Transforming the City of Edmonton IT Branch

On Friday the City of Edmonton’s IT branch held its first ever IT Vendor Open House. The event was a big success, with dozens of local technology professionals stopping by throughout the day. Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about how the IT branch does business, and about some of the initiatives and projects that are coming down the pipe. The event also gave the IT branch a chance to share some of the work they’ve done recently to transform internally.

Chris Moore, the City’s Chief Information Officer, delivered two keynotes during the day, called “IT New Directions”. Chris isn’t your typical CIO – he doesn’t have a desk in his office, he avoids PowerPoint whenever possible, and he is always one step ahead of everyone else. For example, it wasn’t possible for anyone to run Macintosh computers at the City until recently. While everyone has been focusing on making that a reality (a few Councillors switched over earlier this year), Chris is looking at what’s next: bring your own technology. Chris imagines an environment in which employees can run whatever they like.

Edmonton CIO Chris Moore

He touched on a few main points:

  • There are around 1100 different applications and systems at the City. Only 132 of them are Access or Excel. That means there’s an incredible amount of overhead required for management and support, not to mention data in 1100 different places.
  • Throughout the spring, the IT branch held mini town halls, with about ten employees in each (there are 300 employees total).
  • Out of those discussions and other meetings, a new Agile Service Delivery Model emerged.

One of the few slides Chris showed during his keynote was a list of highlights from the past sixty years:

  • 1954: Univac 120 – First in Western Canada
  • 1960: IBM 1401 – First in Canada
  • 1966: IBM 360 – One of the first in Canada
  • 1978: Early adopter of GIS
  • 1980: City recruits IT staff from the U.K.
  • 1985: Sale of COINS to Orange County, CA
  • 1991: gov.edmonton.ab.ca, “early Internet adopter”
  • 1996: POSSE – Award winning system
  • 1999: One of the first cities to move to Enterprise GIS
  • 2009: First city in North America to use SAP CRM for 311

The slide was titled “Western Canada’s Municipal Information Technology Leader”. That’s perhaps a bit of a stretch for the last few years, but it’s certainly the goal for the future. Chris and his team want to get back to being the innovators.

On June 18th, the Information Technology Corporate Audit Report for 2008 was released and it talks a lot about the drivers behind the transformation that Chris touched on in his keynote. Here’s a Wordle of the report:

Among other things, there were two clear conclusions from the report (which you can download here in Word format):

  • That Corporate IT resources can be used in a more cost effective and efficient manner.
  • That the IT Governance Framework is not effective in prioritizing and allocating operating and capital resources for information technology.

In reality, there isn’t much of a Governance Framework at the moment, but the IT branch is already working to change that. They’ve created something they call COKESFORIT, or the “ten ways of being”:

  1. Collaborative
  2. Open
  3. Knowledgeable
  4. Empowered
  5. Supportive
  6. Flexible
  7. Organized
  8. Responsible
  9. Innovative
  10. Trusting

The idea is that everything the IT branch does should align with these concepts.

During ICLEI a couple weeks ago, visual facilitator Roy Blumenthal worked with the IT branch, and captured eighteen impressive visual notes. As a fan of open data, I like this one:

I’m excited about the changes taking place at the IT branch. I think the organization is heading down the right path: to become more efficient and more transparent. If you’ve got ideas or feedback, now seems like the right time to get in touch with them!

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  • As an outsider, the one observation I can make about Chris’s transformation is that he’s certainly walking his talk.

    The images I captured during that session were immediately shared with all staffmembers who were present at the meeting. But more than that… The images were also shared with the public.

    When I asked Chris what he would like to do with the images, he was very happy for them to be placed in a public group on my Flickr gallery.

    His words were something like: ‘We’re promoting transparency. So let’s be transparent.’ (Those might not be hois actual words. I’m summarizing from memory.)

    To me, that’s deeply impressive. A CIO who allows the proceedings of his meeting to be aired and scrutinised by the public he serves.

  • Agreed Roy, thanks very much for the comment and for sharing the images!

  • The IT Vendor Open House was well organized and gave ACS Public Sectors Solutions an in-depth understanding of the City of Edmonton’s “innovative and forward thinking” approach. Would love to see other cities adapt this approach to doing business and building partnerships!

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  • 1991: gov.edmonton.ab.ca, “early Internet adopter”

    if this is true… impressive.

  • Nice, that’s helpful for me!

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