Governments across Canada are re-committing to innovation, recognizing the role that technology plays in building a prosperous society. The development of comprehensive technology strategies is critical in governments’ efforts to build economies that thrive and promote investment in businesses and the communities in which they operate. The underlying policies supporting these strategies need to be focused not only on attracting and retaining technical resources and capital, but also incenting local technology firms to participate in the delivery of services that meet the specific needs of the public sector.
All Canadian jurisdictions want to serve as technology hubs, and BC is no exception. With the recent announcements regarding BC’s Ministry of Citizens’ Services’ new procurement strategy and advances being made by the Digital Technology Supercluster, Vancouver-based IT services firm Sierra Systems (Sierra) sees a strong basis for achievement of this vision. Despite numerous government strategies focused on supporting technology start-ups, many firms shall fail, as is the course of entrepreneurial discovery.
What has been missing from government technology policies is a model that optimizes value creation and increased social benefits for British Columbians from local technology firms. This appears to be one of the strategic goals of BC’s new procurement strategy and needs to be an integral platform in BC’s overall technology strategy to improve the Province’s competitive advantage. Sierra provides a convincing case in this regard.
Founded in 1966 as one of BC’s original IT start-ups, Sierra has grown into one of the Province’s largest technology sector consultancies, employing more than 350 professionals in BC, and more than 800 across Canada. There have been several key elements in the BC government’s strategies that have supported Sierra’s success as an innovator, employer of choice, and local community advocate.
- Fostering a framework for partnerships in innovation. Establishing long-term relationships with government creates a mutual commitment to goals, a deep knowledge of government’s objectives and operations, and a strong sense of accountability to deliver. This is evident in the many solutions that Sierra has delivered to the Province for more than fifty years, including the innovative BC Services Card.
- Availability of technology talent. Technology firms have an obligation to expand and deepen BC’s talent pool to address the growing requirements of government. They do this by developing a network of vibrant technology partners to collaborate with on public sector initiatives. They also need to develop a pipeline of talent from BC’s post-secondary institutions. Technology firms must recognize the importance of co-op student placements, mentorship programs and scholarships to build and retain BC’s talent pool. Sierra’s commitment on these fronts has resulted its being recognized as one of BC’s Top 50 employers over the years.
- Leveraging solutions in other Canadian markets. As BC has become an acknowledged leader in the eGovernment space, local technology firms are able to leverage BC innovations into government ministries across Canada. Exporting BC’s innovations to other provinces is a win-win for the technology firms that can help broker these deals, sharing BC’s technology with other provinces.
As such, it is beneficial for BC to continue to establish strategies and policies that foster the growth of local technology firms that can demonstrate this type of innovative approach and commitment to the Province. This in turn strengthens the public-private partnerships needed to achieve lasting prosperity and economic success. Sierra is proud of the solutions that have been leveraged from BC into other jurisdictions in Health, Justice and Public Safety.
Key conclusions and suggestions for government are:
- Embrace innovation in full recognition of the risks that go with it – develop new services and flexible business models to engage the best technology resources that the private sector can offer.
- Provide fair and open access to public sector markets for technology services – this has been a strong determinant of local firms’ commitment to sustained growth in BC over the long term.
- Encourage and nurture relationships with public sector innovators – unencumber firms from the procurement rules that have the affect of limiting the length and value of contracts or their potential extensions.
- Recognize the importance of export markets in local tech firms’ growth – supported by fair market access.
- Launch strategic investments in training and post-secondary education that are relevant to a rapidly-changing technology sector.
Sierra Systems has been fortunate to work with innovators in the BC public sector space for the past five decades. We have built long-lasting relationships with BC’s public sector leaders based on trust and commitment to the innovation journey. We take pride in how our partnership has helped position BC as a recognized leader delivering services and innovation. We look forward to supporting the implementation of new government technology and procurement strategies.