Why does trying to untangle things seem so hard for the federal government?

Now, a plan to simplify hundreds of thousands of federal e-mail addresses is on hold, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

But it’s been in the works for five years and has already cost $65 million.

Now, Shared Services Canada, the federal IT department, said the setback is only temporary.

“We are working with Microsoft to ensure a solution is in place,” the agency said in a statement to Blacklock’s.

No deadline was given for repairs.

The agency in 2016 proposed to standardize every employee e-mail address in the federal directory, all 493,000 accounts, by merging systems from 23,000 separate servers.

Under the old system a Department of Finance employee named Jane Doe was assigned a email account. The new system assigned the same employee a account.

Shared Services Canada said new complications with the e-mail system now require that departments converting to accounts must still send messages using a address.

“A solution is in place to ensure e-mails sent to or will be received by the concerned employees,” said the agency.

“The approximate estimated cost of the contract for the service over the period from 2013 to 2021 is $65 million. This includes consolidation of the Government of Canada e-mail services for 24 departments.”

The Department of Public Works in a 2016 Access To Information memo predicted mayhem would result as employees with identical names were assigned identical e-mail accounts.

“This may in fact lead to more confusion and possible lost or misdirected e-mails,” said a briefing note.

The Canada Revenue Agency alone counted 10 employees named Alain Tremblay.

“What will make the distinction between them?” wrote staff.

Federal directories also identified six Bob Smiths working for the Government of Canada in various departments, as well as five Allan Jones, four Mary Browns, four Annie Belangers and three Gary Coopers.

Directories listed 199 employees named Taylor, 194 Wangs, 106 Singhs, 26 Cohens, 17 Rossis and four Nakamuras.

The e-mail account overhaul was prompted by a Web Renewal Project dating from 2013. Managers also proposed to merge 1,500 separate federal websites into a single location.

“It’s bound to fail,” Professor David Murakami Wood, a Canada research chair at Queen’s University, said at a 2016 hearing of the Senate Liberal caucus.

“The question is whether it fails catastrophically or whether if fails in a generally annoying kind of way. Most government things don’t fail in a catastrophic way. They fail in a kind of mundane and annoying way.

“There is a whole history of ruins littering the landscape of failed and misguided government centralization programs, especially around computing. Everybody seems to think that it’s a great idea to centralize stuff.”

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