Policy on Service and Digital: Busting Silos
Description: Discover how the Policy on Service and Digital's integrated silo-busting approach ensures the design and delivery of high-quality, client-centric services that benefit Canadians.
Date: January 29, 2021
Denis Skinner [00:00:11] Hello everyone! And welcome to the Canada School of Public Service.
Denis Skinner [00:00:15] My name is Dennis Skinner and I'm the Executive Director of the Digital Change sector at Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. I'm pleased to be your host for today's Policy on Service and Digital Busting Silos event.
Denis Skinner [00:00:50] I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather (for those of us in Ottawa) is part of the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people. Since this is a virtual event, I recognize that we all work in different locations and that, as a result, you may be in various unceded traditional Indigenous territories. I encourage you to take a moment to think about it.
Denis Skinner [00:00:50] Just a bit of housekeeping ... In order to have the best possible experience of this virtual event it's best not to be connected to VPN if possible. This is a bilingual event. If you'd like either French or English simultaneous interpretation or sign language interpretation, and you aren't getting it, please disconnect and then reconnect and select the option you prefer. If you want live captioning displayed in English or French, disconnect, and then in the email you receive about the event, click the link for the language that you want to follow.
Denis Skinner [00:01:20] This event is recorded so that you can find the videos and the transcripts in English and French. If you need help, you can contact our technical facilitator using the chat function by clicking on the icon that looks like the silhouette of someone raising their hand.
Denis Skinner [00:01:36] I'm very pleased to introduce today's Busting Silos event. As federal public servants, our most fundamental role is to serve Canadians, serve our communities and serve the public interest. We're committed to designing, delivering better, faster, more reliable digital services that improve the lives of Canadians. The Policy on Service and Digital provides a single set of rules that govern how the Government of Canada manages service delivery, information and data, privacy, technology and cybersecurity. "Busting Silos" is plain language for integrated approach.
Denis Skinner [00:02:07] This integrated approach is the main aim of the Policy. It is this interdisciplinary approach that ensures the delivery of high quality, safe, and client-centred services to Canadians. It is this integrated approach that ensures that we do things right, from the start. The Policy's proactive approach explains that when we work closely with our cyber security colleagues, we ensure that we design secure services. That we work closely with our privacy colleagues to ensure that we design services that protect the information and privacy of our citizens. That we work closely with our Accessibility colleagues to ensure that we design services that everyone can use. That we work closely with our information and data management colleagues, as well as with our information technology colleagues, to ensure that we design services that are easy to use, accessible, and secure. We design services that meet the needs of Canadians and make a difference in their lives. The Policy requires that we keep our users at the centre of the design process and that we be able to assess our successes.
Denis Skinner [00:03:17] Now, in the summer of 2019, the Honorable Joyce Murray, Minister of Digital Government, announced that the Policy on Service and Digital would set the foundation for the future of digital government in Canada. And that the Policy sets in place the conditions for truly user-centred service design and delivery. On April 1st of this year, with no fanfare, just as we're adjusting to the pandemic lockdown, the Policy took effect. Minister Murray has been Minister of Digital Government since March 2019, leading the way for the government's digital transformation. This summer, the minister toured the country, virtually, of course, to engage with leaders in both the public and private sectors, as well as academia to talk about how we can create digital government and deliver services that Canadians need. I can attest that those are outstanding sessions. We welcome Minister Murray and her keynote address.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:04:08] Hello, everyone!
Minister Joyce Murray [00:04:13] Hello everyone! Thank you for joining us today.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:04:15] And it's nice to virtually see many of you participating from so many departments today. Thank you to Marc and the Canada School for Public Service for inviting me to speak and share some ideas at this event. And before I go into any further details, I want to acknowledge that I'm joining you here today from the traditional unceded territory of the Coast Salish Nations in Vancouver.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:04:46] As you may know, I'm leading the digital transformation of our government. And I want to start by saying how important events like these are. Working across departments, sharing best practices and solutions to our common digital delivery challenges is exactly how we will bring the lasting change to our work culture and how we transform our services and transactions with the Canadian public.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:05:12] I know that many of you work toward this goal every day. Thank you for your leadership and commitment in this work.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:05:29] Each department is unique and we're all on the same team with the same goals on behalf of the individuals that we serve. But agencies, departments and programs have long been set up as silos -- by tradition, by organization, by your legislation, by accountability to your minister and to the public. In today's digital world, silos don't work anymore and we have no choice but to change.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:05:58] When the Prime Minister appointed me as Minister of Digital Government, no one could have predicted how crucial your work would become in just a few months.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:06:16] So that's the Covid-19 challenge. It's been a challenge for everyone -professionally and personally. But one tiny silver lining in this cloud has been our accelerated shift to digital. I'm sure that, like me, you're mostly working from home, missing in-person meetings and the informal chats with colleagues, the fellowship, the friendships. The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed us, though, to accelerate our government's digital transformation and the wider adoption of digital tools. And in that vein, I would like to take a moment to give a shout-out to the teams that I work more directly with at the Canadian Digital Service, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, and Shared Services Canada. Collectively, you supported an unprecedented shift to remote work, virtually overnight. You expanded network capacity and provided the backend support for the government to quickly roll out essential services and benefits in a time of great need for Canadians and employers. You built digital tools to help Canadians navigate these new benefits, and of course, built Covid Alert, our national exposure notification app, and so much more. I can't lose the opportunity here to encourage anyone who has not yet downloaded Covid Alert to do so and help us get the word out to friends and family.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:07:48] This application is an important tool in our toolbox to fight the pandemic. To date, Canadians have downloaded COVID Alert more than 5 million times. The more people use it, the more effective it will be.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:08:06] And I want to remark that a study by academics from Oxford and Harvard concluded from their modelling that if the number of downloads that we've already seen in our country, in other words, 15%, if that is done, then this will have up to an 8% reduction in Covid infections and up to 6% reduction in mortality. So this is important.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:08:37] Now, what was remarkable in our digital response to Covid-19 was how quickly we were able to respond and at times outside of our regular processes and comfort zone. Services and programs that would normally have taken several months or more to conceive and deliver were rolled out in just weeks. We worked outside of our traditional or across, I should say, our traditional silos, we collaborated across departments and we proved to ourselves that nothing can slow us down in an emergency. We, you, that is, delivered when Canadians were counting on you.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:09:14] My goal now is to use this momentum and make this agile culture the new norm within the Government of Canada.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:09:26] So what would it take for every Canadian to be able to access any federal government service at any time from any device? At FWD50, Alistair Croll called us a giant high tech company. [chuckles] So we can do this. My key areas of focus are modernizing the way we replace, build and manage major IT projects. So supporting that work, supporting departments and meeting their digital operational needs, building whole of government platforms and components that make it easy for Canadians to find and use government services, overhauling the institutional barriers to change that have held us back -- have I mentioned those silos yet? -- and finally, finding ways to increase underrepresented groups within our ranks in the public service.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:10:21] What does digital government mean for the people who count on us? And what might it mean? It could mean no more paper forms and faxes. Hallelujah! No more confusing and hard-to-find government benefits and services. No more having to call and sit on hold to get an update on an application or transaction. No more multiple complicated logins with credentials that are easily forgotten. And perhaps automatic tax filing for simple tax returns. Think of the social benefits of that, when so many low-income or remote Canadians, who don't file their taxes because they don't believe they owe any, actually forgo benefits that they're entitled to. Collectively, two billion dollars in benefits to the lowest income and people that need it the most are never distributed because their taxes weren't filed. And so this is a very important income equality program, in my view. So I would say that when fast and easy digital transactions with the federal government are available for those who need them, we will also have more frontline service staff freed up to get better in-person service for those who need in-person service. Another aspect of the social justice side of what we're trying to do.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:11:52] So this Policy on Service and Digital is part of a potentially very ambitious program. But, you know, we had already begun to lay the framework for better digital services. And that's exactly what this policy is, a framework that's a major step in the direction of digital transformation. It provides direction on how departments need to manage service delivery, data stewardship, IT and cybersecurity in the digital era.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:12:23] In addition, the Policy focuses on people who use services and in practice, it enables the important principle of service design through research and constant experimentation with users.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:12:40] It requires departments to proactively consider and build in by design key requirements when developing programs and services.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:12:49] It means considerations, like data interoperability and accessibility, can no longer be afterthoughts. And it really is a fundamental shift in how we develop programs and services as an enterprise.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:13:03] Now, you personally may be aware of, or even leading, some of the ways in which government public servants are already doing this -- designing and testing with users, iterating and improving frequently, addressing security and privacy risks up front, collaborating widely across departments, working in the open.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:13:26] The purpose of this policy is to improve government operations and the customer service experience. It is based on the digital norms that are becoming our DNA.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:13:40] Being built into our DNA.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:13:43] These standards have inspired our approach to implementing the notification app, for example, with over five million messages sent to date.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:13:56] So it's about placing Canadians at the centre of service design and delivery. The Policy is a critical foundation in supporting the digital modernization work that you are all doing in your respective departments. And to support you further, we've just published the service and digital guideline to help put the policy into action.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:14:21] These guidelines are designed to serve as a roadmap so your organizations can meet the policy requirements.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:14:30] And as with any good set of tools these days, it will keep evolving as we move forward and as we learn. Because, frankly, when this policy was first drafted was a number of months ago.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:14:44] And in the case of digital, there's already some things that we might want to change. So let's just take a moment. Let's take a moment to think about what we're trying to do. Recall a recent Amazon purchase that you've made. It's probably from your home, using your phone, at your convenience, and then you receive texts telling you just where your packages and exactly when it will, almost exactly when it will be delivered. Now imagine yourself in the shoes of a citizen experiencing a cumbersome, frustrating and time-consuming transaction with our government that is critical to the functioning of their life and family.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:15:33] Let's close that gap. [chuckle] It's clear that there will be challenges. But like Nelson Mandela said, it always seems impossible until it's done. And as Alistair noted, the government is like a high tech company, so we can figure out how to do this.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:15:54] The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we can work while separated, accelerate and repeat, take risks, and overcome the constraints of bureaucratic structures, encouraging a permanent cultural shift to a digital and responsive public service and government, in accordance with the wishes of Canadians.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:16:18] So my message today is very simple: Be part of the conversation, give feedback, be bold with your ideas and really appreciate what you're offering, and what you're doing for the benefit of Canadians.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:16:37] Your expertise and forward thinking will be invaluable on this incredible adventure of transformation. Thank you for being part of it. Thank you for your ear today, and enjoy the rest of the program. Thank you.
Denis Skinner [00:16:54] Well, thank you so much, Minister. Those are great messages. Now, I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind. So first of all, what were some of the key takeaways that you gathered during your virtual tour this summer? Were there any insights that really took you by surprise?
Minister Joyce Murray [00:17:12] Well, we had so many, we had so many roundtables, and there were so many dedicated and very skilled and experienced people that participated. I would say one key thing that surfaced again and again is how much the private sector want to be partners and want to share their innovation. And so having that, finding ways to harness the innovation of the private sector to me is a priority. I also had several that were focused on those who are not, those who suffer most from the lack of excellent and timely service by government. And so I think that using what we're doing, having in mind that this is part of our social policy as a government of fairness, of inclusion, of thinking about how we can benefit those that need it the most. I think that's something else that came out. And another element that sticks with me is how many collaborative processes there are already that we can build on to accelerate what we're doing and accelerate, really addressing some of those key barriers, like silos and like the norms that have meant that we take as a government so long to to deliver when we've learned with Covid and that we know we can do it more quickly, if we need to. So that's, I mean, I'm just, that's those are off the top of my head. There was so much more that I've learned and I have asked that we have a list of everything, all of the great ideas, and then we can start to deliberately make sure that that we're taking them seriously and putting them into into action. My blogs are at one place for those of you in this meeting to get a sense of more of the ideas that came forward in these roundtables.
Denis Skinner [00:19:28] It sounds like those are some really rich conversations that you had this summer.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:19:32] Very, very.
Denis Skinner [00:19:34] Now, one more question, if you don't mind. So you mentioned some great examples of progress we've made in Canada's digital vision. What should we doing as a government to accelerate this vision? Let's get it done.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:19:47] Well, you know, that's I have no simple answers for anything ever, Denis. And to the audience, people have learned that about me. What do we need to do to get this done? It's a challenge that we, in talking with some of the architects of the UK digital transformation, they were very clear that because they were in a time of what they called spend control, they were having to reduce their spending, and there was and, they use that actually as an imperative for departments to work together, because in the end, this is not a cost-saving measure. But in the end, there is economies of scale to doing things differently and using digital tools. We know that. So we don't have some of the levers that would allow requiring to change. And so I think the key thing really is bringing people on board. But with the examples of how their jobs can be improved, how their jobs can change and be more satisfying, and how their services can be more effective using digital tools to have a more digital approach for serving Canadians. So I think that's going to take a lot more cooperation and collaboration. There is no top-down stuff happening here. There is that everyone in their own departments, from the IT group needs to be an ambassador for this change and work with those in your policy groups, and just make sure they understand that delivery is really where the public, that's the interface with the public.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:21:44] So it can be a great policy, but if we can't deliver quickly and skillfully, the public is not getting all the full benefits. And at the heart of everything that is offered by this government, how it's delivered, at the heart of that is digital. So, you know, it's a pretty simple idea, but it's kind of new, and to deliver digitally does mean having a platform approach and enterprise-wide approach, which means we have to start really thinking differently about our data and how it's how it's set up and how it's utilized. So anyway, that's my ramble there. It's going to take everyone helping. And you know what, I am really seeing it working already. And I want to give a lot of credit also to Marc for this. As a vice-chair of the Treasury Board, I see a lot of submissions coming through, like really a lot.
And in the beginning, I was seeing the digital piece of these submissions, which most Treasury Board submissions have an important digital component. And in asking has the department thought about, is this application already out there? Can they use something somebody else is using? And if not, are they going to create this in a way that it's an enterprise tool that some other department can use without reinventing the wheel? I use to ask those questions, and I almost don't need to as much anymore because the departments are coming earlier to the CIO group and getting some of these ideas about how to do things differently in a digital age, earlier on in their process. I'm very encouraged. I think things are changing and, but, you know, to really accelerate this transformation is going to take a next step in work that we do is as a ministry with our partners and the other ministries.
Denis Skinner [00:23:50] Absolutely. We're we're all in this together.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:23:54] Yeah, they certainly are.
Denis Skinner [00:23:57] And this is great. Thank you so much for sharing your vision with us this afternoon. I'm sure it was much appreciated by all the viewers. And because it's being recorded, they'll be able to share this message across again and again. So thank you so much for that.
Minister Joyce Murray [00:24:13] Yeah. Great to be invited and have an opportunity to chat with you and talk about just how important that this is and to thank everybody that already gets it and is working on this great project of transformation. So thank you.
Denis Skinner [00:24:29] Thank you, Minister.
Denis Skinner [00:24:31] Next, I want to welcome Marc Brouillard, Chief Technology Officer and Acting Chief Information Officer of Canada. Prior to joining the Government of Canada, Marc was VP of Business Development at a local e-services start-up. Before that, he held numerous positions in technology consulting and business development. He provides a government-wide vision and strategic leadership in pursuing world class excellence in digital integration. And I say this not only because he's my boss. He's had a long and successful career as a senior public and private sector executive in IM/IT. Welcome, Marc Brouillard.
Marc Brouillard [00:25:03] Thank you for that kind introduction, Denis. And thank you for the Minister for taking time to speak to us, and I'd also like to thank Sonya and her whole team for organizing this and the Canada School for hosting us. So thank you all for this. I'm very pleased to be able to join you all here today, because the theme we're here to talk about is something I'm really passionate about.
Marc Brouillard [00:25:31] I would also like to thank everyone who has joined us. Every time we have the opportunity to talk about overcoming administrative silos and improving collaboration, everyone benefits.
Marc Brouillard [00:25:44] Since becoming the acting Chief Information Officer in May this year, I've had a chance to talk to many public servants, including some of you here today. I've always been eager to hear from you about your ideas. And this event comes at a very important time, because, as the minister said, we're at a real turning point in our journey towards a digital government. We've had a real opportunity to fully integrate our organizations and provide digital services to better serve Canadians and create digital open government that puts people first.
Marc Brouillard [00:26:19] I would like to elaborate on some of the main themes the Minister addressed and describe the specific steps we are taking to achieve our digital vision.
Marc Brouillard [00:26:19] It all starts with what the Minister referred to as our DNA, the Government of Canada's Digital Standards. That's really our lifeblood because they form the foundation of all of our efforts. That's why I think it's important to spend some time to get a better sense of what they mean. The first, arguably the most important standard, is designing with users.
Marc Brouillard [00:26:44] For far too long, we have been designing a service, developing it, implementing it, and then, we gather feedback from people who use this service — our customers.
Marc Brouillard [00:26:55] When in reality it just shouldn't work that way. We need to research with users to understand their needs and the problems we want to solve at the outset. We need to continually test with our clients to guide our design and development during the entire process, not just at the end. This is how we ensure that our services are accessible, easy to find, and simple to use.
Marc Brouillard [00:27:16] This also means that we must periodically carry out updates and make improvements to ensure that the services being developed are flexible enough to adapt quickly to the needs of those who need them most.
Marc Brouillard [00:27:34] Gone are the days when we planned something massive and rolled it out to everyone at once. We start small and then we scale up. And in order to have agile services that can do that, we need to work in an open by default environment. This means sharing evidence, research and decision making openly.
Marc Brouillard [00:27:51] This means that as much data and information as possible must be made available to the outside world. And this also means that we must not to wait until the end of the project to do so, but that it is necessary to go step by step, throughout its life cycle.
Marc Brouillard [00:28:10] Working in silos for too long, we've often been fearful or uncertain to share with each other, let alone other countries. But I believe leveraging open standards and solutions will help ease some of those concerns and help us break down silos by providing services and platforms that are seamless for Canadians, no matter what device or channel they're using.
Marc Brouillard [00:28:31] As with any initiative, it is important to integrate security and privacy from the outset. Digital standards are based on a balanced approach between security and privacy.
Marc Brouillard [00:28:45] Managing security risks and ensuring privacy is absolutely fundamental. And the good news is that we can leverage technology to do this in a way that doesn't place an unnecessary amount of burden on users. The important thing is to understand, like the services we deliver as public servants, these digital standards are evergreen, and we will continue to evolve them as we put them into practice.
Marc Brouillard [00:29:09] The second element is the Digital Operations Strategic Plan, which I am responsible for as Chief Information Officer.
Marc Brouillard [00:29:15] The DOSP is our annual forward-looking three-year enterprise-wide plan. It sets the strategic direction we'll take for the integrated management of service, information, data, IT, and cybersecurity within the Government of Canada.
Marc Brouillard [00:29:38] It describes our progress toward an open, service-oriented digital government that offers programs and services simply and efficiently.
Marc Brouillard [00:29:39] The plan's first pillar is services that meet the needs and expectations of individuals and businesses. This means improving the client service experience by getting their feedback more often and engaging users in the design. Again, this goes back to our digital standards. It also means collecting data and making it open on the Open Government portal and available for exchange and reuse.
Marc Brouillard [00:30:01] To do this, we need to establish rules that encourage real-time exchanges with trusted external partners and institutions.
Marc Brouillard [00:30:11] We also need to build and use secure common solutions for digital service delivery. This means embracing leading edge practices, including the use of common and enterprise solutions, where appropriate.
Marc Brouillard [00:30:31] The second major focus of the Plan is on safe technology and data that is tailored to digital services and operations.
Marc Brouillard [00:30:34] That will require us to manage and use data and information and strategic assets. It also means that we need to strengthen the overall health of the government's application portfolio.
Marc Brouillard [00:30:46] We also need modern, reliable and secure networks and infrastructure, which is the core mandate of Shared Services Canada.
Marc Brouillard [00:30:53] And the third pillar covers operations that enable digital-first delivery. For that, we need modern and accessible tools for the entire GC workforce, such as expedited rollout of Microsoft Office 365.
Marc Brouillard [00:31:05] It is also necessary to create an environment that can attract and retain skilled people in a digital-focused workforce so that digital skills within the government can improve.
Marc Brouillard [00:31:19] Because all the latest tools and technology don't mean much if we don't take a workforce, if we don't have a workforce, that can truly take advantage of that. As part of the review of the plan, I've been holding consultations with departments across government over the past three months, and I'm really pleased with the progress being made. We've received a lot of great feedback and hope to publish the updated plan in the coming weeks.
Marc Brouillard [00:31:55] The Minister also referred to the new Policy on Service and Digital. Although the Policy on Service and Digital came into effect on April 1, at the very beginning of the pandemic, it is the result of several years of work.
Marc Brouillard [00:31:56] It would not exist without the tremendous contributions of public servants from across the Government of Canada, many of whom are listening today. The Policy touches on the recurring theme of my remarks, which is in full integration across the government.
Marc Brouillard [00:32:24] The Policy was developed based on the principles of digital standards and is intended to outline a range coordinated rules on service management, information, information technology, and cyber security.
Marc Brouillard [00:32:26] It requires us to proactively consider key requirements, such as accessibility, privacy, security, and official languages at the design stage of operational and service initiatives. It also establishes an enterprise-wide integrated approach to governance, planning and management. This means that we're all playing from the same playbook and that we're all on the same team. As Minister Murray mentioned in her remarks, we also have released on Canada.ca the Guideline on Service and Digital to support you in implementing the Policy.
Marc Brouillard [00:32:59] The Guideline is intended to be a guide to interpreting the requirements of the policy and offers a range of tools and reflection that we hope will be useful to you.
Marc Brouillard [00:33:08] As the Guideline is intended to be evergreen, we will continue to work with you in the coming months and years to iterate and improve on the guideline. Keep an eye out for the newest version in 2021. So these three elements, the Digital Standards, the Digital Operations Strategic Plan and the Policy on Service and Digital, will guide us to where we need to go. But true integration means working collaboratively. This is why your departments play such an important role.
Marc Brouillard [00:33:34] Concretely, one of the first steps toward better integration is the appointment of two new officers in each department — chosen by deputy heads.
Marc Brouillard [00:33:44] The designated officials for service management will work collaboratively across organizations to break down silos and enable better service design and delivery. The designated official for cyber security will work collaboratively with the Chief Information Officer and Chief Security Officer to ensure the right approach to the security of your department's information in enabling the delivery of secure and trusted services to Canadians.
Marc Brouillard [00:34:09] A governance structure for guiding this project is already in place, and I believe it will be a concrete way to foster collaboration between departments and better integration.
Marc Brouillard [00:34:22] It's true that we've been talking about breaking down silos in government for years. I'm sure many of you have lost count of the amount of times it's been said in various presentations and meetings over the years.
Marc Brouillard [00:34:44] But it is also true that this has never been more important than it is now. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can no longer continue to work in the same way as in the past.
Marc Brouillard [00:34:47] Covid is a complex problem and complex problems can only be solved through collaboration. Our Covid response has also shown how flexible and agile the government of Canada can be. Just look at all of the programs and services that we rolled out.
Marc Brouillard [00:35:14] Not only were they implemented in record time, but they were designed collaboratively between departments and other jurisdictions, and in conjunction with international partners.
Marc Brouillard [00:35:16] Although we face a difficult period, there are many exciting things we can do to leverage the momentum and truly integrate as a government.
Marc Brouillard [00:35:29] Consider what you can do in your day-to-day work to help remove barriers and encourage collaboration.
Marc Brouillard [00:35:32] At the end of the day, it's your contributions that will create a digital government that puts people first. Thank you.
Denis Skinner [00:35:40] Thank you, Marc. Lots of great messages on how we can bust those silos and have a more integrated approach to our delivery. And those high level documents providing direction of where we are in Canada, the plan is laid out in what we have to do. Thank you so much.
Denis Skinner [00:35:57] Up next, we have Paul Glover. As the President of Shared Services Canada, Paul Glover is responsible for delivering digital services to Government of Canada organizations and serves as the Deputy Minister Champion for Brock University. He began his career at Health Canada in 1986, and has since been the President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Associate Deputy Minister of Health Canada, and he has also served on numerous governing bodies, including the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Advisory Board for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Welcome, Paul Glover.
Paul Glover [00:36:28] Thank you very much, Denis.
Paul Glover [00:36:30] I am very happy to be here.
Paul Glover [00:36:32] I'm really, really happy to be here. I want to thank you, Denis, Marc, thanking everybody at the School for the chance to contribute to this really, really important conversation.
Paul Glover [00:36:44] I would like to elaborate a little on Shared Services and our role on policy.
Paul Glover [00:36:50] I want to share with you a little bit about Shared Services, our role, and what we're going to do to help advance this very, very important policy moving forward. And you've heard the Minister say -- I was trying to keep track the number of times and literally lost count -- but "enterprise, enterprise, enterprise". And Marc was saying it as well, and that's where somebody like Shared Services, the organization that I have the privilege to lead, comes into play. Now, when I arrived, we created this this little document called Shared Services 3.0.
Paul Glover [00:37:23] 3.0: An Enterprise Approach.
Paul Glover [00:37:25] It's an enterprise approach. And that is something that we want to encourage everybody to take a look at. Visit our website. It's really easy to find. But the main thing about that is it laid out priorities and an approach.
Paul Glover [00:37:39] The three priorities, the first one, in my opinion, is the most important — it's the network.
Paul Glover [00:37:47] The first priority, and I think the most important priority we identified was the network. Why? Because as we shift to digital, you've got to get there. You've got to find it. You've got to be able to work with it. And so we feel that the network is the number one priority. And our view at Shared Services is to have the network very much functioning like a utility. It's there. You can rely on it. When you need more, you get more. When you need less, you can have less. But it's there. You can trust it, just like the electricity at your home or in your office. When you plug something in, it works. Now in the digital age, hopefully we're not plugging it in with 5G and wifi and so many other technologies, it won't be quite that landlocked. But that concept of when we walk into a building, there's heat, there's light, there's electricity, there's access to the digital world. It's really, really important. So that has been and will continue to be our number one priority. Built into that and baked into that is security. We know in this digital world that it's important to do so in a way that is safe and secure. And we want to make sure that as we build out that infrastructure and that network, that the security is built in right from the outset. And that's going to mean for all of us rethinking our approaches to security. Concepts like zero trust networks -- anywhere, any time, any device -- are going to be extremely important and part of our vocabulary moving forward. But the network, the network, the network, is going to be extremely important, but I'll come back to that, but that is our number one priority.
Paul Glover[00:39:29] The second priority is collaborative tools.
Paul Glover [00:39:30] The second priority is our collaboration tools. And who'd have thunk we'd be able to pull off an event like this virtually? Who'd have thunk in a matter of weeks, literally weeks, that we would be able to shift from the entire public service working in buildings to be able to function as we do today. Where place doesn't matter nearly as much because we have the tools to be able to collaborate, whether we're in the office or working virtually.
Paul Glover [00:40:00] And that is going to be extremely important and continues to be important for us moving forward. So while we're really, really happy that we've begun to rollout Office 365 and Teams and have functionality like this. Virtually every department is taking advantage of Teams and all of the functionality. And we're working with Microsoft, as is every large organization around the globe, to expand that functionality, to take advantage of this rapidly pacing change, pace of change that we are seeing. And we'll continue to give you that new functionality as it becomes available. And we'll take your feedback and pass that on to Microsoft, so that they can continue to make a product that works for us, that responds to our needs.
Paul Glover [00:40:41] But it's not going to stop there. We need more enterprise-grade tools. We need to think about our approach to voice, to other videoconferencing, to the secret networks, to all of the different tools that we need at an enterprise level to be able to work together -- to be able as public servants, to serve the public, to work with each other as we move forward. It's not one tool. This was just the first of what we hope will be many more tools moving forward to allow you to do your job better.
Paul Glover [00:41:15] The third priority was the health of our applications. And while we're not in the application business -- that's something you and departments do -- we felt it important to put an emphasis on the applications and their health. In the early days of Shared Services, one of our big priorities was closing data centres. And don't get me wrong, we still close data centres. In fact, last year was a record year for us. But we want to think about how we do that and why we do that, aligned with this digital policy. It can't just be about closing data centres, it has to be, as the Minister said, taking a look at the applications that serve Canadians, and what we're doing to modernize those, to make those more efficient. And so we're taking a look at the applications with you, as we shut down data centres, to say is there an opportunity here, to rethink this application, to reinvent it, to better work together, to make sure that that application is modern, is robust, is moving to the cloud as we move forward, is contributing to the API store, is reusable code so that we don't have to move another application later. Somebody can start to point to and begin to use enterprise or shareable software moving forward. That'll actually help us accelerate the closure of data centres, and it will help improve the health of the applications. Because, as we all know, when these systems go down, it's a function oftentimes of a number of things -- the old technology, the age of the application, the state of the infrastructure. So we can't just fix the network, we can't just fix the data centre -- we have to fix the applications end to end. And there's an incredible opportunity, as per this policy, when we're doing that, to put the user first. And that means we have to, if we're serious about putting the user first, break down those silos. Because as a user myself, I got too many passwords, I got too many user IDs. For me, first, let's build one user ID that says, hey, I'm Paul Glover. Whether I'm signing on to my internal systems or as a citizen interacting with the government, I can do that once and prove to all departments, I really am who I say I am, and I can verify that, and then we can start to get down to the business. But if I have to, if our idea of putting the user first is to have me convince each and every department because we're refusing to share that technology, we're not putting the user first. So let's think about how we start with some of the basics, like identity, and go beyond that, to payments, to licensing, and all kinds of applications that should be shared, where we should be working together, where my organization is preparing the shared infrastructure that you can use to leverage and take advantage of those shared capabilities, these are the software that you can tap into. That's the real power of this as we move forward.
Paul Glover [00:44:20] A few points that I would like to emphasize in our approach.
Paul Glover [00:44:24] So if those are the three priorities, what's the approach? And as Marc said, I'm going to say the same thing, literally, the exact same thing. Start small and scale up. We've adopted an approach at Shared Services that's all about what we call pathfinders. Everybody wants to move to the cloud. That is fantastic. But let's really lean in with a small handful of departments, and let's plan to uncover the problems and the issues, and then let's lock those in in playbooks, so that nobody else has to find those problems -- because we found them, we've routed them out, and then we can speed up and scale up at speed. And that's how we're going to be able to move forward faster together -- in a way that's safe, in a way that's secure. Start small, uncover the problems, don't treat them as lessons to be learned, because then everybody thinks, well, I'm different, that doesn't apply to me. No, it does. And let's lock those into playbooks, so that we don't repeat the same mistakes over and over moving forward. And that's how we can start to scale up faster. That's how, as you move to the cloud, we can build the superhighway of the network that allows you the on-ramp from your department to a variety of different cloud providers at the other end, with the off-ramps to facilitate that interaction back and forth. So you've got the bandwidth you need to be able to do the work you need, with the cloud service providers. But we've done it in a safe way, in a secure way. Not each department trying on their own to recreate different solutions. We have to work together, which should be shared. Let's make it shareable. And what's unique, because not everything can be shareable. I think we understand that. But it's enterprise where it's appropriate. And let's work a little bit harder to find out where it's appropriate, rather than starting with "I can't because...". We have to start working much harder at where are those common pieces of functionality. Then we're really putting the user first. Then we're really embracing the digital-first policy, the services policy, and that will allow us to move at speed and at scale as we move forward. So.
Paul Glover [00:46:46] I think this policy is very important, but I also think this is the time for this kind of policy.
Paul Glover [00:46:53] I think now is the time. It couldn't be more perfect. We're shifting to delivering more services digitally. We are working more digitally. We are seeing the benefits of these shared tools, like Teams, that allow us from different departments to come together on platforms like this. We couldn't have done that, if we didn't work at speed, at scale, putting you, the user, first, but finding common functionality. We have to move away from running 50, 60 different tailored networks for each department, too many systems that are not interoperable. Because then we have to figure out how to make them talk to each other. Let's simplify. Let's standardize where it's important. Let's really put the user first, and let's really bring life into this digital policy moving forward. And I'm convinced.
Paul Glover [00:47:44] I am convinced it is a matter of working in partnership.
Paul Glover [00:47:48] It's really possible, if we all work together, if we all work in partnership. So with that, Denis, I know you've got a panel. I need to turn it back over to you. I look forward to the afternoon.
Paul Glover [00:47:59] Thank you everyone.
Denis Skinner [00:48:01] Thank you so much, Paul. The network, collaboration tools, application health - - those are the priorities. What really resonated with me is the word rethink. You said it a few times, I love hearing that word. Let's work with users and rethink those services. That's great!
Denis Skinner [00:48:21] We've completed the spotlight on our digital leadership – they've shared the Government of Canada's vision for our digital future and the steps we're taking to get there. And now we turn to the second half of our event, our Integration in Action panel.
Denis Skinner [00:48:34] I'm not sure if you remember back at the beginning of the lockdown -- time is a little strange these days -- when everyone was trying to figure out how to work remotely, keeping each other safe. There was a tweet that went around -- I think a lot of you, if not most of you, saw it. And it was a question on: Who led the digital transformation at your company.
Denis Skinner [00:48:53] And the list of options were: that consulting firm, the CEO, aka deputy, the CIO, agile squads, all those, and Covid-19. And you guessed it -- Covid-19 was the only item checked. Covid-19 kicked us all into concerted action.
off-camera [00:49:30] Denis, we can't hear you -- you're muted.
Denis Skinner [00:49:33] Oh, no. That was the one thing I was hoping to avoid today is that "you're on mute". [laughter] OK, well, you got that message to me, so I won't go back to the full way.
Denis Skinner [00:49:52] So the next portion is our integrated panel. We'll be hearing about how each of the panel members worked across the departments and across domains deliver what Canadians needed the most, when it counted the most.
Denis Skinner [00:50:02] We'll hear the story of how the story of the Policy on Service and Digital came to be, how policy gets developed, following the principles of our digital standards.
Denis Skinner [00:50:09] We'll hear about Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada created a digital management framework that guided the modernisation of their programs and services, while they continued to respond to Covid-19.
Denis Skinner [00:50:22] We'll hear about CRA operating in this digital environment, and how they supported Canadians during the pandemic.
Denis Skinner [00:50:28] We'll hear a story from Canadian Digital Services CEO and his days at 18F, the US Government's 200-person digital services team.
Denis Skinner [00:50:37] We'll hear about how public servants at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada live our digital standards and use an integrated approach every day.
Denis Skinner [00:50:45] After you hear those stories, we'll have an opportunity to have some questions to the panel. If you have questions, you can submit them by clicking on the icon that looks like a raised hand. There's someone monitoring the inbox, who'll get your questions to me, to us, to our panel.
Denis Skinner [00:51:57] So we'll hear from Debbie Beresford-Green, Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services and Chief Security Officer for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on how they kept Canadians informed about Covid-19. Debbie is currently the Champion for Health Canada Persons with Disabilities, and she is responsible for several important files, including IM/IT, ATIP, the Public Service Occupational Health Program, and the Employee Assistance Services, which serves about 85% of departments in the GC. Debbie, over to you.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:52:27] Thanks very much. I'm hoping you can hear me because this is the fun part of working virtually.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:52:34] Before we begin — OK, perfect — Before we begin, I would like to sincerely thank our colleagues at Shared Services Canada.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:52:41] I have to tell you, we went from 4,000 concurrent VPN users to 14,000 at Health and the Agency and we couldn't have done it without SSC. So thank you to them. To really give you a snapshot of what we've gone through, through Covid-19 and our digital journey, I will just say that our story on the digital pathway did begin before Covid.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:53:07] I am very happy to say that it started before COVID because it helps us provide a framework for modernization for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, which put us in a very good position for what happened earlier this year.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:53:23] We really needed to be able to rely on our digital framework as we moved at, I think, hyperspeed to try to respond to the pressures of Covid-19.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:53:34] Health Canada is a regulatory body, but also for the workplace, as a leader in supporting Canada's health system. The Public Healthy Agency is now focusing on public health guidance and leadership, including emphasis on data, surveillance, and the protection of our health.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:53:56] So with those two mandates being really at the front line in responding to Covid, we needed to be able to be agile and to act quickly. At the beginning of the pandemic response, our focus was very much on how do we develop tools that could push information out to Canadians to keep them up-to-date on what was happening. As the pandemic story continued and the months went by, our attention turned to other tools that were needed to help manage the business that we were in and to support Canadians through the programs and services that both Health Canada and the Public Health Agency deliver.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:54:49] I must tell you that it was impossible for Health Canada and the Agency to work on these programs by themselves. It was impossible because it required us to work in such an agile way at a speed that was so incredible as well.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:54:49] So we were actually forced right away to collaborate and to start to break down some of the silos. It really meant that we had to bring the policy to life on a day-to-day perspective and to actually work with the private sector, for example, to scale up projects that they already had or services that they already had, particularly when it came to pushing information out to Canadians.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:55:14] We worked closely with Thrive to create the Canada Covid-19 app, which provides information and an auto-assessment tool. And I think we learned lessons along the way there. Scaling up is great. When you have to scale up at speed, you have to really make sure that everybody has the same assumptions, to understand what moving to a national program means, in terms of official languages, accessibility, protecting the privacy of information. All of those things that we say, but we needed to really make sure we were doing. Because of the kind of data that we were dealing with and because it touches health, which is so personal to all of us, privacy was a huge issue for us, and actually meant that we really had to embed our privacy experts with the program areas, as they developed their concepts for what they needed to achieve, and with our IT colleagues, building and supporting the applications that were developed, whether they were mobile or web-based. We spent a lot of time working very closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to walk through exactly what data was being collected, by whom, for what purpose, and how. And that went a long way to helping us also with our messaging to Canadians -- that we were protecting their information, or in fact, that information was not being gathered in some cases, where we actually didn't need to do that. That scaling up, I think, as I say, was one of the key lessons that we learned that you actually need to be really clear about roles and responsibilities, and you need to iterate, even as you scale up to make sure that you're thinking about what is the end-user or the Canadian, our clients, what were they looking for and what would they be able able to achieve. Of course, we, as has already been referenced, worked very, very closely with our colleagues at the Canadian Digital Service on the development of the Covid Alert app.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:57:16] This was a very good example where having a little national leadership was much better than having multiple applications in each province and territory.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:57:26] To achieve the kind of results that the Minister referenced at the beginning really meant that that national app was what was required to get that scale and to get the kind of impact on people's health that we were looking for. So grateful to Canadian Digital Services for all of their support, but also a lot of partnership work with provinces and territories to have them come on board and to sign on to the application as we went through. And then, of course, to colleagues across a number of different areas, different departments, who provided their expertise, and then working with Google and Apple, so that they could place the app in their stores as well.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:58:14] Without it, it was very difficult, it would have been much harder to disseminate this information and have a truly nationwide tool. I think that the themes that were already discussed, common themes, such as user-focused design, security, accessibility, privacy protection, information management, etc., are messages that we been deeply internalized throughout our work.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:58:37] But they really came home to, as I say, in some of these key tools that we developed. Keeping the notion of the people that you're trying to serve at the forefront of your thinking -- absolutely critical. Otherwise, we're building a tool for the tool's sake and not to achieve the objectives or to support Canadians at the end of the day. And as I say on health, which is one of the things that matters most to all of us. Another key message was not to underestimate the cultural change that this required, and that was both culture change, as we worked across silos within the department and agency and with other colleagues in other departments, but also in terms of the communication outwards to Canadians about the tools and about what the risks were for the privacy of their information, and how we mitigated and managed those risks.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:59:29] I think the last message is that in a crisis situation, there is always a need for speed, as I said earlier. And then we have to make decisions in that context, and that means that there will be risks as well.
Debbie Beresford-Green [00:59:46] You have to take risks when you're looking at that kind of a speed. What you really need to do is to document those risks and understand what risks you are taking and also understand what you cannot compromise. So we have to comply with certain federal legislation. We have to keep the goal of protecting the privacy of information absolutely at the forefront, accessibility and so on. I'll just leave you, because I know that we don't have a lot of time, but I'll just leave you with a quote from the American inventor and engineer, computer and internet pioneer, Mr Douglas Engelhart, who says, "The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even printing." I actually disagree with him slightly, because I think they're actually more analogous, but I think there are lessons that we can learn. And if you think about how we had to change and equip people so that they could take advantage of those revolutions, I think it's the same thing for a digital revolution. We have to equip people, and we have to understand what's the framework in which we're operating, to make sure that we are protecting the integrity of the information and making sure that we're profiting from the benefits that we can really have in a digital environment.
Debbie Beresford-Green [01:01:00] So, I'll stop there, Denis. Thank you for the opportunity.
Denis Skinner [01:01:04] Thank you, Debbie. Absolutely, we are in the fourth industrial revolution right now.
Debbie Beresford-Green [01:01:08] And now we'll hear from Frank Vermaeten. Frank joined CRA and became Assistant Commissioner of the Assessment Benefit and Service Branch in May 2014. His branch is responsible for the assessment of taxes, processing a wide range of federal provisional credits and benefits, including the Canada Child Benefit, and providing service to Canadians both electronically and through the CRA call centres. Frank ...
Frank Vermaeten [01:01:34] Thanks, Denis, thank you. As most of you know, the Agency delivered a number of Covid benefits and are still delivering some. And, but I'm going to focus my discussion on the CERB and how we've launched that -- a quite interesting story. And, you know, with the timeline really compressed. It's all a bit of a blur to me, I've got to say. I remember the week of March 5th, just prior to Covid, it was our management meeting. I reported about how things were going in the tax season and we were very happy. People were filing their taxes electronically at a higher rate than they'd ever done before. Our IT systems were functioning well. And I said a couple of things to the committee, and the first one was, please don't extend the filing season, we can ride through this Covid. It's going to be OK. And the second thing I reported on was a little pilot project, quite proud of it. We have 3500 call agents across the country in eight buildings. And what we did was we launched a pilot on moving those people to remote working. And we've managed over the course of a year to get 40 people working remotely, giving them the telephones, doing all the, filling in all the templates and monitoring everything -- quite proud of ourselves. So that was the week of March 5th, and that was the last normal weekend, of course. And a couple of days later, we met Finance about extending the filing season. And then March 15th, they approached us about what would later become called the CERB.
Frank Vermaeten [01:03:02] They saw Service Canada was getting overwhelmed with applications for EI and there was no way they were going to be able to deliver benefits to all unemployed Canadians. So they asked us, can we help out, and how quickly can we deliver a benefit. And we said, well, it depends on a number of factors. Probably most importantly was could we have a hand in co-designing this benefit, that we could actually be part of that, rather than being told this is what you're going to deliver. Can we, could we help co-design. And to the Department of Finance's credit, they said, yes, work with ESDC and together we'll figure it out and make something that we can deliver. And, you know, that's not usually how the Department of Finance operates. I worked there for about 12 years. And for example, through the budget process, secrecy is required. So the Department of Finance designed something. Then you read about it, usually on budget day, and it's time for you to deliver that, however it comes. But this was different. To their credit, they said, let's design this together. And that's really, I'd say, the first silo-busting thing in terms of being able to work to design a program like that with Finance and ESDC. Now what exactly did we agree upon? Some interesting things. We said, look, the CERB, it's got to be attestation-based. There's no way we can verify everyone's income in that short a period of time, given that we didn't have their 2019 tax returns.
Frank Vermaeten [01:04:27] We'd have to have fixed eligibility periods. So 4-week blocks that people would get funding for. And we'd need fixed amounts, we couldn't just do something complicated -- the one person gets $374, the next one $568. It was going to be $2,000 for four weeks. And finally, we said no paper applications. This was going to be all electronic and all digital. And so people could apply through their portals, they could use the IBR, but there would be no paper processing. And that may not be silo-busting, but it was certainly norm-busting in terms of a program of that size. So that was really that co-design element was really important.
Frank Vermaeten [01:05:09] A couple of other things I'll say -- we produced a minimal viable product. Usually when CRA comes out with something, what the public sees when we launch a program, what the public sees is the tip of the iceberg. And underneath the tip of the iceberg is this foundation of all these systems and processes that have been built in place. But this time, we couldn't do that. There was no time for that. All we did was we built the tip of the iceberg. And basically, it was an application and an application process and a cheque-writing machine, and everything else had to be built later. So it was really about launching the minimum viable product.
Frank Vermaeten [01:05:49] Second thing was in designing this, we had constant UX testing. We had three weeks and in that time we quickly came up with a paper-based attestation process, a mockup, and we started UX testing that. To make sure that people would understand how do you go through this process and then we move to electronic versions. But it was always constant user testing, constant evolution. Because we knew on the day we launched, there would be a lot of people that would need this benefit and we couldn't have them confused and calling and not being able to figure it out.
Frank Vermaeten [01:06:22] And finally, I'll say the key to our success was breaking down those silos with teamwork. Yeah, everyone had their own responsibilities, but we trusted each other, and we worked across those silos, so there were no silos. I talked about Finance and ESDC, but of course, SSC was a key part of this to give us the capacity to be able to do this. Within our organization, it was our IT department, it was our branch, other branches, the communication branch, all working together to make something possible. And it became a really flat organization. And I talked about the 40 phone agents we had while working remotely, of course, those phone agents had to go completely remote, in such a short period of time. We figured we needed about 4,000, 5,000 people answering the phones for this increased demand. And that's what we did. We moved those people at breakneck speed, trained them, and gave them the equipment to be able to work remotely with the support of SSC. So just to say those silos broke down, teamwork, and we were able to launch really within three weeks, actually even a little bit less than three days. And it was a success, I'd say. So I know a colleague of mine was asked, when did you know it was a success? Well, we launched at six o'clock in the morning on April 6th, by 6:12, we've had 30,000 applications. By the end of the day, we had nearly a million, and within two to three days, we had the payments for those on direct deposit, those people had the money in the bank, and, yeah, that was within two to three days. Was that as fast as Amazon? Well, maybe not one-day service, but two or three days is pretty good for government. So we're pretty proud of that. That's it, Denis.
Denis Skinner [01:08:07] Thank you, Frank.
Denis Skinner [01:08:08] And Aaron Snow -- I'm going to cut the intros for the other panelists short, just so that we have time. So Aaron, please go ahead.
Aaron Snow [01:08:24] Sorry, I was trying to unmute, and it took a few clicks, hey, I'll do it.
Aaron Snow [01:08:29] I'm going to tell a little bit of a different story, I think. The organization that I was running back in the States before I came to work with CDS was called 18 F. And I want to tell you about a guy who didn't work for 18F, of a guy named Larry. Larry managed tech systems for a thing called Oasis, which is a big, complicated contract vehicle system in the General Services Administration down there, sort of the American equivalent of PSPC. And one of the very first projects that 18F did was to just go and talk to Larry about a thing that that he needed done. Larry had been in the business for a while. And he was sure, I mean, he was sure, that what people needed in order to better use Oasis, which was not getting used very well. He was sure that what he needed us to build for him was an automated tender generator. And he was convinced of it. He said, I've been a buyer, I've been a seller, I run this program, I know this is what our users need, and this is what's going to get them to make better use of Oasis.
Aaron Snow [01:09:54] So we said, hey, can we go test that? Can we go find out if that's what really, really what they want? And to Larry's enduring credit, he said yes. Because Larry had a boss, who was a senior executive, and I'm sure that Larry had already promised her his automated tender generator. And said that he was going to enlist us to build it, and it was going to get delivered by a certain time, and so on. But he didn't do that, he said, yeah, let's go find out.
Aaron Snow [01:10:23] So a little team of three went with Larry, and together, they went and talked to a whole bunch of users. And they came back with the user research and said, Larry, and Larry said, yeah, so what happened? And they said, Larry, the users don't want an automated tender generator. If you build an automated tender generator, they're not going to use an automated tender generator. In fact, they're less likely to use Oasis, if there's an automated tender generator. And, Larry, again, to his an enduring credit, said, well, what do they want? And it turned out that one of the things that users had said they wanted, in the course of this sort of long and deep user feedback, user research project we'd done with them, was they wanted a way to figure out what vendors were available for what types of work, and a market, they said, we need market research tools.
Aaron Snow [01:11:31] And Larry, again, to his enduring credit, didn't say, well, let's first build the tender generator and then and then we'll move on to other things, he said, OK, well, if that's what users are saying, then let's build what they need. And we went ahead and did that with them.
Aaron Snow [01:11:46] We built a market research tool called Discovery that helps contracting officers explore the pool of vendors that are available through Oasis and to see their basic qualifications and their related experience and so on. And that worked out so well, and made so many contracting officers so happy, that Larry said, well, what else did they say?
Aaron Snow [01:12:09] And that led to building a second tool called CALC, which lets you very easily, as a government buyer of a vendor service, figure out how much folks on average charge for various types of skills and expertise in these contracts. And that's what was also extremely well received.
Aaron Snow [01:12:36] I say all this because I think that there is silo-busting that happens by emergency, and then there is silo-busting that happens by just deciding to be brave. And Larry is an example of the latter. Because he could have gotten in trouble. He could have said, well, you know, somebody could have said to him, well, you promised you were going to build this one thing, why are you building this other thing? But he went with it, and ultimately and provided the cover and brought people together to make a good thing happen that has made a lot of contracting officers' lives a lot easier in the federal government of the United States.
Aaron Snow [01:13:24] So I'm going to leave it at that because I know that we're short on time, but I have much more to say about siloing. Thanks, folks.
Denis Skinner [01:13:37] Thank you, Aaron. And I'm sure we'll get into some more when we get to the questions.
Denis Skinner [01:13:40] Omar, over to you, and then we'll get into the questions from the audience.
Omar Subhani [01:13:45] Good afternoon, everybody. I thank you, Denis. And I know we are running short on time, so I'll just keep it really quick, so we'll have some time to hear from the people on this call. So from a Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada perspective on things, I'm Omar Subhani, the Director General for Digital Strategy, one of the things that we've been experiencing as an organization is just this rapid rise of volume demand on all of our services. IRCC has 50 lines of businesses that supports the immigration continuum. And over the past few years, these numbers have just been rising. With that, you've seen an increased level of complexity, on fraud types, on the risk that of applicants, of applicants that have been coming to these services. And, of course, you know, when being in 2020, just the expectations on how we interact with our client base, especially in a digital format, has just skyrocketed.
Omar Subhani [01:14:34] So as we as an organization have been preparing and responding to these things, we really set up a couple of years ago with what we call our digital transformation agenda. It's really an infrastructure in the department to look at how we approach these these challenges, looking at it from a digital perspective, but also, not just from a digital perspective, but as an immigration continuum perspective.
Omar Subhani [01:14:57] So it's not just an IRCC end-to-end process, it's a Government of Canada process. So it's taking that problem and taking to the government level and not just an immigration level. So what that allows you to do, when you think about it from that perspective, it helps to actually bring down those silos, because from a client experience from beginning to end, there are multiple departments as a part of our continuum. So having that as a principle of the way we set up, set ourselves up, has been absolutely key in trying to break down the silos across the departments.
Omar Subhani [01:15:26] Now, one of the other things that's been a key consideration is really understanding our client base. And our client base for the immigration services are not necessarily the most digitally literate people. They're people who are leaving difficult situations, coming from a multitude of countries where English or French is not the first language. So really understanding and navigating the complex way to have come to Canada is also something that's a key consideration in how we design things. So as you start putting the users in the front and understanding what their capabilities and some of the difficulties are, it really helps us put that lens to the client first. Looking at the experience from an enterprise perspective, the continuum excuse me, from an enterprise perspective, and then trying to build our capabilities with that lens. With that, we started establishing what we call journeys. So our journey labs in the department are really focused on reimagining the business processes from a client-focused view, bringing in partner departments into those journey labs and having them as a part of those design sessions. So we interate the design, we test it with a client base, come back, have all the partner departments there, and what we've been able to see is some incredible results in terms of the products that we've been able to deliver and actually build off of. So we deliver them as an MVP and then incrementally improve them, as it goes out in production.
Omar Subhani [01:16:47] So one of the things just to keep in mind as well from us is that Covid comes along in March and Covid hits and of course, our digital transformation plan, it was a very nice, well structured plan, gets hit by this emerging response from Canada, for Canada, as a result of Covid. And what we've been able to do as a result is say, OK, we'll continue on that track to transform our services across the enterprise from an immigration continuum perspective, but now, shift our attention a little bit to be able to rapidly deploy products into production from a client-centred view, to be able to respond to the impact of Covid on our society. And that infrastructure that we built, in terms of the journey labs, to be able to put them towards this rapid product development solutions has actually been incredible.
Omar Subhani [01:17:37] In a matter of months, we've been able to rapidly deploy virtual oath ceremonies, where people can do the citizenship oath online. We've been able to develop hoteling solutions for our office spaces, where people can only go in, because of social distancing, they can only go in in small groups, intake tools for applicants to be able to apply online. So we've been able to pivot ourselves and go there. So all that to say, the one thing that in terms of busting out silos, what we see as a Government of Canada enterprise is we have this incredible capability of responding as a collective and rapidly respond and deliver solutions and meet the need of the challenge. We'd like to see, you'd like to see, and we should, as leaders in the Government of Canada, is being able to sort of looking at a proactive approach to these things as well, so take the same mentality as we respond and react to the proactive things, in terms of our plans and our large scale initiatives that we invest in.
Omar Subhani [01:18:34] I'll leave it at that and turn it back to you, Denis.
Denis Skinner [01:18:40] Thank you so much, Omar. [beep -- fire alarm test at Denis' place]
Denis Skinner [01:18:48] [beep] OK, we'll go to a question here. [beep] I apologize for the background. [beep] Is the new Policy on Service [beep] the first step in moving away from [beep] for citizens not tied to benefit [beep] delivery. Aaron, you can start us off. [beep]
Aaron Snow [01:19:14] Is the new policy the first step in moving away from analog channels of service? I don't feel like I'm necessarily the best expert on on how the Policy will actually play out.
Aaron Snow [01:19:29] I'm going to answer a little more broadly and perhaps a little more caustically, which is that I don't think that the Policy is what's making or breaking us moving away from analog channels of service. And I also just want to note, because it always comes up when we talk this way, that we're not necessarily moving away from analog channels of service.
Aaron Snow [01:19:53] We are adding digital-first channels of service and freeing up more and better resources for those who actually continue to need the analog channels.
Aaron Snow [01:20:06] But I don't think it's really about the Policy so much, I think it's about us deciding to work differently.
Denis Skinner [01:20:14] Debbie, what do you think? Is the Policy the first step, and what else do we do to move away from analog channels?
Debbie Beresford-Green [01:20:23] Actually, I think where Aaron went in terms of it's another way of reaching and digital-first, I think is actually a critical answer. And it actually ties to one of the other questions I saw that was talking about designing with users in mind, and do we take in to account ethnography. And when we talk about diversity and inclusion, we really have to think about what are the multiple channels, the multiple ways we need to deliver government services to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, who are not all in the same situation, not all able to access digital tools in the same way for a variety of reasons, notwithstanding the government's investments in broadband and increasing connectivity, which were announced today. But I also think, actually, it means we have to broaden our definition of what we think of as service. There's no question that the Policy allows us to really focus on those sort of high-volume and high-value services, like licensing, like benefits, like the kind of application approvals that our colleagues have just referenced in their examples, when we're dealing one on one with Canadians. But actually, the Government of Canada delivers such a range of services to a range of of clients, including other levels of government, including business, that I think it's about really diversifying that interpretation that will also help us move forward, whether it's digital or other means.
Denis Skinner [01:21:57] Thank you, Debbie. Definitiely, we need to take a intersectional approach, when we're looking at our services.
Denis Skinner [01:22:04] So we have a few other questions. This next one it's on the SIN number and the steel-door approach, that was mentioned in the question on authentication for our clients. So willthere be multiple levels of authentication to maintain secure integrity for government services? Perhaps, Frank, you can take this one on.
Frank Vermaeten [01:22:31] Well, I'm certainly no expert in this area. Marc Brouillard might give us a good hint, if he's still on the line, in terms of the direction, but certainly we're thinking about that in terms of how to authenticate people. We have a lot of people using the My Account portal, and we really see that as secure. But we're actually moving to multifactor authentication. So that's going to help with the security. And then thinking about should there be a digital ID for all of government that doesn't rely exclusively on SIN and certainly Treasury Board will lead the way with that. But it's an interesting question and one I think that we're not the only country that's wrestling with that issue.
Denis Skinner [01:23:12] Absolutely. It's a priority across the board. We heard that last week at our Digital Nation Summit. And perhaps, Omar, from an Immigration Citizenship perspective, what is your department doing with respect to that kind of client identifier number?
Omar Subhani [01:23:31] Sure. So currently in IRCC, in our environment that is really based on, and it has been historically, it's based on transactions, less about the individual, more about the transaction that comes in. And that's what we've be able to respond. We've been working with with TBS and partnering with them, through what they've been examining with the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework, as well as through the work with digital identity to try to reconcile that with what Canada is doing and moving towards a digital ID. One of the challenges that we've established, we've identified in order for us to get there is really the policy framework that's in place that might be a little bit more prohibitive for us to move towards this digital ID, or this cross-departmental approach on using a single ID for members of the public using our services. But that, I think, is something, from the enterprise perspective, is something that we have to address, all departments have to address that to move to that. But all that to say is this absolutely foundational for transformation plans for the long term to move to a single ID for a client base. There's obviously some policy considerations within the department and outside the department for us to get there, but fully engaged and participating with the centre and our partners in order for us to be able to move that yardstick forward.
Denis Skinner [01:24:41] Thank you, Omar. Perhaps an open question to the panel members is on employees. We have a lot of folks listening in this afternoon. So what are the opportunities for employees to respect digital transformation? And who wants to go first? Debbie? Turn on your camera. Go for it.
Debbie Beresford-Green [01:25:06] [laughter] I think that was a clue. Look, I think it's a fabulous question. And I would say the opportunities are endless because don't forget, first of all, we are also all consumers of government services, so what better experience to bring to the table. I also think that, not to plug the Canada School, but the Canada School has some great courses and a great curriculum on digital and understanding what digital means for all policy work programs, service delivery. So educate yourself on digital. And how can you bring that lens and that understanding to any of the work that you want to undertake that you see as an opportunity. And as we continue to move the yardstick forward -being curious, challenging the status quo, and bringing forward interesting ideas or opportunities for employees at all levels, I think, to to bring forward and help us take some more quantum leaps as we go forward.
Denis Skinner [01:26:03] I like that, and I know so, Frank and Aaron, you also wanted to speak on this one. It's a great question because it's like, what can I do to help?
Frank Vermaeten [01:26:13] It is a great question. I'll just say very briefly that what I found interesting in our Digital Services Directorate is that most of these people do not have a strong technical background, in that they haven't been trained in the digital space. But what they're able to do is work with our IT department to make the concepts become realities. And that skill set, you know, as Debbie was talking about, curiosity, visioning, and thinking about what are the services that Canadians need. Those are just, that's not something necessarily taught. It's something that people have, and those that are interested in it, can make a real contribution, even if they lack the IT technical background or formal training in that area.
Aaron Snow [01:27:05] I'd just say, I mean, in terms of opportunities for employees -- I agree with Debbie and Frank that there are a million of them. I would just say -- and I tried to articulate this last year for FWD50 -- is do something differently. And build it into your performance management for the year to do something differently. If you find yourself working on the same or different projects, but doing them the same way you did them last year, and you haven't tried anything new, in terms of how you're approaching the problems, in terms of how you're designing the solutions, then wonder aloud a little, like, should we be trying something different?
Aaron Snow [01:27:44] Because I think there is a gap between how we have, between the culture we've built up across government, in terms of how we build and design solutions and how we think about the intersection between services and technology and policy and communications.
Aaron Snow [01:28:06] I think there's a gap there between that and and what we know is more risk-free and more successful by and large, when it comes to developing digital solutions and digital services. So whatever it may be, hold yourself and your teams accountable to trying something differently.
Denis Skinner [01:28:32] More good advice. Thank you, Aaron. Omar ...
Omar Subhani [01:28:37] Thanks, Denis. So, yeah, I can't disagree with any of what anybody else has said. I fully agree. I think for me foundationally, just get involved. I think, there tends to be an expectation that anything digital tends to move over to the CIO organization to be the heavy lifter, but really when you talk about transformation, it's a full departmental shift. So getting the policy people, the privacy folks, operations, finance, HR, internal services, people need to get involved as much as in the front-end, people who are actually doing the delivery, because it's a full-scale transformation for an organization. So I can guarantee you, if you're an employee of an organization that's going through a digital transformation, there's absolutely a role for you, whether it's understanding the technology or just a change within your own existing day-to-day work.
Debbie Beresford-Green [01:29:31] Denis, I hate to say it, but you're muted again.
Denis Skinner [01:29:37] [laughter] So thank you so much, and I'm sure folks on the line, too, would love to keep going, more questions and more discussion on what we could explore here. So what we can do is keep the conversation going on GCconnex. There's a group for this policy and people can keep talking about the questions and the solutions and how we can keep busting silos together. So thank you for the time today, and my esteemed panel members. And thank you to all the speakers. It was pretty amazing to see. We've heard some vibrant examples of how the Policy works in real life and contributes to the needs of Canadians. Some really memorable stories from the panel members and the results that their team achieved, and achieved during the really difficult times on top of that. We've heard from all the speakers at the beginning, some really key messages on what it is, what is the vision, where are things going, really important concepts to consider. It's time to rethink things, right?
Denis Skinner [01:30:38] Today, we're announcing the publication of the Guideline on Service and Digital on Canada.ca. So this guideline provides federal organizations with interpretive guidance on the policy requirements and supports you in your implementation efforts. Many, many thanks for the Canada School of Public Service and their talented team, putting on an event looks like magic, it works so well. And thank you for joining us today. A little plug, and Debbie mentioned them, is the Canada School Digital Academy. They have a course, Discover Digital for executives. It's great, please take it, if you're an executive. And they also have Digital in Practice courses. It's great content tied directly to the Policy on Service and Digital and the Digital Standards. If you want to learn more, those are the courses to take.
Denis Skinner [01:31:22] Well, until next time. Let's stay safe and please be kind to each other, folks. Have a great day. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.
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