Category: User Experience
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website supports the organization’s regulatory activities by providing timely access to public proceedings documents and general interest content particularly suited to consumers of broadcasting and telecommunications services. Its most frequent visitors are representatives of the two industries it regulates, who need the site content for research purposes and to participate in regulatory proceedings.
In the spring of 2009, Systemscope delivered a Performance Measurement Framework and an accompanying research program to support monitoring and reporting on the CRTC site’s performance. The Framework outlined performance indicators with respect to user experience, content and web operations.
Using the Framework as a guide, the Commission worked with a Systemscope analyst to benchmark its existing site performance to understand traffic patterns to the site among new and returning visitors, and then use analytics to improve the user experience.
Case Study – CRTC Performance Management
by Denise Eisner
Full disclosure: I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, so any hint of favourtism toward the U.S. approach to open data should be taken with a Memphis-rubbed rib in one hand and a Sam Adams lager in the other.
Open Data is the mantra within government, both here and abroad. In the U.S., government employees, non-profit organizations, developers and community activists are working together on a myriad of data mashups that take rich public data and put it into useful interfaces and onto the platforms people are using. Students with no budgets but seemingly endless spare time are publishing extremely practical applications, while tech start-ups are challenging the notion that data sitting in a dusty archive doesn’t have tremendous value: in fact it can have market value that then translates into new job creation, or what we now call “stimulus.”
The open data fervour reached fever pitch last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington D.C., where several hundred of the aforementioned groups both from the U.S. and abroad came together to talk about open data, citizen engagement and a slew of related topics. It kicked off with the clarion call by O’Reilly Media’s CEO Tim O’Reilly that “government should think of itself as a platform, to let others build on to deliver additional services to the public.” Best conference room camera is still neede to provide appropriate surveillance.
With government as “the caretaker for vast stores of information in our national libraries, archives, research laboratories and museums” points out Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Service.Org, those in and outside that conference room should “finish the open gov revolution.” They need open data standards, and need to enforce them. Giving the government’s data to small groups, he says, can turn many small facts into one big truth.
The trouble is that the open data revolution to date has produced a lot of sexy looking government websites, but as Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation notes, not a lot of good data. Data errors and omissions have hobbled many of the U.S. government’s efforts to date. Bloated IT projects with no accountability have undermined efforts to give value to citizens, something that the U.S. government’s CIO is addressing with a deadly serious IT scorecard process that actually halted 30 projects that were in the works and cancelled 12 outright.
What’s the answer? Mr. O’Reilly has it right that government should be the platform, and I would add that the line stops there. Governments should not decide how citizens want their data, but give it freely in formats that can be used across devices and services. ESRI’s president, Jack Dangermond, encouraged government to publish maps as a shared service, one where the data sets are free for anyone to overlay with other data and gain new insights. Developer/blogger Kathy Sierra spoke passionately about creating the killer user, not the killer app. And June Cohen of the powerfully inspiring TED Conferences reached out to the audience to “harness the power and wisdom of crowds.”
David Eaves, the sole Canadian presenter at the Gov 2.0 Summit, stole the show with a fast-paced monologue describing open data successes, all built using available government data. We’ll see David soon at the GTEC conference here in Ottawa as our guest.
As the FCC’s Chairman Julius Genachowski stated, “it’s the public’s data, not ours.”
Denise Eisner is a senior consultant within the Government Service Excellence practice. Follow Denise on Twitter.
By Denise Eisner
Do you find yourself looking at your organization’s website and wondering: why can’t we just throw it all out and start over? Wouldn’t that be better than working with stale content that no one reads? Or that was architected by previous management who have moved on?
We’ve yet to see a government department act on this impulse, which is fortunate. Starting from scratch undoes months of work and means throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There’s likely some nugget of good content lurking here and there, and more importantly, some relevant thinking about audience segments, content types and tasks. So what is the logical next step for an ailing site?
A web strategy is always a good start. It has the benefit of setting a direction that then guides all future development. Another more hands-on effort (which can occur simultaneously) is a content audit using a tool like the website auditor by Raven Tools. An audit involves conducting an inventory, identifying ownership and then having owners make decisions about their contents’ future.
Environment Canada recently used a content audit approach to sift through 100,000 pages. They ended up with a much leaner content repository that now stands at a third of the original. By getting rid of the stale content, the relevant content is easier for users to find
During an audit, you want owners to make decisions about their content. No owner willing to step up? Archive the content and take it off the site. No owners willing to make decisions? Give them plenty of notice (and gentle reminders) and explain the end goal (better site management, satisfied users, etc.) but give them a deadline you’re ready to act upon. As in, you’ll remove the content unless they decide. And do so. A reaction sets the stage for a fulsome discussion of the content value relative to the goals of users and desired business outcomes.
If you’re looking at a site with more than 500 pages, this is a full-blown project, requiring a dedicated coordinator and one or more other team members to talk to content owners and catalogue the results. The effort in days will depend on the number of pages, owners and complexity of the site structure. You’ll need well-written criteria to make content decisions and a communications plan to articulate the project to various stakeholders. Management should regularly be apprised of your progress and alerted of any issues or risks requiring their action.
A content audit sounds like tough medicine but it’s the most effective way to deal with sites that have lost their way, without throwing the good pieces in the trash by accident.
Denise Eisner is a consultant in the Government Service Excellence practice. Follow Denise on
Thom Kearney of the Treasury Board Secretariat’s CIO Branch, who presented at one of our open workshop sessions during GTEC this year with Jane Stewart – Systemscope’s Director of Web Channel Management – made an impression with session participants as well as with the Ottawa Citizen. Kearney’s work with GCPedia, a government version of Wikipedia aimed at allowing federal employees to share information and collaborate, was acknowledged as the article draws attention to the Government of Canada’s efforts to become a more open and collaborative organization, internally and externally.
Systemscope returned to GTEC October 6, 2009 with a full day of open sessions focused on top-of-mind issues for public sector leaders: making appropriate and effective use of emerging technologies to support employee collaboration, citizen engagement, and government transparency; improving information management maturity in an enterprise setting; and delivering results in a time of unprecedented challenge and transition for the public sector.
Employees’ Choice Awards 2008/09
Ottawa HR Magazine
A publication of the Ottawa Business Journal
November 3, 2008
Of the 10 companies receiving Employees’ Choice Awards in 2008-09, one shines. While most of the winners impressed for one or two main reasons, it is a small consulting firm that proved to be the full package.
Systemscope is an information, management and technology consulting firm that consists of 16 full-time employees, along with various individuals that work for the company when the need arises. What people don’t realize is that they are among the best in their industry and are working hard to attract those best suited to join their team.
“We don’t just hire to a position,” says Stephen Karam, partner. “We don’t have open positions. Our philosophy since we took over is to look for top talent, go after them and get them part of a team. And that would attract more top talent, because it’s not that people necessarily want to work with Systemscope, it’s because they want to work with the people inside Systemscope, they want to work with the Systemscope team.”
And to not only attract, but keep top talent, you need to be a unique operation.
“I think in order to attract and obtain top talent, we have to have a philosophy that is flexible,” says Karam. “The mantra we like to use is that we are all big boys and girls, we know we have a job to do. So however you need to do it to accommodate your life, please do so but understand as well that you are part of a community and that’s part of what draws people here.”
Their method is certainly working. Since Karam and his partner Denis Barbeau took over Systemscope in 2004, they have only lost two employees, both of whom have gone on to become clients. In an employee survey Systemscope was rated incredibly well by its staff. All respondents felt their job gave them a sense of personal accomplishment and 93 per cent said they would recommend the organization. When it came to company management and leaders, the impressive scores continued. Overall senior leadership was rated at 97 per cent and overall immediate management was rated at 95 per cent.
But not everything is rosy at Systemscope, at least not all the time. The company is in a very competitive industry, and its sole client is the federal government. This makes for a lot of big projects and with them comes a lot of stress. Karam and Barbeau try to keep the office professional without being too stiff and feeding that stress.
“When it becomes a job, that’s when things are getting too serious. We make sure there is enough levity in the company and the culture of the company,” said Karam.
When stress does hit or someone’s hard work needs to be recognized, senior management make sure to award employees with a day at the York Street Spa or reservations at a nice restaurant.
And to ensure their team is prepared for the projects they will be working on, training is a focus at Systemscope. Time is set aside for each employee’s professional development, research material is paid for by the company for any employee looking to learn on their own time and any training requests from employees are welcomed.
“We like to stay two steps ahead of our competitors and certainly our client base,” says Barbeau.
Systemscope is pleased to announce that as part of team EDS, we have been chosen as the sole Supply Arrangement (SA) holder for the next phase of Industry Canada’s BizPaL (Business Permits and Licenses), for the provision of strategic guidance and operational development services. BizPaL, a Government On-Line catalytic project, is a partnership between federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal levels of governments to reduce red tape for Canadian businesses in their efforts to obtain permits and licenses from all three levels of government in the start-up and operating phases of the business lifecycle.
Systemscope plays a lead strategic role through the provision of Business Transformation Architecture and Information Architecture skills and experience.