Sean Boots

Technology, public services, and people. But mostly people.

Public service heroes: Beth Fox

Beth Fox is a service designer and digital strategy lead at the Nova Scotia Digital Service. She’s an amazing public speaker, a champion for users, an occasional blogger, a maker of awesome stickers and buttons, and one of my first-ever public service Twitter friends. We chatted on May 3. Ask her about her (excellent) sound-check warm-up phrases. Read more →

Enterprise architecture is dead

When I rejoined the federal government in 2016, our team’s desks were around the corner from a large team working on a financial management transformation project – the walls of their area covered in mesmerizing, plotter-printed posters. This was my first introduction to enterprise architecture. If you haven’t worked in government IT, it can be hard to describe, but if you’ve seen business capability models, target state architectures, TOGAF frameworks, or architecture review committee presentation decks, hello. You’ve met enterprise architecture. Read more →

A quick follow-up on digital identity

A couple of months ago I wrote a post on my hopes for the future of digital identity in Canada. Most of the ideas I wrote were related to technical implementation details, but the broader theme was that I’d like to see the federal government play a bigger role, instead of deferring responsibility to provinces and territories. Read more →

Public service heroes: Honey Dacanay

Honey Dacanay is a digital government legend in Canada – part of the founding team at the Ontario Digital Service, and an early leader of the CSPS Digital Academy. She currently works on Service Canada’s Digital & Client Data team and teaches at McMaster’s Public Policy in Digital Society program. Honey is a longtime inspiration both for her digital policy and legislation work, and for her writing and speaking on digital government. We chatted on April 25. Read more →

“FYN Unscripted” podcast with Sidra Mahmood and Brittaney Lewis

A few weeks ago I was part of the second English-language episode of the FYN Unscripted podcast, organized and run by the Federal Youth Network. Brittaney Lewis from DND hosted a conversation with Sidra Mahmood from ESDC and I. It was a lot of fun, and a great reminder of how having a community of fellow public servants means so much. Read more →

Public service heroes: Rumon Carter

I’m really thrilled to be kicking off this series of blog posts with Rumon Carter, a hero of mine for years since I first saw his work with the BC Dev Exchange. He replied immediately after I reached out, rejected the “hero” label entirely, and we chatted the following day on April 21. Read more →

A small series: Public service heroes

Although our public service institutions are full of systemic issues and barriers to change, the people within these organizations are brilliant and inspiring. I’m really lucky to have met public servants that are lifelong inspirations, from the very start of my career to today. Over the months ahead, I’ll be sharing small interviews with public servants that I really look up to. I’m calling this series “Public service heroes”, because I think we should celebrate the awesome and often unsung work that public servants do. Read more →

Everything is broken and no one seems to mind

Last week, Kathryn May published an article in Policy Options titled “Speaking truth to power discouraged in public service”, based on a recent report from the Institute on Governance. It lines up with a consistent observation: public servants are frequently unable to provide fearless advice to the more senior public servants above them, let alone to political leaders and ministers several steps further removed. That has important consequences for the effectiveness of our public service work. Read more →

Small hopes for the future of digital ID in Canada

It’s April, so like most Canadians, I spent a lot of time logging in to the Canada Revenue Agency and other government websites. The CRA’s login system is better than most of the 60 or so separate login systems used by federal government departments, but it’s still not very user-friendly. Fortunately, there’s a commitment to improve this – “a common and secure approach for a trusted digital identity platform” – in the most recent mandate letter for the President of the Treasury Board. With that on the radar, here’s my own small hopes for what I’d like to see for digital ID in Canada. Read more →

Three suggestions for the next President of SSC

In early 2022, the President of Shared Services Canada (SSC) announced that he was retiring. In what has accidentally become a tradition, below are some suggestions for the next president to take on the role: start moving to zero trust networking and away from perimeter defence; enable the rapid, secure adoption of third-party software-as-a-service tools at scale; and incrementally make SSC services optional instead of mandatory. Read more →

Digital Accelerator Demo Day

Last week I was invited to be a panelist for the Canada School of Public Service’s Spring 2022 Digital Accelerator Demo Day. It was a really fascinating and inspiring event! Each of the teams that were part of the Digital Accelerator program had spent the previous 10 weeks working on a digital initiative; across the teams they represented a really interesting range of topic areas, from public facing services to data aggregation and visualization to potential career development programs. Read more →

Why IT vendors?

During my Public Servant-in-Residence term at Carleton University, I’ll be working with Prof. Amanda Clarke as part of her larger research project on Trustworthy Digital Government. I’ll be studying the role and influence of information technology vendors in the public sector – the companies that provide software, technology equipment, cloud infrastructure, and professional services to governments. Read more →

Joining Carleton University as a Public Servant-in-Residence

This past week I officially joined Carleton University as a Public Servant-in-Residence, working with Prof. Amanda Clarke. I’m really thrilled to be joining the School of Public Policy and Administration, and the faculty and staff have been tremendously welcoming. I’ll be joining Carleton’s School of Public Policy and Administration remotely from here in Whitehorse; when my PSIR term wraps up in the fall I’ll return to my previous work at CDS. Read more →

Public service tech tip: Get better home wi-fi routers

As public servants, we’ve mostly all been working from home for almost two years now, and I think it’s safe to say that some form of hybrid work will be normal from here on in. That means: meetings by MS Teams and Google Meet and Skype and WebEx are going to be a regular part of our working lives. When your internet is working well, these can be really great; when your internet is struggling, it’s not a good time. As the saying goes: the best time to upgrade your home wi-fi was March 2020; the second best time is now. Read more →

Things I’d like to see in upcoming EC collective agreement negotiations

Later this month, collective bargaining agreement negotiations are starting for the Economics and Social Science Services group (the EC classification) that I’m a member of. CAPE Local #527 represent! With these negotiations on the horizon, here are some things I’d like to see as part of the conversation: less pay, more time off; a better experience for new public servants; and permanent remote work options & access to modern tools. Read more →

FWD50 guest post: Conversations for the year ahead

Last week the FWD50 team launched their annual survey on the future of digital government. If you haven’t already filled it out, don’t miss sharing your perspective. It’s something I look forward to each year, partly since I genuinely love filling out surveys and partly since the results are always fascinating. They’re a deep look at how we all see and imagine the future of the public service – both how we work, and what issues we’ll be working on. Read more →

Reflections on the Ottawa protest, but mostly on Ottawa

As I write this, we’re coming up on the third weekend of ongoing anti-government protests in Ottawa. These protests are different than past protests in a lot of ways: more dangerous, and more disruptive to the everyday lives of people who live near Parliament Hill. I’m frustrated and worried for friends and colleagues who live in the area. But mostly I’m sad, that the protestors who have camped out for the past few weeks never experienced the genuine joy that I felt each time I visited Ottawa. Here’s a brighter look back at the Ottawa that I’ve experienced over the years. Read more →

Is this blocked in my department: 2021 year in review

Using online collaboration tools has been a big part of making it possible for federal public servants to work from home during the pandemic. That’s a big change for Government of Canada departments, who have historically been very reluctant to allow access to these tools. Since 2019, I’ve tracked where online services are allowed or blocked at “Is this blocked in my”, with anonymous submission forms that let people report which sites they can access in each department. Here, for the second year running, is the 2021 “Is this blocked in my department” year in review. Read more →

Public service tech tip: If you create “vanity URLs”, expect people to spell them wrong

If you’re working in government communications, you’ve probably come across “vanity URLs” before. These are easily-written-out shortcuts to webpages that typically have longer, more complex web addresses. You’ll often see them in TV or online advertisements, spoken out on radio ads, or included on billboards, posters, and other printed communications. With vanity URLs, people are frequently typing them in “by hand”, in the address bar of their web browser. That’s partly why they’re so useful, but it also means that people are likely to type them incorrectly. Read more →

A bleak outlook for public sector tech

Paul Craig recently wrote a blog post on the massive amount of compliance documentation his team produced to launch a small public website in a Canadian government department. It’s a must-read lens into the current shape of public sector tech work in Canada. We have a public service executive class that isn’t equipped to lead technology initiatives. We’ve got widespread adoption of digital government words, but not digital government implementation. And we’ve got a political class that is too busy with other things to care about the public service’s tech capacity. Let’s talk about it. Read more →