Published: June 1st, 2017

Shared Services Canada (SSC) is on the right track when it comes to its mandate of streamlining technology across the federal government and improving its security, but its path to get there needs reevaluating, according to the results of a consultation with various stakeholders.

SSC is no stranger to controversy and negative public perception. Ambitiously created to implement a Government of Canada IT Infrastructure Transformation Plan that includes a government-wide centralized email system, consolidate data centres and the procurement of workplace technology devices, the agency has yet to achieve any of these goals.

In an effort to improve and update its roadmap of achieving this mandate, the SSC held a nine-week consultation with stakeholder groups, including its own employees, other Canadian government employees, young federal public servants, industry representatives, and the general public, and received more than 2,500 responses.

Now, the SSC has unveiled its results, finding that majority of stakeholders believe the IT Infrastructure Transformation Plan “got it right,” but that the path to completion, however, requires “careful considerations and greater detail.”

“I joined SSC in 2011. We have come a long way,” says one anonymous comment. “I see the improvements that have happened. We are moving in the right direction.”

Those consulted suggested several methods for accelerating change and improving the agency’s plan for digital transformation, which revolve around five themes:

  • Investing in staff, which includes incentivizing stability among managers, enhancing communication within national and regional SSC offices, enabling more input on issues so that action can be simpler, and minimizing outsourcing by better training staff to acquire necessary skills.
  • Committing to a service-first culture, which involves training employees, applying benchmarks for customer service, and encouraging transparency and accountability as guiding factors in any initiative.
  • Enhancing collaboration both inside and outside the SSC, which places an importance on deploying and using collaborative tools to better communicate with employees and stakeholders beyond the agency, as well as publicizing these efforts to measure performance.
  • Demonstrating the rationale behind any software or hardware upgrades and changes, or the reasons for outsourcing services. Stakeholders desire more information that explain decisions, as well as why some projects have been delayed or why certain projects were outsourced.
  • Reaching out to small and medium enterprises to level the playing field for these players, which includes reconsidering procurement practices and the scope of services required.

For SSC employees, more stability and boosting low morale were priorities, along with increased training, minimized outsourcing, and better engagement with clients and customers.

“A true customer service attitude is missing,” one comment says. “The services SSC offers are front and centre, and staff need to be made aware of this. You can set targets and put the latest tools in place, but if you don’t address the fundamental attitude of staff across the organization at all levels, we will never succeed.”

Partners and other organization employees placed value on improving relationships with clients as well, while also flagging better transparency and suggesting that the number or key program areas for the SSC should be reduced, given the number of delays.

“Break down barriers; establish operational agreements between the various sectors and services/services lines to develop service agreements that are clear and well defined for partners,” says another comment from the consultation. “Coming from a partner, we often do not know who to contact, or how or where to do so. Service design, the 4 Ps—products, partners, processes, people.”

Canadians, in particular, want to see better value for their money and more visibility into the government’s digital transformation journey.

“Measured and consistent approach to seeking regular feedback from customers and SSC internal stakeholders through surveys, regular meetings, maybe a formal forum and reporting back on progress,” one stakeholder suggests, while another expanded on this thought, saying a report card should be provided on a quarterly basis to partners, parliamentarians and Canadians to “demonstrate the progress” the SSC has made in meeting its strategic goals.

The general public also wants to see more adoption of mobile technology and automation incorporated into SSC’s mandate. However, with a string of controversial delays and mishaps, Canadians would like to see the SSC acknowledge its shortcomings, and address security concerns around the government’s storage of personal data.

But of course, being the nice Canadians we are, the report notes that stakeholders “valued the opportunity to provide input in what was labelled as ‘the largest Canadian merger of its kind in Canada’,” and that those consulted appreciated the “unprecedented” work SSC is doing to transform the government.