Slim subcontracting opportunities still believed to be worth millions
With the awarding of a massive contract for consolidating the federal government’s myriad e-mail systems into one service, attention now turns to what this means for the information technology firms that weren’t part of the winning bid.
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Shared Services Canada – the federal agency responsible for consolidating the government’s IT infrastructure – announced in late June that a joint bid from telecommunications giants Bell Canada and CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants Inc. had won the $398-million contract.
The two firms are now responsible for merging 63 separate e-mail services – many of which forced departments to individually manage and negotiate separate licences – into one. They beat out bids from Dell Canada, HP Canada and IBM Canada.
The contract award means smaller IT firms hoping to do work on the new system have a company to which they can start marketing.
“We are a supplier to Bell, we have been for a long time,” said Kevin Dee, co-founder and CEO of Eagle Professional Resources. “Does that mean we will get a piece of this action? It doesn’t. It just means we have a chance of getting a piece of the action. There are a lot of companies that are suppliers to Bell for different stuff.”
He said he wasn’t sure how much of the work Bell and CGI will be able to complete on their own, but he believes it will be around 90 per cent.
Subcontractors that haven’t yet been selected to help out with the project will have a lot of work to do if they believe they’re well-suited to help out with the consolidation.
Bell has already “largely identified and selected during the proposal stage” the “several partners” it will be working with on the project, wrote Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis in an e-mail responding to OBJ’s request for an interview.
CGI spokesperson Carolyn Rouse referred all questions about the project to the federal government.
Bell will be responsible for drafting the e-mail system’s architecture and design, wrote Ted Francis, a spokesperson for Shared Services Canada, in an e-mail.
He added it will then handle the government’s transition, helping to migrate organizations to the new system while also providing training and operation.
Bell will have the opportunity to subcontract work over the span of the contract, Mr. Francis wrote when asked if the firm had to submit a list of companies it planned to use. Both Bell and Shared Services Canada will have to approve those companies, he noted.
SIDEBAR: The future of government contracting
CABiNET, an industry association that represents several small and medium-sized IT companies, expressed concern in 2012 that the federal government’s decision to bundle federal e-mail systems into one would shut smaller vendors out of the process.
It worried that smaller businesses that had spent decades providing IT services would no longer be able to do work for the government.
But not all of those in the industry share the same view.
The Information Technology Association of Canada, which represents several large vendors in addition to a number of small and medium enterprises, believes that not all future government IT contracts will be as large as this one.
The government will always need smaller contracts as well, said Linda Oliver, the group’s vice-president. That will allow smaller companies to continue to do work for federal departments.
Government officials consulted the IT sector extensively before Bell and CGI won the contract, wrote Ted Francis, a spokesperson for Shared Services Canada, in an e-mail.
The move to one system will save $50 million annually starting in 2015, the federal government has said.