The provincial government has more computers than employees - 39,000 to 32,000. So it's "returning surplus systems" as part of several cost-saving measures internally announced last month. The government will also be moving some offices to consolidate rental space. It has put a freeze on purchases from the branches that manage the government's property and technology. And it's asking bureaucrats to choose between their cell phones and Blackberries, discarding one if they have both. The following is a complete copy of that announcement, which posted on July 23.
You Gonna Use That Phone?
If you stop to think about all the things it takes just to keep government functioning and ensure we have the tools to do our jobs, it really is amazing. There's the provision and maintenance of the physical space we work in (literally keeping the lights on), the technology we use - from phones to faxes to Live Meeting - and all the processes required to manage those assets.
It's easy to see how and why that is one of the big expenses for government.
But almost every one of us who works here could probably also point to half a dozen ways we could save some money by changing how we work. In fact, many employees have offered up suggestions like that over on Spark. And in the current challenging fiscal environment, it's no surprise there is a serious effort underway to reduce spending on that front right across government.
Much of the work to keep the lights on in government is managed through Shared Services BC, which includes ARES (our "landlords" who manage government property) and WTS (the technology providers). Since the release of the February budget, they've been working with ministries to reduce the consumption of the services they provide with the goal of saving $65 million across government this year.
It's a more complex challenge than you might think, and you can find more information on the Shared Services BC site. But some examples of the corporate directions to reduce costs include:
Only one computer per person: with 32,000 public service employees, why do we have 39,000 computers? So ministries are returning surplus systems. WTS is also saving money by reducing the size of monitors issued through the
U2.0 refresh program and similar savings measures.
One phone/mobile device per person: we have 13,000 cell phones and BlackBerries across government. No question they are useful and, in many cases, now virtually essential for many employees in the modern world. But surely you don't need both a cell and a Berry. And if you have one or other, do you also need a desk phone? Again, steps are being taken to reduce that kind of costly and unnecessary overlap.
Reducing real estate costs: ARES is working to reduce the amount we spend on leasing property and the associated support and maintenance. That includes better use of the space we have, avoiding unnecessary building improvements and renovations, and exploring options that promote a more mobile workforce.
To support this effort, new directives came out this week that freeze purchases of services from ARES and WTS except where they are clearly needed for reasons such as protecting health and safety, generating future Shared Services BC cost reductions or avoiding interruption of service delivery. These new directives also support community-based spaces designed by ARES that will reduce overall building costs. That will result in moving some offices to consolidate space.
It's true that all this makes purchasing some services more challenging. But ultimately this isn't different than what many of us are probably doing right now with our own household budgets in these tighter economic times. We're looking at where we spend our money and thinking about whether that next purchase is something we really need or just something we want. Just like at home, every dollar we save on the operational side of government is another dollar we can allocate to greater priorities or avoid having to cut somewhere else. So, if the desk in front of you has a landline, a cell phone and a BlackBerry sitting on it, you might want to think about which one you really need.
What should you do if you want to reduce some of your own consumption at work? Contact your facilities or IT service manager who will be able to assist you. Also, you can e-mail Shared Services BC for further assistance.
Published July 23, 2009