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Tag Archives: federal government

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to the Federal Government.

Regional Job Market Update for Ottawa, Ontario

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

As 2018 came to a close, the Ottawa Job Market in December saw the unemployment rate tick up to 4.9% after a fairly robust job gains in October and November. Technology did continue to be a bright spot, with more job gains in December, however, not enough to offset losses in other areas of our local economy.

Shopify LogoHarley Finkelstein, Co-Founder of the near $16B (with a B!) Ottawa-based Shopify, recently tweeted (@harleyf) about the outlook for Ottawa. The advent of new LRT, a booming startup ecosystem with lots of new angel investors, and the nearby natural beauty Ottawans have easy access to all seemingly underscore the steady but sure sense that the Ottawa Technology economy, while not the boom of the early 2000’s, has reason to be very excited about where things are going. We’re seeing a number of newly funded and burgeoning startups traverse across technologies, including AI, Blockchain, IoT, autonomous vehicles plus traditional software-based companies. While not the halcyon days of the Nortels/Corels of the very early 2000’s, there is certainly plenty for Ottawans to be optimistic about.

Ottawa Job MarketThe other big player in the local market is of course the Federal Government who have been on a steady hiring pace for quite a while. Large players like Shared Services Canada are hiring many IT contractors on a permanent basis to help them deliver technology services across Federal Government Departments. The past Quarter, and in fact year, has been a very busy one for IT Staffing agencies providing the government with the critical IT resources the Feds need to reach their Digital Government goals. The Federal Government is focused on moving more and more to cloud-based services and will need a lot of help from private sector to do so from Data Architects through Data Residency and Security. With the burgeoning Start-Up scene growing together with the many more mature technology sectors I have referenced, it is hoped the Feds will look to review and revise their contingent hiring practices to be quicker, cleaner and more efficient to continue to compete in the months and years ahead in Ottawa.

As the calendar turns over to 2019 and we look ahead, history will tell us that Election years tend to somewhat freeze hiring as ruling governments look to hold steady any technology project announcements. Visions of Phoenix Pay stories and in the headlines keep politicians up at night with fear, we will see if that is the case in the coming months.

Roles in demand in Ottawa currently include Front End Developers, PMs (including a need for Agile PMs for the Federal Government), Data Architects, Cyber Security, and Testers.

Changes are Coming to How the Federal Government Hires IT Contractors

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Changes are Coming to How the Federal Government Hires IT ContractorsThe Federal government last reformed procurement around IT Professional Services over 10 years ago, introducing the supply methods Task-Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS) in December 2007 and Solutions-Based Informatics Professional Services (SBIPS) the following July ’08. TBIPS has by far been the most-used vehicle across the Federal Government to acquire IT contractors, with the last known spend figures being over $1 billion in 2016-17 and it’s expected to have topped $1.5 billion the following fiscal year.

Although the spend is significant, there has been a long-building uniform dissatisfaction with the evolution of TBIPS among ALL stakeholders — industry/suppliers, client departments and IT contractors. I currently sit as the President of the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB). Over the last several years, the organization has been very active in working with the Feds in advocating real changes to the way the Government acquires IT contractors.  The overall objective is to create a process that is simpler, quicker, focuses on quality over price and most importantly, results in a better procurement outcome for Canadian taxpayers.

The Federal government has been receptive and have begun in earnest a full TBIPS Review Process, engaging all stakeholders and have assured us they are willing to put “everything on the table” in order to modernize what has become a very cumbersome and often dysfunctional procurement process.

It is our hope the new process focuses on the quality of IT professionals and away from the over-reliance on lowest price as the primary awarding criteria. After all, contractor quality is a function of both supply and cost. The current way in which TBIPS solicitations are conducted tends to have a negative impact on both supply and cost. At a very high level of generalization, when evaluations are based on lowest price or artificial median bid rates, it guarantees a low price. That in turn all but guarantees two things — a low quality resource and frequent consultant turnover.

When someone is looking to have their roof re-shingled, usually the lowest bid is also of the lowest quality, and so the same concepts hold true for professional services. You get what you pay for, and if the goal is to get someone at -20% of the median, which itself is an artificially downward-skewed measurement of “market rate”, then the result is predictable.

As to supply, the evaluation of solicitations typically takes so long that even if candidates that are bid were legitimately available at the time of submission, by the time the solicitation is awarded there is little chance that they are still available. The current process has created an environment, unfortunately, where unethical vendors are fully aware of the long evaluation process and can bid candidates solely to maximize score (they typically do not consider legitimate availability). When the solicitations are awarded, the candidates are not available and a backfill process must be initiated.

There a number of changes the NACCB strongly recommended that will serve to make for a far better procurement. For example, some of the significant and true process changes that will undoubtedly serve all interests much better include establishing a Vendor Performance mechanism to reward quality-based vendors over under-performing vendors focused on the lowest price only. As well, the elimination of paper only based grids (Ottawa is probably the only city in North America that sees 30,50, 80 page! resumes) and the implementation of a Skills Assessment/Interview both to assure resource availability and to truly vet skills as part of the process.

We know today there is a severe skills shortage that is expected to get more challenging in IT for the foreseeable future. The ability for the Federal Government to compete to acquire these resources will be imperative. Having an efficient, clean and quick hiring process will be critical to that competitiveness.

Obtaining a Federal Government Personnel Security Screening

All companies and organizations perform some sort of background check on employees and independent contractors before hiring them, but the extent of the check will vary. One organization in Canada known for its checks is the Federal Government, which requires nearly everybody who works with its information or assets to go through a degree of security screening. For IT professionals new to the government, this can be a long, intense and confusing process.

Types of Federal Government Security Screenings

As mentioned, nearly every individual who works for the feds will require some sort of security screening. There are a number of types and levels of screens. The one you will require depends on your role, project and information you’re accessing, but it will typically be one of the following 3:

  • Reliability Status (valid for 10 years and required when accessing Protected A, B or C information, assets or work sites)
  • Secret Clearance (valid for 10 years and required when accessing information classified as Secret)
  • Top Secret Clearance (valid for 5 years and required when accessing information classified as Top Secret)

The Federal Government Security Clearance Process

A federal government security screening should begin as soon as you become employed with a company or organization that will require access to protected or classified information. In theory, for independent contractors, that would be as soon as you start working for your own independent business, and your business should be the organization initiating the clearance through its own organization security clearance. However, due to various process and efficiency concerns, independent contractors will often obtain their personnel clearance through a Recruitment Agency, who will start the process as soon as they verify that you’re a potential fit for government contracts.

The complete screening process and all the requirements are extensive and you can find all of the information here. Reliability Status can take as little as 2 weeks where a Secret or Top Secret clearance is usually a minimum of 6 months and up to 2 years or longer. The length of time depends on the history of you and your immediate family, including the countries in which you lived and/or worked. More specifically, the screening will require:

  • Background checks (5-years for Reliability status and 10-years for Secret or Top Secret clearance)
  • Background checks of your immediate family (Secret and Top Secret clearances)
  • Law enforcement inquiry through the RCMP (fingerprinting)
  • Credit check
  • Loyalty check conducted by CSIS (Secret and Top Secret)
  • Passport photos (Top Secret)

Depending on your history, you may also be required to complete out-of-country verifications, interviews, and provide supporting documents.

Federal Government security screenings are owned by the organization who completed the screening. For example, if you received your clearance through your recruitment agency, it’s your agency who holds it. This also means that they have the ability to terminate your clearance when you no longer work with them. To be safe, many recruiters will ask you to complete a form to duplicate your clearance, meaning their agency will also hold your clearance. This way, if your first agency terminates your Reliability Status or Security Screening for any reason, it will still be valid and active through the second agency.

There’s no doubt that Federal Government Security Screenings can often be complex, confusing and frustrating. The best advice for getting through it is to remain as detail-oriented as possible, be prepared, and work with the Company Security Officer who is helping you obtain it. For more information, you can also visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/defence/nationalsecurity/screening.html.

Can “Deliverology” Help Government IT Projects?

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Can "Deliverology" Fix the Real Challenges in Government IT Projects“Deliverology” is the term of the day in Government and no we’re not talking about who delivers executive lunches. These days, deliverology is all the rage in the bureaucratic halls of the new Trudeau government as the philosophical foundation with which his government hopes to present a federal civil service capable of successfully delivering on the promises of the most recent campaign. The current guru of Deliverology is Michael Barber, the creator of the UK government’s Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) in the Tony Blair government and, closer to home, used by Ontario’s previous McGuinty government. Mr. Trudeau has twice brought Mr. Barber to speak to public service executive community. It is an ambitious governance model, and certainly not without its detractors, that seeks to make poor performing departments and projects in to successful ones through the use of delivery units. Detractors need only point to the huge increase costs and budget associated with the Ontario government’s use of deliverology in both the Education and Health sectors.

This article will not seek to fully explain deliverology but rather, with deliverology on our lens, let’s focus our discussion on IT projects and their success or lack thereof in government. This new government will have to tackle what every executive bureaucrat and politician fears the most: the dreaded major IT project (just Google SSC and Email). We know that a significant number of IT projects are not delivered on time or under budget and that in and of itself is worthy of several blogs, but it is particularly acute in government. However, are there fundamental reasons that are tough to avoid that make it especially challenging in government?

Let me offer a few for considerations: 

Procurement in most government is not sophisticated, it is often slow, cumbersome and ill equipped to keep pace with technology… not even close. Although not stated very often, the “process” is far more concerning to the bureaucracy than the outcome; for instance the importance of transparency and fairness are paramount. There are often other key factors and stakeholders to consider in a Public Sector procurement that are not at play in Private Sector, awarding points to minority business or regions or even security considerations. Public procurement has evolved but it is nowhere near the sophistication of private and with some of the aforementioned factors, nor will it likely be very soon.

Can "Deliverology" Fix the Real Challenges in Government IT ProjectsStatus quo in government is not the Bogeyman as it is just about everywhere else. There is very little to gain both professionally and financially for taking risk in government and that certainly plays in to career paths and decisions made as a result. And let’s face it, these are taxpayer dollars and this is not Silicon Valley where risk, reward and failure are part and parcel of modern organizations — taxpayers want their governments to be efficient and bring value, not hit home runs in technology. Innovation is talked about extensively but I think we can agree it is “measured” innovation.

Finally, and perhaps as significantly as others, we have to analyze careers and how they are advanced in Government. We’ve established that risk taking is not at the top of the reward heap when it comes to advancing one’s civil service career but it has become just as apparent that varied and diverse department and project experience is. No longer is a Federal employee who expects to grow his or her career expected to stay at any one department for 30 years and retire, but rather it is expected to include a series of different departments, agencies and projects along the way, often for stints less than 2 years. While this may make for a more well-rounded and diverse experience portfolio for the employee, it presents a number of issues when the vast majority of the fast track government executives and leadership are never in one department or one project long enough to see through the life of a typical IT project.

Not sure how deilverology will tackle some of these over time, but I do know it will make for some interesting months ahead. In the meanwhile, I’m headed to the dock and working on the deliverology of my summer refreshments!

2015 in Review: Working in the Federal Government

2015 in Review: Working in the Federal GovernmentIndependent contractors who have worked with government clients know that the experience can be completely different from working in the private sector. There are often more processes and longer timelines, with various hoops to jump through.

In the past year, David O’Brien, Eagle’s Vice-President of Government Services, has shared a few important pieces on this topic, specifically with the Federal Government. If you’re in the National Capital Region and haven’t already seen some of these posts, have a look:

Organization Security Screening & Federal Contractors

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

Private Sector Organization Screening (PSOS) – Answers to IT independent contractors’ frequently asked questions

Private Sector Organization Screening (PSOS) - Answers to independent contractors' frequently asked questionsA little over a year ago, I posted about the Canadian Industrial Security Directorate’s (CISD – a division of PWGSC) requirement for all independent contractors doing business with the Feds to clear their incorporated entities under the Private Sector Organization Screen (PSOS). Since then, many contractors at Eagle have been through the process and we all learned more about it, including some of the common questions. Here are the answers to some of the questions we hear, as well as a few tips to help you through the PSOS process:

Wait, what’s happening?

Independent contractors working in the Federal Government have always been required to get personnel security screening at some level (ex. Reliability Status, Secret Clearance, etc.). These clearances were completed by the organizations through whom they were subcontracting. For example, when contractors work through Eagle, we either submit a request for a new personnel clearance or duplicate their current one. Regardless of what happens, Eagle ends up “owning” the clearance and, at least in the eyes of CISD, the contractor is considered part of Eagle’s personnel (even though that is not the case). Eagle is able to submit and own security clearances because we have a Facility Security Clearance (FSC), meaning Eagle, as a corporation, is security cleared.

In 2012, CISD implemented a new process. Rather than incorporated independent contractors having a personnel clearance owned by many different organizations, they are instead required to gain clearance for their own corporation. Once that is complete, their corporation will hold their personnel clearance.

What’s the process to get this done?

Upon signing your new subcontract, the prime contractor (often a staffing agency) is responsible for ensuring both your corporation and the personnel completing the work (you) hold the proper clearance. If your corporation is not already cleared, the prime contractor will be responsible for “sponsoring” your corporation to receive the appropriate clearance.

The prime contractor will complete the necessary paper work to initiate the process and submit it to PWGSC.  Once that paper work is processed (usually a couple weeks), you will receive an email from PWGSC containing some forms.

You will need to complete and submit the forms within 30 days. After which, PWGSC may come back to you with some more questions and request a brief interview. You can find the complete step-by-step process here.

What security level will I be cleared to?

Security fingerprintYour corporation will either require Designated Organization Screening (DOS) or Facility Security Clearance (FSC).  This will depend on the security requirement of your contract. If you’re only required to hold Reliability Status, you will be cleared for DOS. If you require Classified, Secret or Top Secret Security Clearance, you would require FSC.

In some cases, a contractor’s corporation may already hold one status but require a higher level for the new contract. In this case, the prime contractor would have to sponsor the corporation for an upgrade.

How can I get started?

You cannot be sponsored for PSOS unless you are on an active contract that requires security clearance.

How long will it take?

The process varies, but we’re hearing from contractors who have already completed it that it takes approximately 1 year.

How can I prepare?

If you are expecting to start the process soon, you can prepare by gathering some of the information that will be asked in the initial Application for Registration, including:

  • Business Procurement Number – this is a mandatory requirement to do business with the Federal Government. As long as you have an HST number, you can get your PBN here.
  • The owners of the corporation and their ownership percentage – For an independent contractor, this is usually just themselves and, in some cases, their spouse or a business partner.
  • Company Security Officer (CSO) and Alternate Company Security Officer (ACSO) – The CSO would be the independent contractor (you). The ACSO is only required if you have more than one employee.
  • Any Key Senior Officials (KSOs – owners, officers, directors) – Again, this is usually just the independent contractor and maybe one other person.
  • Security Clearances for the CSO, ASCOs, KSOs, and any personnel who will be performing work – In many cases, you will wear all of these hats. You also probably already have the necessary clearance. If you are in a situation described above where you have another ACSO or KSO and they are not cleared, contact your agency to see if they can help get that process started immediately.
  • Review the other forms that will come your way – some of the initial forms that PWGSC sends you can be found online, including:

Will I need to go through the entire personnel security clearance process again?

No. If you already have a valid personnel security clearance, you will only need to complete the Personnel Security Screening Form. At the top, in Section A, you would select “Transfer” so your personnel clearance would be brought over to your corporation after it gets cleared.

How will this change the way I do business?

There will be very few changes in how you do business, although you will see some benefits such as:

  • You will no longer have to duplicate your clearance every time you start working with a new agency
  • You will be able to work directly with PWGSC to issue your own security clearance renewals and ensure it does not expire.
  • You will no longer be considered “Personnel” of your agency, which helps further separate you from being an employee in the eyes of the CRA

Will it affect my current contract?

Your current contract will not be affected by the PSOS process. According to CISD regulations, a subcontract should not begin until PSOS is complete; however, PWGSC recognizes that this would have significant impact on business and are allowing a transition period. Your contract will be allowed to start using your personnel clearance owned by your agency.

What if I decide not to do this?

As noted above, there is a grace period to get your corporation cleared; however, that will not last forever. If you choose to ignore the forms and not clear your organization, eventually you will not be able to work on Federal Government contracts that require security clearance.

Hopefully this helps clear things up for you. If you do have any other questions, or would like to share your personal experience with the PSOS process and some tips for getting through it, please feel free to do so in the comments below.