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Canada IT Politics Technology

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 116

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
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Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures

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  • IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo.

    But Single Payer eliminates redundancy [ama-assn.org], thus lowering the costs while improving the services. Does it

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:52PM (#53940267)

      You should not confuse who pays with who delivers.

      Single payer in Canada costs about half as much than multiple payer healthcare in the US, while yielding better overall outcomes.

      The problem described here is single delivery organization. The larger the organization, the more slow, bureaucratic and inefficient it
      becomes. The only thing that scales up is purchasing power (hence the appeal of single payer healthcare). The right thing to do is usually
      single payer but multiple doer.

      For example, consolidating IT across the Canadian Federal government has not worked out well. Similarly, replacing independently run hospitals with provincial health authorities has not been a good experience. That does not argue against single payer, it argues for operational decisions to be made closer to the front lines.

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:02PM (#53940331) Journal

        Having witnessed the creation of a centralized IT system close up, I have seen just how disastrous, and ultimately how expensive the results can be. I think the logic behind unifying infrastructure is seductive, but rarely does anyone honestly assess the massive costs, because if they did, no government would ever pay for it. So you put together an upgrade plan that has an absurdly low pricetag, knowing full well that by the time the job is actually done (if it is ever completed), the costs will be orders of a magnitude greater. The critical step to this "unlimited budget via the back door" is to bring the new system up, regardless of how far away from actual completion and stability it is, then immediately shut down the old systems, shred the hard drives and dispose of the hardware, so that no one can ever contemplate returning to the old system as a standby. This is critical. You have to make the cost of retreating back over the proverbial Rubicon so great that you end up being stuck with the new system, and thus with the costs of making it work.

        To my mind, the more logical way to approach this is to create a centralized RDBMS, make sure that all the disparate systems at least can regularly vomit out a batch job in one common format, and dump it to the RDBMS. Over time you could conceivably use this new database as a the core of replacement systems, or not , as you choose. I've worked on this kind of system before, puking out batch exports from one system, throwing it into another database and then processing, reporting or whatever it is you want to do, and then pushing changes back up to the systems. It was all done with common shared import/export formats. Now admittedly this does mean having to write code for each system, but that is almost invariably a fraction of the workload of building an entire replacement system and then spending years of ever-inflating budgets, downtime, and in the case of a police force, possibly even risking lives.

        But companies like Deloitte, IBM and HP have basically made selling "unified solutions" that inevitably turn into IT catastrophes a vast cash cow, and so long as they can con bureaucrats and politicians into buying into their bullshit, they'll keep making money hand over fist even as the products they roll out remain utter shit.

        • by knightghost ( 861069 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:28PM (#53940553)

          I've seen centralized IT work far better than decentralized. It comes down to execution.

          After working in Canada IT for several years, I can place the blame squarely on culture. IT is considered below the janitor socially, underfunded, run Command-Control by politically driven management... and those are the good things. It goes downhill from there.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I've seen centralized IT work far better than decentralized. It comes down to execution.

            After working in Canada IT for several years, I can place the blame squarely on culture. IT is considered below the janitor socially, underfunded, run Command-Control by politically driven management... and those are the good things. It goes downhill from there.

            But if you have a centralized budget for IT, how am I supposed to get kickbacks for awarding consultation contracts on our departments ERP customization? And it completely hamstrings my ability to hide new hire setup costs thing things like Mac Pros outside my IT budget! IT sounds AWFUL!

        • by Stavr0 ( 35032 )

          The critical step to this "unlimited budget via the back door" is to bring the new system up, regardless of how far away from actual completion and stability it is, then immediately shut down the old systems, shred the hard drives and dispose of the hardware, so that no one can ever contemplate returning to the old system as a standby.

          That's funny, because it's exactly what they did when they overhauled the Canadian federal employee payroll service (Phoenix). There are now egregious failures with the new system: unpaid employees, overpaid employees and incorrect amounts in year-end income tax documents.

          Imagine receiving triple your salary, making sure to keep the extra money aside, because it *will* have to be reimbursed. And to add insult to injury, pay income tax on that huge amount, then fight CRA to have your tax return revised whe

        • by rakslice ( 90330 )

          What do databases have to do with anything?

          • by plopez ( 54068 )

            Everything. If you do not understand the importance of data then you had best not be in anywhere near IT in any manner.

        • An analogy I like to use is that of applications themselves. In trying to modernize a legacy application the estimated price tag came back at about 1 million bucks. Management balked at that saying we have 30 applications we support it isn't feasible to spend 30 million (even if staggered over time apparently) to modernize all our applications! Rather management gets sold on the idea of building 1 mega application that will do the work of 30. The idea being is that economies of scale and leveraging existing

        • by Anonymous Coward

          ... inevitably turn into IT catastrophes ...

          The big bugbears of IT catastrophes are scope creep and poor requirements analysis/definition. Many people see centralization and standardization as the holy grail of efficiency, they're even trying to make fighter jets that way. The IT industry thinks bigger is always better, a claim that is not obvious and not provably true.

          There are religious zealots in IT claiming that one systems management size fits all, despite the string of failures proving otherwise. Yes, standardization of data is an immediate

          • I can only speak to the work I've done in a fairly small project that merged multiple sources and creating a set of file formats and protocols to communicate changes. It certainly wasn't trivial even in my case, and working with vendors to create interfaces in their own applications to work with these protocols could be a challenge. I suppose in many instances with aging infrastructure, you may also be dealing with fairly old systems where finding expertise to actual build interfaces could be a problem. But

          • by plopez ( 54068 )

            The big bugbears of IT catastrophes are scope creep and poor requirements analysis/definition.

            So how do you prevent them on projects that last years? This is very much a waterfall mind set of "everything must be defined before we start" even though over the course of several years in which the project can last things *will* change. What is needed is an Agile like approach to IT projects.

      • Single payer in Canada costs about half as much than multiple payer healthcare in the US, while yielding better overall outcomes.

        That is a lie [medscape.com].

        The only way it's better is that everything is free. The way that it sucks is that everything being free means you have big delays in getting something, if you can get it at all...

        It should be noted that the rich love single payer systems, because it makes them feel good. They don't ever have to use it, they fly to countries to pay for quality healthcare with no li

        • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:16PM (#53940433) Homepage

          It should be noted that the rich love single payer systems, because it makes them feel good.

          Ah yes! That explains all those rich Republicans I've seen at the poll queues, just lining up to support single-payer healthcare in the U.S.

        • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:17PM (#53940441)

          Citation that isn't behind a paywall needed...

          And on top of that, you sound like an angry American who took the astroturf hook, line and sinker.

          Signed, a Canadian who is quite happy with his single payer healthcare.

          • What paywall? I read the whole thing without a subscription to anything.

            I notice that you aren't even posting any links. Nice to have blind faith but I prefer facts.

            And on top of that, you sound like an angry American who took the astroturf hook, line and sinker.

            Not angry, just sad for the rest of the world, especially Canadians whom I am very fond of.

            Signed, a Canadian who is quite happy with his single payer healthcare.

            Signed, an American who is even happier with the U.S. system, especially once we bri

            • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @04:27PM (#53941755)

              There's border crossing for medical treatment, but it's not the Canadians doing it....

              https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/fact-checking-trump-are-canadians-swarming-the-border-to-get-better-healthcare

              However, these lengthy wait times don't actually translate to a mass migration of patients popping across the border for surgery or specialist appointments. Though some of Canada's wealthiest patients may choose to do this rather than wait, they represent fewer than half a percent.... Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control estimates 750,000 Americans travel outside the country for medical treatments each year.

              Neither I or anyone I know has ever gone to the US for a medical procedure. We get US TV up here and to be frank watching commercials where American hospitals advertise for customers fills us with horror. To us it's a service. That'd be like you watching commercials for different police forces to call when your house is being invaded.

              > I notice that you aren't even posting any links. Nice to have blind faith but I prefer facts.

              What "link" do you want? My medical records? Or polls? Here's one:

              http://www.gallup.com/poll/8056/healthcare-system-ratings-us-great-britain-canada.aspx

              In that one, 6% of US respondants were very happy with their care, and 44% very dissatisfied, compared to 16% of Canadians very happy and 17% very dissatisfied. On the surface I'd say that pretty much torpedoed what few points you had.

              But hey, you want more? Fill your boots:

              http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadians-differ-from-trump-on-health-care-poll-shows/article32835912/

              And I know anecdotes aren't data, etc etc. but here's a Reddit forum asking Canadians what they think of their healthcare vs the US system with some answers from people who have experienced both:

              https://www.reddit.com/r/canada/comments/5onhfb/are_you_happy_with_your_healthcare/

              And here's a story I read a few years ago about another American convert to Canada which really kind of shocked me as to how shitty the US system is if you're not loaded:

              http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive/2012/07/how-i-lost-my-fear-of-universal-health-care.html

              "When I asked for prayers for my little brother who had been burned in an accident, they were all puzzled why the story did not include immediately rushing him to the hospital. When they asked me to clarify and I explained that many people in the States are not insured and they try to put off medical care unless absolutely needed, they literally could not comprehend such a thing."

              Seriously? This is the sort of system you think is way better than going to a hospital for $0 and getting looked at?

              Another anecdotal thing I've noticed is in Canada when someone says they were in a car accident, the first thing many say is "Oh! Are you all right?!" In the States among friends and coworkers a story like that gets a response of "Ohmygod! Did you sue?" Which initially struck me as money hungry until I realized that in many cases if you *don't* sue you can be financially ruined by a simple ambulance ride and a broken bone.

              Another one off story: http://www.fark.com/comments/9485906/soosh-farker-who-hosts-Livingston-Stapler-Company-Presents-radio-show-was-moved-to-Queen-Anne-Medical-Center-in-Seattle-for-rehab-on-February-15th-LGT-thread-from-earlier-this-week-Updates-in-thread

              Saw that the other day. Long story short, guy in Alaska is internet-famous on Fark.com for hosting some obscure radio show on the weekend. Bad road conditions caused him to wreck and he had to be air evaced to a large hospital. Bill is $200K. He has insurance but it only covers 80%. Him and his wife are kind of screwed financially now. In Canada, you know what they would have paid for ? Parking at the hospital. Maybe $20 a day. Oh, and snacks from the vending machine.

              • Paying for parking at the hospital IS a bitch though.
              • by dryeo ( 100693 )

                When I was in a car accident I got billed $50 for the ambulance here in BC, they also ruined my shirt removing so it did cost me the the shirt on my back.

                • Yeah BC's its own special snowflake. With the MSP premiums and all too. Speaking of which did you see our idiot Premier the other day fully admitted that MSP premiums "just go into a bucket" and they aren't actually earmarked for healthcare?

                  http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/christy-clark-tells-board-of-trade-an-msp-cut-was-best-way-to-dole-out-surplus

                  “I think everybody in the room knows that MSP premiums don’t go to pay health care, right?” Clark told the business audience. “An

                  • by dryeo ( 100693 )

                    Thanks, I missed that one though it's not surprising. I'm still reeling over how generous she is to return our premiums to what they were the other year if we apply. Isn't much talk about how the government has moved its debt to BC Hydro and ICBC either.
                    I guess that we're supposed to be happy we have so many low wage jobs to match our high cost of living.

            • There's a reason why Canadians cross the border for health care

              I'll substitute your cherry picked examples with actual statistics. If you look at the GDP per capita, the US is nearly twice the expenditure of most other first world countries. If you look at outcomes for everything except cancer (where the US is towards the top of the pack), the outcomes are near the bottom.

              You're paying on average twice as much for a worse service.

              • I'll substitute your cherry picked examples with actual statistics.

                And then you provide no links... HMMM.

                In fact the comparison you are making is highly misleading [nytimes.com].

                Which is why you provide no proof, because it would show just how misleading your assertion was.

                • And then you provide no links... HMMM.

                  Yeah, that's because I went to the effort of providing them before to you in an almost exact mirror of this conversation. I can't remember if your response to hard facts was to go silent or to come up with nonsequiteurs, but either way you ignored the data and just repeated the your same points unmodified next time.

                  I can't be arsed to go ronud the same loop yet again.

            • would die even sooner

              Lol, You should compare life expectancy and medical survival rates between both countries. Then you'll see how stupid you sound.

          • I can't read that either, I'm also not in the US either, maybe that's what's happening.

            I did check who owns that site though, turns out it's WebMD. Where does WebMD's advertising come from? The big drug companies. Who hates single payer health care the most? Big drug companies.

            SuperKendall has spent his life drinking the kool aid, that won't change. People in the US are bombarded with all sorts of propaganda, and the amazingly profitable health companies are pretty good at it.

            I'm also not keen on Insuran [time.com]

        • by Socguy ( 933973 )
          Nope. Need a log-in, and single payer healthcare systems are not in collapse world-over.

          If anybody is really interested in a comparison between the Canadian and US healthcare systems, start with Wikipedia.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          At least they make an effort to cover the range of available literature and don't cherry pick what I can only assume is a supporting article since I can't access it.
    • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:01PM (#53940323)
      Single payer health care does. This has nothing to do with single payer anything. I don't know how anybody could believe that it does. This was a catastrophe visited upon Canada's civil service by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper. It has been a ridiculous screw-up since day one, and will not get any better under the Liberals. There are too many different ministries, agencies and departments with too many different data requirements and laws governing who can be provided with certain information.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mi ( 197448 )

        This has nothing to do with single payer anything.

        Creating a monopoly, where the consumers/users not only can not switch to a different provider, they can not even point out at how things can be done differently, is certainly very similar to what the proponents of Single Payer wish to happen.

        There are too many different ministries, agencies and departments with too many different data requirements and laws governing who can be provided with certain information.

        Are there really more of such "ministries, agen

        • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

          I don't think you understand the difference between Single Payer, and Single Provider.

          • by mi ( 197448 )

            I don't think you understand the difference between Single Payer, and Single Provider.

            In theory there may well be a huge difference, in practice there will be none — the Payer's regulation will go into every nitty-gritty detail of Provision ensuring uniformity. And absence of choice — look at what has already happened with the public schools...

            • Clearly you have an agenda. And clearly, your agenda won't be influenced by anything like facts or logic.

              Please go elsewhere. Your comments are off-topic, and contribute nothing to the discussion.

        • You're trying to make this about single payer health care. As has been explained very clearly to you by myself and others, it has nothing to do with it.

          Please try not to be stupid.

          Thanks.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://stats.oecd.org/Index.as... [oecd.org]

      Almost every country that is better than the US in all sorts of health-related statistics have socialised healthcare. But keep deluding yourself into thinking that the US has it better than anyone else, those of us who will get to live longer than you, will ultimately have the last laugh.

      • You might mention that America is being beat by many other nations in terms of increasing average life span.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          Well, just wait for it to get worse. As the Republicans shambolically move towards repeal of Obamacare, it already looks like the replacement will likely be worse than what came before Obamacare. How a first world nation can have some of the worst health care outcomes in the industrialized world baffles me.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Well, just wait for it to get worse. As the Republicans shambolically move towards repeal of Obamacare, it already looks like the replacement will likely be worse than what came before Obamacare. How a first world nation can have some of the worst health care outcomes in the industrialized world baffles me.

            The US is top twenty if you exclude brown people. Top ten if you exclude the poor whose families earn under $50k/yr and debate-ably #1 if you exclude people making under ten million a year. So it is functioning as intended.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          But of course that's all directly related to who pays for the healthcare system, and has no influence whatsoever by personal health choices (American lifestyles are *absymal*), or possibly a completely (really?) unrelated government effort to fight a war on fats the last fifty years?

    • The former Conservative government decided that for the second largest country by area, it would be a good idea to centralize all Information Technology services, and called it Shared Services Canada (SSC). This is wrong in so many ways...first of all, having all IT services centralized means that you have a single point of failure. Add to that, SSC may have their own priorities that may leave you sitting for weeks and months waiting for installation, configuration and implementation all sorts of IT technol

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:51PM (#53940251)
    During those 11 hours, 3 jaywalkers, 4 litterers and 1 bicycle thief got away. But, they later came back and apologized.
    • Don't you dare to make fun of this!
      During those 11 hours TWO CATS stuck on trees and froze to death!
    • I know youre making a Canada joke but as someone who uses this system, these outages could be catastrophic for us. We routinely use it to see if someone is flagged as violent, contagious (HIV/HEP/etc), escape risk, suicide by cop, etc while enroute to a domestic call or traffic stop. 35 million citizens rely on their police having timely access to this system. It is also the system used for probation condition lookups, wanted persons/alerts and everything in between. While most services have their own s
  • Clearly it was Justin Trudeau's fault then, because that's the logic of political parties eh?

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Actually it goes back to the period of Chretien around ~20 years ago when he decided to change how the head of the RCMP was selected. His government of the day pushed hard that police chiefs and so on shouldn't rise through the ranks based on their ability, but should be appointees. A lot of other police services in Canada did something similar. It's one of the big problems currently with policing in Canada, you have people in the upper ranks who shouldn't actually be there. Every police service or forc

  • It's hard to administer a computer network when you're sitting on a horse.

  • I first read the title as,

    Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blisters

    and was relieved to see the rest of the title. IT is an easy fix, blisters, less easy to fix.

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:15PM (#53940423)
    Part of the problem with the Canadian federal government is the way they do internal promoting. If someone is in some non-IT field at the right level to promote, they don't really have to have much technology experience in order to get into the IT group. Maybe they wrote a vbs script for their group that gets noticed, soon they are in the IT group and running the big servers with no idea how to do it. There is very little hiring from the outside for things like enterprise IT infrastructure experts.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nonsense, it's easy, see, you install wine on the big servers, and then you automate everything with vbs scripts.

    • In that case, it seems entirely appropriate to outsource all their network operations to a company that (presumably) is competent in the field.

    • Sounds like how my company got it's VP of IT, our SharePoint admin, and our Great Plains admin. Luckily they have all seemed to be adequate, sometimes even better-than-ok. But still, I have many times had to come in and fix "deep IT" stuff that they couldn't figure out; mostly things that crossed outside of their nitch and into my networking or AD world.
  • This noble initiative was to save taxpayers money and it has archived it.
    While I'm not arguing with Commissioner Paulson's opinion of the current support quality, I'm well aware of what existed there before.
    Any sane IT person would agree that it was a rather inefficient way to run IT services.
  • Show Me The Money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xdroop ( 4039 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @02:19PM (#53940461) Homepage Journal
    The real story here is that Shared Services was set up to fail almost from the beginning. While the idea of centralized IT is probably a good one from a reducing-duplication standpoint (at the expense of an increasing-bureaucracy standpoint); Shared Services Canada's budget was cut before it was even half-formed, and then cut again in subsequent years (see this November 2016 Ottawa Citizen article: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/... [ottawacitizen.com]). So of course they are failing to deliver. So while it may be fun to say "Feds Screw Up IT Again, Hurr Durr" let's be sure to blame the real problem makers -- the politicians, mostly Conservative, who dug this hole that Shared Services finds itself in.
  • I used to work for a large organization who outsourced all network operations to Computer Science Corporation.

    One of the great company past times that pretty much everyone engaged in was bashing CSC. And for good reason too.

    Among the fun things we would run into fairly regularly:

    - Mishandling of VMs (everything from spinning up the wrong server type to completely overwriting existing, production, VMs)
    - Server backups not happening
    - False positive alerts
    - Terrible SLAs
    - Huge amount of "finger pointing"
    - Incr

  • Does a single payer system require a single line of delivery ? Redundancy should be a requirement in any system that is deemed a critical delivery. Be it health care or physical networking.

  • Blackberrys? Seriously?? 2009 called... (but couldn't get through of course.)
  • I went out to the site to read his commments but the site was down ;-)
  • "every Mountie's BlackBerry," - well, there's your problem.
  • Well, that's better than what I do at work. When I have a critical outage I work on it and don't tell anyone the full extent of it, unless someone directly above me specifically hounds me and demands an explanation. Or, I blame it on something else; being one of two IT "staff" for three countries makes the GoFH excuse chart on the wall very useful.

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