Mounties’ CIO goes on the offensive against tech sprawl
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Mounties’ CIO goes on the offensive against tech sprawl

Jessica Twentyman — March 2015
IT leader of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police lays down the law on tech spend by enforcing organization-wide standards and alignment to business priorities.

From investigating organized crime gangs and combatting the illicit movement of firearms to overseeing the personal security detail of his country’s prime minister, there can’t be many technology leaders with a résumé like Pierre Perron’s.

Appointed CIO of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in April 2013, Perron is an assistant commissioner within the force, having risen to its third most senior rank over the course of a 30-year career as a serving officer. Day-to-day police work has its challenges and dangers, but the IT department is no cosy backwater, he insists. Perron characterizes his CIO role at the RCMP as a “tough battle,” and, indeed, it was his reputation as a straight-talking problem-solver that led the RCMP’s top brass to put him in charge of an IT organization that was, by its own account, in need of change.

In fact, Perron has been the tenth CIO to be appointed by the RCMP in just eight years, and the extent of the challenge he faced was soon apparent to him. “What I found was an IT team working — to the best of its abilities — on a list of over 400 IT projects, trying to respond to demands from a very complex organization struggling to set priorities,” he outlines. “In some cases they were working on projects for the sections that screamed the loudest or were choosing the jobs that seemed most ‘do-able.’”

A more strategic approach — based on close alignment with the force’s business needs and a set of organization-wide standards — was urgently required. But implementing that was never going to be easy.
Just say ‘No’

First to contend with was the complex structure and scope of the RCMP’s operations: in addition to its role as Canada’s federal police service, it is also contracted to provide policing services to three territories, eight provinces, more than 150 municipalities, 600 Aboriginal communities and three international airports. The force is unique in the world in delivering policing at national, federal, provincial and municipal levels, and its work spans six different time zones, extending into some of the world’s most remote locations.

Under those circumstances, some fragmentation in IT strategy and tools is perhaps inevitable, but just as problematic are the cultural challenges, says Perron. In law enforcement in general, and in the RCMP in particular, he says, there’s a tendency among different organizations to insist on choosing their own IT solutions, leading to fragmentation and a very complex support environment. Today, he explains, the RCMP helpdesk is expected to support more than 1,700 different applications. Here, Perron has been happy to take a tough approach.

“The IT world is critiqued by a lot of people, but understood by very few. I have some brilliant colleagues working with me, but we need a stubborn guy [like me] in charge who isn’t afraid to say ‘No.’ It's the only way we’ll get stuff done.”

Indeed, he jokes, given the number of times he has found himself declining a request, his job title should have been changed to CI ‘No.’ "But that's what it's going to take to drive this organization in the direction it needs to go," he says.
Central intelligence

A major focus for Perron has been to establish an information management framework. He believes this is needed for the RCMP to deliver a world-class police service and, ultimately, to make life easier for RCMP officers in three key ways: it will allow them to more efficiently capture and store information gathered in the course of policing duties; help them to easily access that information when it’s needed for investigations; and enable them to combine that information with other input to create the intelligence that will assist in the solving and prevention of crime.

Software from Oracle will be at the heart of the RCMP’s new information management framework, rationalizing existing systems and databases. He is also insisting that all in-house applications are now developed on one platform — Oracle WebLogic — as opposed to the nine that are used today. His team is also building an Oracle-based national data warehouse for all operational policing information.

Elsewhere, Perron is looking to use Oracle Portal as a way to respond to members of the force who are clamoring for mobile applications. But a prerequisite for that is “a good set of information security policies around mobility that give us ways to capture data, analyze it and delete it safely.”

Another proposal — to equip officers with wearable video cameras — will also have to be policy-driven. “Absolutely,” he says, “I want IT to be able to solve these kinds of issues but we need to think through the policies before I support going out and buying 20,000 cameras.”

Notwithstanding his efficiency-driven standardization agenda, Perron is getting a lot of support for the tough stance he’s taking — even from individual provinces that run their own IT programs. And that, he says, is thanks in part to his background as a serving officer.

“I’m not so sure a police force CIO needs to be a former police officer, but he or she absolutely need to understand the business of policing. And I’m able to connect with senior management and get them to listen to what I’m trying to say because I came to this job from within the organization.”

Pierre Perron was speaking at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco.
First published March 2015
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