Five 2014 Public Sector Predictions: Looking Back to Look Forward

As health-based resolutions ramp up across Canada to counter last month’s holiday socializing, the Canadian government jumps into 2014 with a slate of promising initiatives designed to trim the fat, so to speak, from the public purse. A review of how some of those initiatives initially fared in 2013 says a lot about what could or could not work in the government’s favour in the coming year.

#1: IT infrastructure transformation matures

The creation of Shared Services Canada in August 2011 was an obvious sign that the government meant business with respect to technology investments. Departmental planning in 2013 is setting the stage for the launch of a new email system starting in 2014, the start of consolidation of hundreds of data centres into fewer than 20, and the reduction of numerous networks that link those centres. That’s a lot to tackle for a new department that repositioned 6,500 FTEs in fewer than 18 months under new management. We see signs that the department is moving toward performance management and organizational effectiveness, which coupled with greater depth in project management for IT projects, should better position the department to deliver on its large mandate.

#2: Web renewal will move forward… painfully

As stated a year ago, the federal government put itself on the hot seat by wanting to implement “something” in 2013. That something came right before the Christmas holidays in the form of with a front-end that links to landing pages which in turn link to departmental sites. If asking users to click through two or three additional pages to perform a task was the project goal, they were successful. We will note that some natural groupings of items did find their way into the site navigation and the language on landing pages is clear and precise.

Watching the process unfold in 2013, we predict that the migration model currently chosen for the GC consolidation will make it near impossible to achieve the effectiveness (and cost savings) of the model. And, without a dedicated, skilled, and permanent team to build and maintain, any future efforts to consolidate the government’s web presence will not produce the efficiencies that the government is after. However, with some recent changes in personnel and leadership, we predict that a new path will be communicated for the GC Web Renewal Initiative that will yield short term dividends for in 2014.

#3: We take GCDOCS off training wheels

In 2013, we saw a vast amount of thinking, planning and debate around the identity of GCDOCS – it was being positioned as a government-wide solution for things as varied as shared drive technology, insufficient records management, and poor document management/findability.  If 2013 was a year of debate and ideas, we predict 2014 will be the year of hard work and rich harvest for the GCDOCS vanguard.

Organizations that have already committed many hours to the first wave of implementations will split into two camps:

  • Organizations with smaller, localized ad-hoc implementations will find themselves with another document management solution that has a similar functionality to SharePoint but with a heavy dependence on deep folder hierarchies, little consistency and a very user-dependant RM capability (if any).
  • Organizations that have pushed for a more strategic, department-wide implementation will reap the benefits of a thorough information architecture as they get down to the nuts and bolts of implementation, and eventually, consistent and organized disposition of electronic documents. They will be able to navigate the limitations and potentiality of the system with flexibility thanks to the thorough planning and strategic work done beforehand.

The next wave of organizations starting their GCDOCS journey will have two very instructive paradigms to follow: the quick and dirty ad hoc solution, which is effectively that of the handy new piece of software, and the full departmental Electronic Document and Records Management solution that GCDOCS can be – if architected as such. The latter approach will be realized in a couple of departments, where GCDOCS will be integrated with SharePoint, and most likely with Microsoft Dynamics (the new GC customer relationship management platform).

#4 The intranet will be in fashion again, and here to solve our problems

Usability expert Gerry McGovern quipped that giving a website to a communications team is like giving a pub to an alcoholic. A bit harsh we think, but the observed reliance on one-way communications for some departmental Intranets is so 1990s. Your iPhone- and Blackberry-toting millennial public servant is more concerned with getting information they need to do their job, 24/7 and on the platform of their choice. They want to share work documents in real-time and be able to easily and quickly find those documents later from any location. A modern Intranet combines the best of social platforms (professional profiles, networking features) with access to well-organized document repositories and a very small dose of corporate messaging.

In 2014, we see at least two departments evolving their intranet from brochure-ware to a more mature digital office workspace. This new form of digital work environment – which offers the tantalizing promise of seamless integration of SharePoint and GCDocs – will afford the public sector employee the tools he or she needs in one place. As the realities of workspace 2.0 and email renewal start to become more evident, new pressures will be placed on intranets to solve many information and collaboration challenges.

#5 Leadership vs. governance

There was a lot of talk about governance for government in 2013, both for large-scale initiatives (Web Renewal) as well as departmental teams. Some departments did institute their governance frameworks last year, and that should support their future decision-making processes. Other groups meanwhile struggled with getting governance off the ground, so for them most decisions are still largely handled on an ad hoc basis.

Why is governance hard? Governance requires consistent and diligent monitoring by identified individuals who will organize discussions about key issues and work toward solutions and implementation. When priorities shift as often as they do in government, issue management using a governance model can easily be downgraded as an unnecessary burden.

We don’t anticipate that 2014 will mark any noticeable change in most departmental approaches to governance. Operational levels will continue to demand more clear governance and executives will continue to both define and execute with precision. That said, despite a lack of robust and effective governance frameworks, we do expect to see strengthening leadership. Web Renewal governance has largely been filled by a question mark to date and we expect that 2014 will start to bring greater clarity. We expect greater leadership and clarity from Treasury Board on this file, which will answer many questions for line departments (and raise a host of new ones).


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