Tuesday, February 20, 2024

TwitterChat with Philippe Johnston

Philippe Johnston is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Departmental Security Officer (DSO) at SSHRC Canada. Until he was recently promoted he led a digital transformation project at Treasury Board. @B2BNewsNetwork had a #TwitterChat with Philippe, who posted from the @DXAgents account with hashtag #dxagentstalk.


Q1: You’ve overseen a really interesting digital transformation project. Tell us about Treasury Board and its mandate.

A1: Treasury Board is responsible for federal Financial, HR, IM/IT: efficient, effective performance of the Government of Canada. It manages the $250B budget, the over 250,000 employees, and the IM/IT direction for the entire government. It’s made up of approximately 2,000 analysts who review priorities and make recommendations on funding allocation.


Q2: You started there in 2013 managing application development. How did that evolve into digital transformation?

A2: Had a great team that was underutilizing making back office apps. Saw quickly they were capable of driving major solutions. We changed our internal processes. The team led discussions focused on business needs from data, and saw a big opportunity.


Q3: What was the main catalyst for the change?

A3:  To turn data into information, make it accessible to everyone, pull IT out of the back office, and make it a main business driver.


Q4: How did your team react to this vision of the future?

A4:  They were excited and motivated. Projects that make a visible impact can change people’s perceptions of their jobs. It was very motivating, and gave us all a great sense of purpose.


Q5: What was the most challenging part of creating the vision?

A5:  Understanding the technology options to support the vision. There were, and are, a lot of platforms. Making the decision on who to go with took a lot of research and conversations with others overseeing digital transformations.


Q6: You saw the potential and limitations. Digital transformation can be so big, did you also have a vision for the end state?

A6: Definitely, giving analysts and agencies the ability to make and forecast decision impacts with data. We’re not there, but that is the end state vision. How would this change affect productivity if we increased or decreased budget or resources here, that kind of forecasting is very powerful.


Q7: How far away is that kind of public sector data-driven decision making today?

A7:  Still a few years out.


Q8: So you talked to your team, established a vision, established consensus. Was the next step securing budget?

A8:  Yes. We focused on managing expectations and setting realistic dates. Funding was a hurdle and a process.


Q9: Tell us a bit about that process.

A9: We worked hard to be realistic, but we still ran into hurdles and delays; it’s inevitable with a project this complex. We learned quickly to break it into small parts with smaller budgets, get quick wins, and expand.


Q10: Did you get a positive response from the budget exercise?

A10: Once we brought experts in to help decision makers understand, it went quite smoothly. Good less: we needed subject matter experts who were also great communicators. They were invaluable to getting buy-in.


Q11: What advice do you have for other CIOs trying to scope a digital transformation process and sell it internally?

A11: Work with your CFO as early and closely as possible. Bring them to Gartner or other events, and show them how it is being done.


Q12: Any thoughts on DX in the public sector in general?

A12: It’s a critical part of modernization and efficient government, and it is happening!


The chat went over so well and time ran out, so a second week was added:


Q1: Tell us a bit about the technology selection process at Treasury Board.

A1: Tech selection process involved a thorough technical and functional analysis of business intelligence (BI) tools on the market. If you are interested in the tech stack at Treasury Board you can see a current version at the end of the case study. (DXAgents.co/TBcasestudy)


Q2: From @e_mah: How complicated was it matching the long term vision to the technology stack for the program?

A2: Great question. We could not predict which tool(s) would future proof us for our long term requirements, but we explored options being developed by large companies with a clear mandate to invest in analytical tools. Because we already had tools internally, the choice for the right tool for TBS only took approximately 4 months.


Q3: Looking back, what was the most challenging part of the entire process?

A3: Getting data owners to share. You must show them the power of combined data sets before they can really see the potential. This is really critical. You need those data sources to be successful and there was a tendency to hoard data.


Q4: You’ve moved on to a new role now. How have things gone since you left?

A4: TBS is continuing to expand its DX initiative, and I am now a recipient of their IM/IT data. TBS has continued to enhance and combine data in order to improve my ability to manage as a CIO.


Q5: Final thoughts/advice for others contemplating/understanding digital transformation?

A5: My advice: Take that leap with your business partners and CFO! It will be the most exciting and rewarding journey you will undertake as a CIO, compared to managing infrastructure/desktops.


This chat was originally posted on DXAgents.com.


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