Synchronization Versus Compression Should Guide Government Procurement Policy (200th POST)

Posted on April 22, 2009


Government is never boring.

On one hand you have the Government of Canada who despite earlier hopes has once again reverted to muscling a shared services platform down the unwilling throats of stakeholders, the majority of whom oppose the current direction. A move which is ironically being introduced at the expense of the very business and innovation the mandate is purported to protect.

On the other hand, you have the Commonwealth of Virginia whose eVA program has been one of the few bright spots (I actually used the word beacon in a recent speech) in a sea of failed public sector initiatives perhaps heading precipitously towards a self-destructive end. What’s the old term, “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?” (Note: Read Part 1 and Part 2 of my recent Virginia posts for further details.)

The one common element, besides the irony that both the Government of Canada’s and Virginia’s programs were launched in 2001, is the paucity of either statistical or empirical proof to support the current mandates. For example Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee’s (JLARC) reference to a survey, in which 95 out of a possible 46,000 stakeholders responded, as one of several reasons for their review is difficult to grasp. However, this is still light year’s ahead of the Canadian Government’s shared services strategy whose merits are reflected in the kind of “tastes great, less filling” statements offered by individuals such as ITAC President Bernard Courtois. Bernard, who is a gentleman’s gentleman and someone I genuinely like, was quoted in an April 20th article by Kathryn May in the Ottawa Citizen as saying that “We have been telling the government it buys piece parts at excellent prices, but it could save a lot more money by buying a total product.” Unfortunately, there has been no data provided to support such a claim.

Sorry Bernard, but the promise of increased savings has been proffered before and therefore has the substantive creditability of a Hollywood movie set – you know the ones where the town’s buildings are merely facades supported by skeletal frames behind the scenes.

In the end, the government would be better served through a synchronization of stakeholder capabilities versus a compression of players. If you would like to find out more about the differences between synchronization versus compression, feel free to drop me a line at

In the meantime, for those of us who have watched the antics associated with public sector procurement policy planning (sounds similar to the peter-piper-picked-a-peck-of-pickled-peppers tongue twister), gradually unfold on an increasingly public stage, we can only be grateful for the unending supply of anecdotal punchlines from an ever evolving cast of characters. Even though we take this matter very seriously, based of past experience we have learned that immediate, knee jerk reactions accomplish very little given the propensity for sudden, and inexplicable directional changes. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, or in this instance David Marshall?

All I can say is thank God for Susan Boyle!

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