Recent major procurements like artillery systems and heavy lift aircraft are starting to give Canadian Forces the “muscle” they need to do to the job, but it is now time to upgrade the “mind.”

The first four articles in this series, based on “Transforming Information Management for Operational Benefit”, a White Paper by EDS Canada, an HP company, focused on the need for information management (IM) transformation and the resulting operational benefits. This article will make the case that implementing IM in the Canadian Forces, and reaping all its potential benefits, calls for a different approach to procurement.

To achieve agility, 21st century armed forces need accurate information, anywhere in the world, in the correct format, in almost real time. Our information management systems today do not meet that standard but the objective has been clearly defined. The Information Management Services Transformation (IMST) project, initiated in May 2005, has the potential, in the words of the White Paper, “to deliver improved information capability and operational value through an enhanced information infrastructure and net-enabled operations, resulting in positive mission outcomes, effective management of information, and best use of resources.”

The present procurement system is configured to acquire well-defined products and services, to clear specifications and standards. The people who work within that system are dedicated to getting the best equipment for the Canadian Forces and best value for the taxpayer, but as a May report by the DND Chief of Review Services pointed out, major procurements are at risk because of a lack of trained and experienced personnel. There is a severe shortage of qualified senior personnel with the authority to make decisions.

Transforming information management in the Canadian Forces is an even greater challenge than current equipment acquisitions, in scope, duration and impact. It is not just another IT project. Because it reaches every part of DND/CF, and often changes the communication between those parts, it must be recognized as a change initiative. In fact, IM transformation means change on a scale that requires a change in thinking. As this series has pointed out, even relatively modern categories like “lead solution provider” or “lead service provider” must broaden out to envisage a “lead service integrator” to oversee and guide the transformation. That lesson, learned during two of the world’s largest defence transformation projects, underscores the strategic nature and importance of IM transformation.

Information technology is constantly changing, pulled by market opportunities and pushed by research. This constant innovation and problem-solving is one of IT’s greatest benefits, and the procurement system must recognize that and benefit from progress rather than “freezing the design” in static specifications.

Ideally, the war-fighters’ needs will contribute directly and swiftly to the solutions that will support them in battle. Making those right connections to deliver information to CF members on the frontline means connecting all the business processes within the organization. That inevitably means the culture will change and careers will change as well. Many people will move from a hands-on role to oversight and quality assurance, as the trend to outsourcing continues. The battle to hire and retain the best IT people available means DND/CF must offer a challenging, growing work environment.

Looking at IM transformation from the perspective of information requirements rather than system specifications is a step in the right direction, away from single-purpose implementations that isolate and constrain communications and towards interoperability and collaboration.

One thing becomes clear. Creating the infrastructure to deliver 21st century combat information means developing new relationships between industry and government. There is no alternative. In the private sector, major corporations routinely entrust core business processes, not core business, to their IT partners, in the confidence that their security will be maintained and the work will be done cost-effectively.

That degree of trust is rare but not unknown in the public sector. In this country, British Columbia has been notably successful in IT public-private partnering. The federal government could take the lead in creating new and innovative procurement models, and partner with industry in ways that meet both the requirements for openness, transparency and fairness as well as the war-fighters’ need for the best in communication, collaboration and information.

By focusing on goals rather than process, a transformed procurement methodology will be simpler to manage because capabilities link more directly to outcomes, an overarching vision encourages creativity, and, the war-fighters’ needs drive system change. As this series has pointed out, some of our military allies are well underway with IM transformation programs and they are succeeding. Given their experiences and our strong domestic capabilities, Canada has a chance to get it right the first time. Agile and creative procurement can make that happen.

The EDS White Paper, Transforming Information Management For Operational Benefit, is available at under White Papers. To comment, please contact Emile Lindsay at or (613) 787 4613, or Vanguard at