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Toronto to invest $200-M in digital transformation
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Toronto to invest $200-M in digital transformation 

Canada’s comparatively weak performance in education and research and development (R&D) expenditures, information and communication technology (ICT) services and energy efficiency, were among the reasons cited for Canada missing the top 10 list in the recent World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ranking of innovative nations. Canada came in number 15, just below Hong Kong (14th) and Iceland (13th) among some 100 nations.

But in Toronto, at least, public service CIOs are aiming to boost their delivery capacity thanks to a renewed focus on digital transformation

“There’s been a prolonged underinvestment in technology in Toronto’s public service,” Rob Meikle, CIO for the City of Toronto, explained during a recent CIO panel discussion hosted by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). “It’s only now that were getting some discussion…before it was all about reduction, reduction, reduction.”

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Also part of the panel were Anthony Iannucci, CIO of the Toronto Transit Commission; and Alex Hocevar, director of digital services and emerging technologies at the Toronto Public Library.

The panelists talked about their respective organization’s digital transformation plans.

Meikle said Toronto is investing about $200 million over the next 10 years in 13 key areas of transformation.

The city’s so-called eCity Programs is aimed at serving residents, businesses, and visitors to Toronto.

The city will be spending some $19.7 million on IT foundational components such as wi-fi networks, electronic forum, mobile app management and identify management technology. From there, as much as $47.9 million is being earmarked for work and asset management transformation to modernize enterprise work order management and asset lifecycle management. Another $31.4 million is being set aside for information management and business intelligence to develop analytics, reporting, data governance and data records management.

Other services being planned include:

  • Online service delivery channels
  • Case management (HR, client relations, partner relationships management)
  • Open government (open data, transparency and engagement initiatives)
  • eProcurement and supply chain
  • Project management
  • Work and asset transformation
  • Finance
  • Time and attendance and payroll
  • Employee productivity (workplace tech, mobility and coloration tool)
  • HR transformation (recruitment, talent and training)

“As you can see, I am a juggling a lot of balls,” said Meikle. “It not a matter of if, but when one of those balls will drop. My priority is to know which ones are the glass balls which will break and which one are the rubber balls.”

The top priorities for Iannucci is the replacement of the TTC’s backoffice legacy IT systems and the roll out of OneIT, the transit systems strategy for developing strategic business partnerships in order to develop agile and adaptable delivery services to improve customer experience and cutcost through improved technology and assets management.

Iannucci said the TTC is budgeting $67 million for this year for its large scale applications and IT infrastructure projects.

Among the key projects are the implementation of SAP software solutions for HR and finance, customer relations management, and enterprise data.

It’s important to replace legacy systems because they are holding back TTC technology personnel from doing more value-added work, he said.

“A lot of our legacy systems are more than 30 years,” according to Iannucci. “We need better insight into data so we can make more informed decisions.”

One of the exciting TTC transformation projects is CAD/AVL or computer aided dispatch and automated vehicle location.

“We have vehicle location right now, but it’s 40 plus years old and it’s sign post-based and radio communication-based. We were considered innovators when they came up then,” Iannucci said.

The new computerized system will collect real-time data on vehicles and will not only tell dispatchers where vehicles are but also inform operators more accurately about the health of their vehicles.

“With something like this, operators don’t need to unload a bus full of riders in the cold of winter just because a red light on the dashboard starts flashing,” Iannucci said. “The system will tell him if the vehicle problem is really serious or if he can make it to the nearest terminal…and maybe be able to drop off the passengers in a warmer more convenient place.”

The library may look like it’s very different from most city organizations, but according to Hocevar the back office operations of the TPL is very similar to most businesses.

The TPL’s 2,000 employees have laptops and PC, it has a call centre, human resources management systems, a financial management system, a data centre, an integrated lending system, and a network and IT infrastructure for 100 branches and two admin facilities.

The library is no longer just a place for musty, neglected books. For one thing, a TPL branch is your best for accessing free downloads of music, TV shoes, movies, books and online lessons.

“We support virtual e-services…we have 3D printing equipment in some branches…offer 24/7 free Wi-Fi, and we generate 8TB of Internet traffic daily,” said Hocevar, who just joined TPL just three months ago after a six-year stint as executive director of strategy and transformation at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The TPL plans to further improve public computing access and to provide video conferencing services to its customers. It is also upgrading capabilities and payment and cash handling system.

“This is important, because much of the payment system is still manual,” Hocevar said. “When you come into a branch to pay your due, the person in the cash register taking your money is likely somebody with a PhD. They could be doing something else.”

Like the City of Toronto and the TTC, transforming the back office is critical to the TPL.

Among its IT challenges are: enhancing shared services infrastructure for office productivity, HR and telephony; building common standards and process for architecture and portfolio management; and information management for search and discovery, data governance and business intelligence.

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