrictive licences. This software no longer a need for either the boxed software or model has been refined over the past twenty-five the shelf it sat on. This article offers an years, and its use has become mainstream. 1 introduction to this model [open source] of software development and distribution, and For example, in 2008, leading IT industry offers procurement professionals guidelines for analyst Gartner Research announced that, approaching and understanding free and open- “Eighty-five percent of companies are already source tools. using open source software, with most of the remaining 15 percent expecting to do so within the next year.” Amazon lists 90,000 books when 1 2 searching for “open source,” and there are many more publications available electronically. 2 September 2009
  9. 9. What is free/open-source software? expertise that can be mobilized, commercially, Free software is distinguished by its licensing or not, to troubleshoot and improve FOSS and by its transparency; it can be freely systems. distributed and modified because its source code is made available. In contrast to the opaque Open source software reduces up-front workings of proprietary software, free software implementation costs by eliminating license is developed in public, and is freely available for fees, but more importantly it can help protect inspection, evaluation, and modification. against single -vendor lock-in. There are subtle licensing and philosophical Vendor lock-in is a problem because it increases differences between “free software” as defined the cost for the deliverables. Lock-in is also a and promoted by the Free Software Foundation problem in terms of future-proofing your data or (FSF) and the broad world of “open source” applications. If a company is bought out, goes software. Our focus will be on free open source out of business, or simply discontinues a product software (FOSS), but most of the points will line, you may not be able to get support for your also be relevant to open source software (OSS) software. Software producers benefit by lock-in as well. because they have an effective monopoly on their customers; this means they have little or no However there are many assessments of the incentive to make better products, or to make value of FOSS products which clearly show that their products interact well with other tools. this is not the case. According to, for example, the office suite would cost almost USD $150 million to develop from The “free” aspect of [open source scratch, but it can downloaded for free, and offers a near drop-in replacement for Microsoft software] has been seen as problematic, Office. In addition, it can then be distributed, inasmuch as things that are free are often modified, and improved just like other FOSS seen as being without value. software. 3 Given that the current economic challenges On a technical level, FOSS tools benefit from mean everyone is trying to do more with less, open, distributed, community-driven paying for a licence is often an unnecessary development. Many FOSS projects enjoy the expense. And proprietary, closed-source attention of hundreds or thousands of software has far more costs than most developers, and tens or hundreds of thousands of government agencies realize. When you hire engaged users. Such projects have demonstrated consultants to deploy and manage closed source very rapid cycles of continuous quality products, there is no added value or opportunity improvement. Moreover, they are directly and to participate in a community of innovation. actively responsive to the needs of their users. Investment in FOSS projects, on the other hand, Many organizations have chosen to implement benefits the entire sphere of FOSS users and mature open source projects because they allow developers. Open source tools free you from dependency on the sustainability, competence, 3 and good will of third-party software vendors because there is a community of technical September 2009
  10. 10. for the fast delivery of a well-tested product. In depend on finding a cost-effective manner to developing the Canadian Museum for Human deliver services. Government financing comes Rights4 website within just six weeks, for largely through its citizens and anything that is instance, Mark Stephenson of RealDecoy5 said, produced is ultimately there to benefit the “the Drupal6 framework really saved us a lot of community. Likewise software projects are time.” responsible to their community of users. Despite its strong technical reputation and very Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Canada, widespread use, there remains a great deal of Jeff Braybrook, spoke in February about the uncertainty about free software. Many of the Treasury Board’s adoption of MediaWiki for concerns are unfounded, and based on limited GCPedia. In his summary government and knowledge of the FOSS community. For FOSS communities are natural allies as they instance, the following are all true of FOSS share common values. Both communities: i) software: encourage participation and have a platform to perform, contribute and interact with others; ii) • there is a great deal of commercial promote co-operation and collaboration which is support available; critical for any successful federal government or • you have a wide choice of vendors open source project; and iii) depend upon and (unlike many proprietary applications); are improved by agreed upon standards that • it is almost always more secure than allow for innovation. 9 closed-source code and on par or better than proprietary software, because the To be innovative you need to encourage user/developer community is constantly creativity, collaboration and provide inspiration evaluating and improving it; for those working on common problems. • industry has built and extended FOSS Innovation is largely about combining old tools applications for real world enterprise in new and creative ways. FOSS allows you to environments; and do this by not limiting how one can learn from • active communities allow users to learn and extend the tool and by encouraging the from each other and encourage technology to be shared with others. Govern- innovation. mental use of FOSS tools thus provides a ready opportunity to both fulfil internal technical requirements while at the same time fostering Government and FOSS: shared values and disseminating innovation. Free software is presently being used by most if not all government departments. There is no central listing of software used by the FOSS procurement internationally Government of Canada. A short survey conduc- Earlier this year in the UK, the IT in ted by OpenConcept7 revealed that nearly half of Government initiative of the Cabinet Office put the 400+ government websites reviewed were forward a very progressive procurement using some form of open source software.8 FOSS is already being used extensively from the 4 Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to the 5 Canadian Space Agency (CSA). http://www 6 7 In many ways FOSS software is a natural match 8 for government. Both software projects and nment_uses_plenty_of_open_source_software government departments are mission-based and 9 September 2009
  11. 11. position. They called for more use of open Industry Canada maintains an OSS Solutions source, open standards and re-use within and Support Providers page, and Public Works government. They were looking for solutions and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has that provided the best value for money and also created a Software Acquisition Reference Centre encouraged share and re-use of what the (SARC) that has a section for OSS. Neither of taxpayer has already purchased. The initiative these is an endorsement of the companies listed, was designed to encourage innovation and this but reflects a general need for government precedent will not only benefit governments departments to know where to consider their within the UK, but also around the world. 10 options.14 In the USA, the Department of Defense is a big PWGSC put forward an request for information advocate of this software model. Recently they (RFI) earlier this year in an attempt to get clarity launched, which is hosting the on how the federal government should approach military’s open source projects. In their study, this issue. There should be a good summary they determined that using open source projects from all of the input that was submitted, increases flexibility, produces greater however, in my view the question was much too interoperability and reduces IT costs. The US general. The RFI was for “Not for Charge National Defense Authorization Act “has Software,” which included both OSS and FOSS explicitly articulated a preference for open licences, but also careware, trialware, shareware source software.”11 There is a strong effort to and adware. This very broad set of licences has even further entrench open source within the very little in common other than that there is no USA government, especially since the election upfront financial cost. It should be stressed that of Barack Obama to the presidency. Large open openness and collaboration are distinctively source companies are banding together to lobby characteristic of OSS and FOSS projects. for change. Critical websites like have been built using the Drupal CMS, and OSS procurement There are strong precedents for the use of FOSS, others are coming online using other open clear indications of value for total cost of source tools.12 ownership, and plenty of evidence that OSS can FOSS procurement in Canada deliver enterprise-class results. But how does a It is a misconception that FOSS isn’t being used procurement officer evaluate software in this in the public sector in Canada. The Treasury new paradigm? In many cases the procurement Board’s Federated Architecture Program has officer may not have a software background so quite a wealth of information on OSS. Though it will not be able to technically compare two was largely written in 2003-2005 and thus needs similar solutions. Having a richer understanding to be updated, it is nonetheless an example of a of the software industry will help, but there are a central department pursuing a path for OSS number of steps that can be taken to improve procurement within the Government of best practices. The following are some items to Canada.13 consider: 10 urce.aspx • Evaluate the size of the community of 11 users and developers and look at source/news/2009/02/department -of-defense- relevant trends of comparable software launches-open-source-site- forgemil.ars (with so many options available, make 12 sure you have a critical mass). Google 13 allows you to do a simple comparison 14 with the trends search. 15 tic nsf/eng/h_it07356.html 15 2C+interwoven September 2009
  12. 12. • Check that there are users within your sector (it’s worth checking if there are The software procurement landscape any communities of government sites). Drupal’s founder Dries’ blog has a focus has become more complicated and it for government16 and there’s also two is critical that public sector managers Drupal Groups available (for be able to evaluate the richer set of municipalites17 and national/provincial 18 organizations). options that are now available. • In evaluating software, ensure that you are aware of the niche areas that the software is written for (MediaWiki19 is a • Software maturity is important for great wiki platform if you want to consideration. It is easy to start a emulate Wikipedia). software project, but much harder to • Most popular OSS projects are sustain it and build a strong user base transparent about their processes for around it. code review and also security eval- • Documentation is important issue to uations. It’s good to know what the evaluate with any software. Both online release schedule is and also that there is and user documentation should be an upgrade path available for users. All considered (With any reasonably large software needs to get upgraded at some OSS project you’ll find that there are point, so it’s best to have a plan. books are available). • Is there a strong user community that is • How user friendly is the product and contributing back to the projects (either how much training is required? in bug reports, feature enhancements or • Is there a clear definition of what needs even providing use cases)? Are there the software is expected to fulfill? How regular conferences, or even local meet- well does the software being evaluated ups? meet these requirements? The Commons • Are there a number of companies who Group has developed a software needs work with the software who you can worksheet to help. 21 engage if required? Local companies and large multi-nationals are all using Conclusions OSS, so it is important to consider The software procurement landscape has where you want your money to go. become more complicated and it is critical that • Is there a clear software licence under public sector managers be able to evaluate the which you know what obligations there richer set of options that are now available. are for your work? If work is all Resources are available to help educate and developed under the same licence it will guide staff in making informed decisions about make it easier if questions around the pros and cons associated with different intellectual property issues do arise. Any choices. There are also a number of frameworks, software downloaded directly from like the one defined by the Commons Group is under the GPL free above, which can be used to plot the needs of the software license.20 organization to learn about how to make better • Particularly in Canada, it is useful to assess if there is language support in 16 http://buytaert net/tag/government both official languages. With most 17 18 software projects, the developer documentation is usually written in agencies-government 19 English, however it is critical that the 20 user/admin components can be available 21 in French as well. September 2009
  13. 13. use of software within your organization. Open source solutions offer robust performance Requirements gathering takes time and money to and technical excellence, but perhaps more do properly, but it is much better than once again importantly, they offer independence and purchasing something that doesn’t meet the flexibility. And importantly for the public sector, needs of users and that is incapable of being money spent implementing FOSS projects is an modified to do so. investment in the common good because improvements and testing for one can be contributed to improve these tools for all. Mike Gifford is the founder and president of OpenConcept Consulting Inc., a free software web development shop that has worked with several federal government departments including PWGSC, IC, CSPS and EC. OpenConcept has played a leading role with several free software projects since 2000 and are actively engaged in Ottawa’s Drupal community. In the last year, Mike has been spearheading the accessibility initiatives within Drupal 7 and hopes to see Drupal become the content management system of choice for government. September 2009
  14. 14. & supported by IT Ontario’s Halton Region makes serious IT investments by Ralph Blauel As one of Canada’s fastest growing public health. To ensure fiscal accountability, communities, Halton Region supports its efficiency and transparency to taxpayers, citizens through a strong commitment to its employees are always cognizant of ensuring strategic goals: managed growth, economic operations and processes are as efficient as prosperity, services to people, and effective possible. administration. Every day our employees deliver a diverse portfolio of regional programs and That’s why Halton Region invests in technology. services to our citizens – from public works to Like other public sector organizations, Halton September 2009
  15. 15. faces a variety of pressures ranging from municipal infrastructure and helps us keep taxes regulatory compliance to providing innovative down for our citizens. services at low cost to our citizens. It is critical that we optimize resources to simultaneously Halton Region’s investment in an ERP system manage these issues and increase operational benefits other organizations as well. In 1998, excellence, provide higher accountability more Halton Police Services, the City of Burlington, transparently and, ultimately, demonstrate and Halton Community Housing Corporation expanded return on investment. (HCHC) began using Halton’s SAP investment as well. By hosting their financial systems on our ERP, they didn’t have to acquire all of their Readying for growth with ERP own hardware, software or consulting services to Back in 1995 Halton’s IT team took a hard look create and support their own ERP systems. at the municipality’s technology platform and Instead, they use Halton Region’s IT and ERP decided it was the right time to begin expertise, with the City of Burlington, HCHC streamlining operations to mitigate the and Halton Region sharing the costs. The best incremental cost of growth. We had a number of news, though, is that it has saved the taxpayer requirements. First, we wanted to implement an $2 million in implementation costs – another enterprise resource planning (ERP) system so way we can demonstrate accountability to our we could improve our financial, human capital constituents. and operational processes. Secondly, only three of our 20 full-time IT employees had financial [Halton] wanted to implement an system skills, so we needed a solution that was easy to use and required little support. enterprise resource planning (ERP) system so it could improve its financial, human After an open competitive RFP process, it quickly became clear that SAP’s ERP solution capital and operational processes. was best suited to help us meet our current and future operational needs. This first municipal Rolling out the fleet implementation in North America was By 1998, Halton Region was maintaining a large completed on-time and on-budget and marked fleet of police, ambulance, field trucks and the beginning of our 14-year relationship with related vehicles. Unfortunately, timely data for SAP. With an ERP system in place, authorized fleet performance was difficult to obtain from employees can readily use analytics, financials, our existing processes. As the fleet size grew, human resources, procurement, plant, fleet and our outdated legacy systems just couldn’t keep operations services across the organization, up. Our clerks and mechanics had to work which increases productivity and improves cost longer hours just to keep up with the tedious, control. paper-intensive tasks, resulting in increased costs and some very tired employees. Without More than 467,200 people currently live in consolidated asset and maintenance data Halton Region, Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton systems, managers couldn’t be sure they were and Oakville. To support our anticipated growth working with current and reliable information. and achieve economic prosperity in line with Information was often outdated or duplicated, Ontario’s Places to Grow Act, our population and historical data for decision making was must grow by 68 percent over the next 25 years. difficult to access and collate. SAP offers us stable, transparent and robust controls, helping us maintain our AAA credit After evaluating fleet-specific point solutions, rating over the last 18 years. That, in turn, we implemented fleet management functionality reduces the cost of capital for building our from SAP. It went live at the fleet’s two garages September 2009
  16. 16. in early 1999, giving us much-needed real-time Our fleet has doubled in size since 1998, but we vehicle information that could be integrated with have only had to hire three additional employees existing finance, supply chain, and HR processes to meet the growth. That is more efficient use of – avoiding the need for costly point-solution our taxpayer’s dollars. The application’s relia - interfaces. The fleet management system also bility and scalability translates into trouble -free met our future integration needs for bar code and performance so we only require one in-house data collection, mobile devices, and enterprise SAP business analyst, and ongoing IT support portal access over the Internet. has been reduced to 15 percent of analyst time. Automated work orders have now replaced Halton Region’s director of Asset Management, manual processes. The increased efficiency of summed up the benefits like this: “Where the the automated system has allowed us to increase rubber meets the road is in our ability to provide our annual work order volume from 5,400 to safe and properly working vehicles to the 9,000 in just a few years. municipalities we serve. And we are. The SAP functionality for fleet management is helping us Authorized users requesting vehicle information meet that mission every day.” now have it at their fingertips in an instant. Mechanic “wrench on bolt time” has increased up to 10 percent, minimizing non-productive activities such as searching for vehicle and part information. September 2009
  17. 17. Paving the path to asset reporting abilities and ensure greater accuracy of our data. With success of the ERP and fleet management With SAP BusinessObjects’ business projects, Halton turned its attention to asset intelligence, data transformation and reporting reporting. To enhance confidence in public tools in place, we can quickly find any data sector reporting, the Public Sector Accounting irregularities so they can be addressed Board (PSAB) now requires every municipality immediately. Information accuracy is increasing, in Canada to account for and put a value on and our employees have confidence in the every road, sewer line, park facility and other decisions they make based on the information at assets, including the original capital cost of each their fingertips. asset and its amortized value based on the life of the asset. Compliance is mandatory. If assets aren’t clearly inventoried, our debt rating could Lessons learned be adversely affected. With 1,800 of Halton Region’s 2,000 employees using SAP in their daily work, we can SAP Canada and Halton worked together confidently say that it’s been an effective and to develop a solution that would help position valuable partnership. SAP is one of the most our municipality for compliance with PSAB stable vendors in our application portfolio. They mandates. We ran a series of workshops to are responsive to market sectors, including the determine and refine our requirements and municipal space, more so than some of other integrated Loki Innovations’ Real-Time Asset EPR vendors, and that’s one of the many reasons Value Analysis (RIVA ™) software and other why we continue to invest in SAP. third-party applications. SAP hired IDS Scheer Canada and Clockwork Inc. to configure and Many Canadian municipalities are sharing support project management services. similar IT success stories, which is why it’s so important to reach out to them for advice. The We went live with the PSAB IT solution in 2008 community is incredibly open about sharing – well before the mandated deadline. It has intellectual property and best practices. enhanced our ability to take accurate inventory Municipalities will even share code at no cost of our infrastructure. We can calculate because, quite frankly, we’re not in competition depreciation and track and record asset with each other like in the private sector. There’s maintenance in real time. We’re able to track all probably a solution out there already, and likely 17 asset classes across the organization. We are the owner of that solution will want to share it saving $250,000 in internal accounting costs with you at little or no cost. annually because we don’t need three accountants to do the work the solution And don’t forget to contact to the Municipal automates. To boot, Halton Region is the first Information Systems Association (MISA). You municipality in Canada to be able to achieve all can each to out to the MISA membership this with an ERP solution. whenever you have any questions. Talk to your counterparts often and learn from their This year, Halton Region is working again with experiences, because communication is the SAP to further refine our decision making vehicle that opens doors – especially for those new to the municipal IT experience. Ralph Blauel is the director of Information Technology for Halton Region in Ontario. September 2009
  18. 18. What can we learn from Ontario’s eHealth procurement process? by Andrew Miller The recent news about how Ontario’s eHealth This article will provide you with background has conducted some of its procurement is information on what eHealth did and why, and disturbing to many. More than $15 million in what can be learned from the situation. Hope- consulting contracts were awarded without a fully the pointers offered for going forward will competitive process. Those in the private sector bring some comfort to those in the public sector are thinking, “What is the big deal? We do that that may be unsure of what they can and cannot all of the time.” However, public sector do within the scope of public procurement. organizations, like eHealth, spend tax payers’ money and are subject to scrutiny that private Before going any further, it is important to clear companies cannot imagine. So even though, in up some of the facts that many publications have the case of eHealth, we are talking about only forgotten about, chose to conveniently ignore, or $15 million in contracts for an organization that is responsible for a budget of over $700 million per year, it is a big deal. September 2009
  19. 19. did not know about. I will discuss some of these the ineffectiveness of eHealth’s predecessor in more detail later in the article: organization, the Smart Systems for Health • Government procurement policies allow Agency (SSHA), by moving forward with for awarding of contracts without conviction and strategic direction. It will be competition in specific circumstances interesting to see how (and if) eHealth can and urgent need is one of those recover from this period of bad publicity circumstances; resulting from scrutiny of some of its • The eHealth Board of Directors and its procurement practices and continue its mandate CEO inherited an organization that had of reducing wait times and moving to electronic spent more than $650 million over the patient records. previous 5 years with virtually nothing to show for it and had a reputation as an I will not disagree that some of the procurement ineffective organization; and guidelines were relaxed in some of the decisions • They brought on consultants with made by eHealth and that generally, a com- experience in implementing electronic petitive tendering process provides the best health records and the rates that they benefit for the buying organization. Competitive paid are the going rates for top tendering processes will certainly make the consultants in any field. They needed environment more transparent; it is, however, the best to get eHealth back on track. much more time-consuming and labour intensive. Unfortunately, the actions of the A typical competitive process takes a minimum organization has caused the public to shift their of 2-3 months, depending on the size and scope focus from the objective of eHealth and ways to of the engagement. By going to competitive make the eHealth organization more effective to tender for every initiative, many smaller, easier the “$1.65 coffee and doughnut.” to implement initiatives would be delayed by weeks if not months. It is for this reason that So what could eHealth have done to avoid this most procurement policies have a provision that situation? Here are three things eHealth officials allows an organization to engage services for could have done: urgent needs where it is in the public’s best interest to bypass the competit ive process. This, 1. Ensured that there was backup of course, only applies when companies being documentation to justify why they were awarded the untendered contracts are compliant single sourcing from these consulting with identified requirements and the companies companies. This would include the level are qualified to do the work. These provisions of experience, any unique expertise and usually have an approval process where backup the specific value that these companies documentation is required. have, their ability to implement more quickly than others as well as the impact In my view, the eHealth officials were well of having to wait to make a decision as within the scope of their responsibilities to compared to starting immediately; exercise these provisions to begin work quickly 2. Been more transparent and formal about on their mandate of implementing electronic what the consultants were being hired to health records quickly and properly. I don’t do. This would have required more think anyone can argue against the fact that specific documentation on scope of eHealth needed to make some successful strides responsibilities, accountabilities, desired quickly, and were given a mandate to do so. The outcomes, etc.; and executives at eHealth were trying to make up for 3. Spent more time ensuring support from the various stakeholders, including the September 2009
  20. 20. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long- not something that a lot of people know about ... Term Care. This would have raised any they just read the bad press and come to think of issues earlier in the process and possibly it as yet another scandal … yet more bad avoided the controversy that ensued. It management and waste by ineffective govern- certainly would have helped to avoid the ments. Public sector procurement staff are so finger-pointing and blame game that is scrutinized and so quickly condemned for their going on now. actions that consequently it could soon become difficult to attract people into these positions. What can we learn from this controversy? After all why should we expect people to choose • Be transparent in your decision-making to work in an environment where they are often and know the policies that you need to publicly berated and blamed for everything, and follow. This is applicable for any often without the full facts being known or organization, but especially important understood? for organizations funded by the public sector. There is a balance to everything. I think that • Have backup documentation for all Ontario’s eHealth situation has shown that we decisions that you make in case they are are sometimes too quick to react before finding disputed. This means that you should out the facts. That does not bode well for the always assume that you are going to eHealth organization, which has already spent need to justify the decision to someone, too much money and is too far behind schedule. so be prepared. • Know the environment that you are in The key point is to remember that any buying and adjust to it. Make sure your primary decision made in the public sector will need to stakeholders are on board and be aware be justified to someone. As long as you have a of the public perception of what your defensible position and the appropriate docu- organization is doing. mentation, you will be able justify the decision that was made and how it was made. Moving forward, the eHealth situation has brought the subject of public procurement to the forefront of people’s minds. Unfortunately, it is Reprinted with permission. © Andrew Miller Andrew Miller is president of ACM Consulting Inc ( For more than a decade, Andrew has been providing valuable operational and procurement advice to companies of all sizes around the globe, with a focus on bottom line results. Sometimes referred to as the Procurement Guru™, Andrew has been featured in Canadian newspapers and magazines and in several books. Andrew has an International MBA with majors in Logistics and Marketing from the Schulich School of Business in Toronto. He is an active speaker and writer and can be reached at September 2009
  21. 21. A house bailiwick by which they were elected or in which they reside, or any other person or entity, or the special interest group or cause of the divided moment, save and except that they may do so in a manner consistent with these fundamental duties to the municipal corporation for which they serve. It is particularly critical that the by Steve Bauld and Kevin McGuinness exclusivity of staff and council responsibilities be made both express and manifest in relation to the purchasing function. While the directors and officers of a corporation cannot ignore the legal Municipalities are a kind of corporation. It is rights of the persons with whom a business therefore interesting to compare the corporation deals, the law is quite clear that responsibilities imposed upon the directors and when the foregoing duties are said to be owed to officers of a business corporation with those that the “corporation” by that is meant the are imposed upon the city council and staff of a shareholders of the corporation from time to municipality. In the case of the former, time. Thus, in the case of a business cor- subsection 134(1) of the Ontario Business poration, there is an undivided duty of loyalty to Corporations Act provides that every director the corporation, and a clear identification of the and officer of a corporation in exercising his or corporation with a specific set of stakeholders. her powers and discharging his or her duties to the corporation shall, Nevertheless, no comparable certainty of purpose exists in the case of a municipal (a) act honestly and in good faith corporation. Ontario’s Municipal Act contains with a view to the best interests of no analogue to subsection 134(1). Instead of the corporation; and directing the council and staff to further one (b) exercise the care, diligence and clear purpose, such as the best interests of the skill that a reasonably prudent municipality, they are variously directed “to be person would exercise in responsible and accountable governments,” and comparable circumstances. “to enhance the municipality’s ability to respond to municipal issues.” Section 244 of the Act This, we would submit, is the same standard as directs the council, should guide both councillors and municipal staff. They are there to represent and to further the (a) to represent the public and to interests of the municipality as a collective entity. consider the well-being and interests They are not there to represent or assist local of the municipality; business, local workers, the ward or other September 2009
  22. 22. (b) to develop and evaluate the policies The interests of the public are not paramount; and programs of the municipality; they are merely to be considered. (c) to determine which services the municipality provides; Even the public itself is an ambiguous entity. In (d) to ensure that administrative policies, various parts of the Act, the municipality is practices and procedures and identified not only with the “public,” but with its controllership policies, practices and electors, its residents or inhabitants, and its procedures are in place to implement ratepayers. Moreover, whereas the staff of a the decisions of council; business corporation are ultimately accountable (d.1) to ensure the to the same shareholders as the directors, the accountability and staff of a municipality are directed by section transparency of the 277 of the Municipal Act to act in a supporting operations of the municipality, capacity to the municipal council – as if the including the activities of the council on the one hand had some identity or senior management of the interest separate and apart from the municipality municipality; on the other. (e) to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality; and The divided loyalty imposed by the Municipal (f) to carry out the duties of council Act itself on municipal corporations permeates under this or any other Act. every aspect of municipal operations. At many municipalities, this divided loyalty is further Such diverse responsibilities raise the question of complicated by municipal bylaws, which add whether the public, whose well-being and even more subject areas with which staff must interests are required to be represented under be concerned. It is not difficult to see how such clause (a) constitute a separate line of confusion came about. responsibility from the “policies and programs” that council are directed to develop and evaluate Section 271(1)(b) of the Municipal Act, 2001 under clause (b), the services that they are to (now repealed) required a municipal provide under clause (c) and so forth. In a procurement policy to specify the goals to be business corporation, the very business that the achieved by using each type of procurement corporation conducts is incidental to the process. The wording of some municipal by-laws underlying obligation of furthering the best in itself often suggests some confusion on the interests of the corporation – that is of its part of council as to whether the municipality is shareholders. The business is a means to an end. there for the advancement of the interests of its Taking Section 244 at face value, in the case of residents or its suppliers. For instance, one a municipal corporation, both the governance Ontario region sets out 12 purposes, goals and structure – under clauses (d), (d.1) and (e) – and objectives that are to underlie the execution of the programs and services that the municipality the purchasing function for that region. The bias provides, each seem to be autonomous areas of in the list of such purposes towards being fair to concern, distinct in some way from the public. suppliers (as opposed to driving a hard deal for the benefit of taxpayers) is self-evident. September 2009
  23. 23. “The purposes, goals and objectives of this By- In a sense, this is shocking – for it is contrary to law and of each of the methods of Purchasing virtually every principle of corporate governance authorized herein are: for the staff of a corporate entity to be told to a) to encourage competitive bidding; place more or the same emphasis on defending b) to ensure objectivity and integrity in the the rights of others as they are told to place on Purchasing process; defending the rights and interests of their c) to ensure fairness between bidders; employers. d) to maximize savings for taxpayers; e) to offer a variety of Purchasing methods, Bylaws that put the interests of suppliers on a and to use the most appropriate method par with or ahead of the interests of the depending on the particular municipality appear to be inconsistent with circumstances of the acquisition; sections 2 and 8 of the Municipal Act, which f) to the extent possible, to ensure indicate that the purpose of municipal purchasing openness, accountability and policies and procedures is, or ought to be, to get transparency while protecting the best the best deal possible for the municipality, taking interests of the Corporation and the into account the need to formalize purchasing taxpayers of the Regional Municipality procedures in order to mitigate the risk of of Niagara; employee misconduct. g) to obtain the best value for the Corporation when procuring Goods and Services.” September 2009
  24. 24. They also fly in the face of commercial common rejected, in order to give precedence to the sense. In buying goods and services, a needs or interests of suppliers. The problem is municipality is simply a consumer. Our entire that a provision such as the one set out above economic system is based upon the notion of simply reinforces that attitude. By placing so autonomous traders and customers, each much emphasis on supplier interest in its own carrying on business with a view towards his or purchasing bylaw, the municipality reinforces the her own best interest. Essentially, for everyone approach that the courts have taken. Thus, when else than a supplier to the public sector, a trader, litigation arises in relation to some aspect of consultant, builder or other supplier of goods and procurement, any court that looks at the services is entitled to no better treatment from its municipality’s own purchasing bylaw will see customers than its market strength allows it to clear direction given, not only to take supplier exact. Not so with the supplier to a municipality; interests into account, but (if the ordering of the staff are instructed not to try to drive the price section is intended to give any direction) to place down, but rather “to encourage competitive fairness to suppliers ahead of the interests of bidding; … to ensure objectivity and integrity in taxpayers. the purchasing process; [and] … to ensure fairness between bidders.” Only when these Such over-emphasis on supplier interests steps have been taken, is any thought to be given entrenches a division of loyalty as a matter of to the taxpayer. law. Instead of being directed to put the interests of the municipality first, the municipal staff are Nevertheless, one can hardly blame a municipal being directed to make sure that its suppliers are council that becomes confused as to the direction fairly treated. to take when identifying the duties of municipal staff. If one reads through the hundreds of A house divided, so the Bible tells us, cannot judicial decisions that have been handed down in stand. Maybe it is time for municipal councils to recent years with respect to the subject of take a good hard look at their purchasing by-laws municipal procurement, it is rare to find a case in to see whether they are diverting staff from best which the idea of putting the municipality (or serving the interest of the municipality as a other public authority) first is even mentioned. corporate entity. On the other hand, it is possible to find quite a bit of case law in which the idea is implicitly Steve Bauld spent many years as purchasing manager at the City of Hamilton and served recently as vice president of the Ontario General Contractors Association. Kevin McGuinness is a lawyer with Ontario’s Attorney General. Together they have collaborated on several books about procurement and leadership, and will have a new edition of the Municipal Procurement Handbook released this fall. They are regular contributors to Summit magazine. September 2009