Summary of recent Service Advisory Committee meetings

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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The views expressed in the summaries of recent meetings are those of some of the Service Advisory Committee members and do not necessarily represent those of Employment and Social Development Canada or the Government of Canada.

October 8, 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its Potential Contribution to Service Delivery Modernization

Objective: To discuss approaches to successfully scaling up pilot projects to larger integration and deployment as well as Artificial Intelligence governance and change management.

  • Clearly define the vision of how AI will be used as this will help engage employees and provide the cultural change needed for transformation. Honesty and transparency when communicating about AI helps build trust.
  • Showcase concrete examples of how AI has been used successfully in order to highlight future possibilities.
  • Identify individuals excited about AI who will focus on how to best change the processes to support AI integration. Identify opportunities to overcome technological challenges and champion cultural change from within.
  • Find people with the right skillsets, think critically about your desired outcomes and train and identify analysts accordingly.
  • Apply a human perspective, think critically about the outcomes produced by algorithms and ensure AI tools are not being used in isolation. Be aware of algorithm biases.
  • Scale-up successful AI pilots where feasible, expanding on small successes.
  • Partner and leverage work being done in universities and other private organizations. Be sure to also build partnerships with municipal and other levels of government who share similar privacy restrictions.
  • Be aware of the legal and ethical issues in employing AI.

The Use of Chatbots in Service Delivery

Objective: To provide a summary of Service Canada’s recent experience with chatbots, discuss considerations for using chatbots and solicit advice to inform our proposed next steps.

  • Sequence chatbot interactions to lead to more advanced chats that provide tailored information for clients. This will help free time so agents can focus on more complex cases.
  • Identify and analyze client cases that require more in-depth service resolution in order to help identify areas for service improvement.
  • Communicate with your client users about how chatbots can help support their experience. Remain aware of the barriers clients face.
  • Collect client user experience feedback from this direct line to users and analyze the results to see if there are areas that require service improvement.

Building an Accessibility-Confident Public Service for Clients and Employees

Objective: To seek member feedback on the impact of organizational culture regarding disabilities and accessibility and how to best address it in an Accessibility Roadmap to support a more accessible environment for both our clients and employees.

  • Ensure accessibility objectives are clearly communicated to both employees and clients. Collaboration across all levels of employees is key along with support from senior leaders to change and create inclusive environments.
  • Consider how disability and accessibility are defined and how specific disabilities are not always visible or declared.
  • Build fluid and adaptable policies and processes, as these are often the biggest barriers to change.
  • During our lives we will all experience disability, especially as we age. Leaders who have themselves experienced disability can be influential to helping shift culture from the top down.
  • Build structures, systems and jobs to be inclusive and universal by design.
  • Ongoing and mandatory training on issues such as unconscious bias can be a valuable tool to shift organizational culture. Leadership must also “show what good looks like” by highlighting employees exhibiting the cultural traits that the public service values.
  • It is important to consider accessibility in the context of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples face different barriers, including between status, non-status, and Métis peoples. Consider the barriers in outreach to Indigenous communities with technology accessibility challenges, and varying capacity (for example, not all communities are staffed, financial limitations). Effective communication is important to share knowledge and understand the needs of each community.

Service Strategy Refresh

Objective: To seek members’ advice on the approach to the renewal of the Department’s Service Strategy.

  • Continue with the current direction in the strategy by advancing existing priorities and scaling up successful initiatives. Gain a solid understanding of client expectations, needs and wants. Continually review client feedback.
  • Raise awareness among employees ensuring they understand the goals of the strategy.
  • Pay attention to language used as it can mean different things to different people. Keep the strategy clear, focused, and ensure that the vision, goals, objectives and outcomes are well articulated.
  • Explore cross-jurisdictional integrated service delivery where possible to create a seamless client journey.
  • Perform an annual light refresh of the strategy, instead of every 3 years given the rapidly evolving environment.

June 4, 2019

Strengthening Operational Continuity in Benefits Delivery for Canadians

Objective: To obtain feedback on Service Canada’s approach to updating and testing the continuity of operations for statutory programs delivering benefits to Canadians.

  • Build back-up information technology (IT) systems and create a regular testing environment. Identify the clients’ tolerance for recovery and develop continuity plans and testing that align with this timeframe.
  • Use high volume periods to test Business Continuity Plans as peak periods are useful opportunities to help identify weaknesses, test fail points and prioritize critical improvements and actions. Run mandatory annual Business Continuity Plans through multiple combined, small scale and large-scale disaster scenarios on business lines including cybersecurity testing.
  • Collaborate with institutions on technical skill development, testing, reskilling, recruitment and training, including cybersecurity.
  • Consider creating an on-call crisis team that includes dedicated individuals who work in communications, legal, etc., who could be ready to mobilize to handle emerging issues.

Flexible Workplace Arrangement Pilots

Objective: To seek advice on flexible workplace arrangements in a service delivery environment.

  • Flexible workplace arrangements such as telework and working remotely offer benefits to both employers and employees. Telework may increase employee satisfaction and improve staff recruitment and retention without compromising on productivity, quality of service and work discipline.
  • Supporting work objectives and social cohesion among employees in a virtual space comes with challenges. Effective tools (such as, teleconferencing and videoconferencing) and targeted training for managers on how to manage a remote workforce may contribute positively to fostering employee engagement and advancing work objectives.
  • Good planning, measured pilots, evaluation and a slow transition to telework are key to success. Accommodation and IT support for those with disabilities needs to be taken into consideration.
  • Ensure that the remote access system is sufficient to handle demand.
  • Privacy, cyber security, fraud prevention and data stewardship are important considerations in telework/remote work environments and require careful consideration and attention. Not all positions or roles may be amenable to telework, including in a service delivery environment when employees have access to client data in their traditional workplace setting.
  • Look at best practices and lessons learned from organizations who have had success in implementing wide scale alternate work arrangements.

Outreach to Indigenous Communities

Objective: To review Service Canada’s overall approach to Urban Indigenous Outreach and obtain feedback on key elements.

  • For effective outreach and engagement with Indigenous communities, building trust is paramount. Gaining an understanding of communities, dynamics, and building relationships can help to build trust over time. Other measures that can build credibility and trust is through service provision by Indigenous staff located within the communities and by repeat visits of the same staff to the communities.
  • Engage with and integrate Indigenous organizations within the service delivery network to further increase awareness, expand outreach and delivery (for example, Friendship Centres, housing societies, financial institutions, cultural organizations, health authorities/centres, schools etc.).
  • It is important to understand the contexts and needs of Indigenous communities on and off reserve to improve access to services in urban, rural and isolated communities.
  • Consider employing traditional methods of collaboration and impact assessment (for example, story-telling circles) and continue advancing a wrap around approach that helps to address complex needs.
  • Address problems of connectivity due to lack of access to bandwidth or mobile devices and explore methods to simplify client applications (for example, filling out forms).
  • Data security, protection of privacy and personal information must be guaranteed. It is imperative to be transparent regarding the purposes for which the data is requested.

March 26, 2019

Attrition, Turnover and Productivity Costs

Objective: To discuss strategies to reduce attrition, turnover and related productivity costs in a service delivery environment.

  • High turnover is a perennial challenge in call center environments across public and private sectors. Benchmarking current, longstanding employees can identify critical success factors for recruitment and retention.
  • Design tools/training so employees clearly see the impact and relevance of their work to the organization’s overall performance and client satisfaction. Incentivize training/assignments as part of the career path and as a reward for longstanding, high performing employees.
  • No-cost solutions can also improve retention, such as mentoring/buddy systems and targeted onboarding activities (first 6 months are critical).
  • Structure and digitize repetitive tasks/processes that may contribute to high turnover, allowing staff to focus on more complex cases that results in client and employee satisfaction.
  • Measure performance based on client satisfaction outcomes instead of task-based outputs.
  • Promote teambuilding and co-design recruitment/retention strategies with employees.

Preventing, Detecting and Managing Fraud

Objective: To discuss ways internal fraud is detected and prevented in large organizations, including tools, approaches, communication strategies and lessons learned.

  • Gamify fraud prevention training for employees and share real-life email examples. Make training mandatory. Be clear on why prevention, monitoring and disciplinary practices are important (for example, to protect client data, integrity of the system, public confidence, and duty to uphold values and ethics).
  • Consider partnering externally with third party service providers who have expertise in cybersecurity prevention and management, including detecting behaviours that could be related to larger fraudulent schemes.
  • Invest in Artificial Intelligence tools to scan for pattern recognition, data artifacts and outliers that may trigger the need to investigate further.
  • Review delegation of roles and access rights to identify and address any security gaps. Centralize and provide tiered access to sensitive data.
  • Factor into decision-making the impact of strengthened internal controls on other work arrangements (access to data for those who use assistive technologies, telework).

Managing IT Risk and Legacy Systems

Objective: To review the management of legacy systems and IT risks.

  • When migrating from legacy to new systems, incorporate systems/process design thinking upfront so the final product/solution reflects priorities and how work needs to be done.
  • Encourage a “fix as you go” approach. Not all applications are equally important. Time, money and resources saved from business process optimization can be allocated to other projects and invested in further innovation.
  • Securing funding for systems modernization may require political engagement and legislative reforms. Make the issue visible with a strong business case.
  • Modernizing legacy systems can be a lengthy process. Make small, incremental but fast improvements that collectively take the organization towards its longer-term destination.
  • For business continuity, focus on the average time to recovery and what is needed to ensure delivery of essential services/payments.
  • Finding the right balance between investments in IT and meeting ongoing business needs can be challenging but is necessary.
  • Apply iterative lessons learned from recent, major IT transformation initiatives.

Forward Thinking on Service

Objective: To discuss new approaches to service delivery through partnerships.

  • Public-private sector partnerships are the future of government. This will affect governance (accountability), data sharing/ownership (security, intellectual property), and speed of implementation.
  • Consider a “collaborative governance” approach to help align incentives/interests with traditional as well as non-traditional partners and minimize implementation risks. This may need to mature over time.
  • Evolving from vendor to strategic partner is a fundamental shift in mindset and culture change. Help people understand where accountability lies.
  • Be clear about who owns intellectual property. A third party risk management framework can help.
  • Every partner does things differently. Standardizing best practices and processes is key before being able to personalize service delivery effectively.

Integrated Quality Framework

Objective: To obtain feedback on ways to implement quality control and quality assurance.

  • The definition of quality needs to be simple and tested with staff to ensure it is understood. Co-design a framework with client needs and satisfaction as a central measure of quality.
  • Ensure staff understand how their performance affects the quality of service delivery. Educate about the difference between quality control and quality assurance. Do not assume people define quality and “perform” quality the same way.
  • Provide staff with continuous feedback using data visualization (infographics) to help drive change, support training, and celebrate successes and challenges overcome in a positive way.
  • Define barriers (system, behavior, structural) that could impede innovation, address them, and communicate progress and results to staff. Consider incentivizing employee innovation by gamifying it.

December 17, 2018

Impact of Advice from the Service Advisory Committee

Objective: To share with Service Advisory Committee members how their advice has made a difference in the Department.

  • Advice from Service Advisory Committee members brings significant value and fresh insights to the Department as it considers ways to advance service modernization and find solutions to complex service issues.
  • Ideas, discussions and best practices offered by the committee, through both formal and informal activities, provide the Department with valuable considerations in decision-making and program and policy initiatives.
  • A ‘year-in-review’ newsletter was prepared by the Department to share examples of where advice from the committee has made an impact on improving services to Canadians.
  • The Department is committed to keeping members informed on the impact of the committee’s advice. It will continue to seek advice and feedback from the committee as it works to overcome existing and emerging challenges.

Service Transformation Plan Update

Objective: To provide an update on progress made on the implementation of the Service Transformation Plan and discuss associated challenges.

  • Transformation is complex. There are a variety of different approaches to transformation, all of which have their own advantages and challenges.
  • Driving change from within an organization is often resisted, which is why it is critical to find the right people to act as ambassadors who can lead, guide and mobilize others from within. To overcome potential internal resistance to change, some larger organizations choose to move the transformation team/project outside of the organization. Re-integration of the transformation team/project back into the organization, however, could pose challenges.
  • Good people are key to success. Strong leadership and employee engagement are critical to making progress on transformation. Executive leadership must strive to ensure alignment within the organization during the transformation. Provide employees with details on how transformation will have a direct impact on them personally and practically, for example, with respect to their work schedules, structure, workplace tools, and ways of working.
  • People are motivated when they see clear benefits in the near term. Develop transformation projects and related timelines that yield some visible benefits early on. This will promote confidence among clients and employees in support of the longer-term objectives.
  • Teams that are dedicated to transformation on a full-time basis will produce results more quickly than managing the transformation within existing teams who have ongoing roles/responsibilities.
  • Agile approaches for projects can be more effective compared to more traditional, non-agile approaches (such as ‘waterfall’ approaches). Potential advantages of agile approaches include faster implementation, reduced costs, higher quality and increased customer satisfaction.
  • Funding and tracking of agile projects can pose potential challenges within government, given that current funding and project management processes may not align with the pace and approach of agile project implementation.
  • Explore potential opportunities to address service solutions by looking outside of the Government of Canada. Look to collaborate with other levels of government, not-for-profit organizations and financial institutions, while also considering ways to leverage existing structures, relationships and processes.

Benefits Delivery Modernization

Objective: To seek advice on effective governance oversight and management and implementation of large-scale digital service transformation initiatives.

  • When working with big and complex initiatives, consider developing new approaches starting with one business line/area only. Doing so will likely lead to better coherence and clarity overall by focusing efforts on key components, including developing core capabilities, modeling the initiative with relevant business lines across the organization, hiring the right people, defining accountability and governance processes, and implementation.
  • Hiring and investing in good people with the right skills are essential to achieving results. Conscious efforts to develop and expand the needed expertise within the organization is critical.
  • Creating a safe space where individuals are comfortable raising their concerns, as they arise, will also contribute to positive outcomes.
  • Agile projects require a diverse and wide range of skills, tools as well as flexible timelines. Start with something smaller in scale and lower-risk to exercise more control and build momentum. These early achievable “wins” provide great opportunities to test situations before scaling up.
  • Technology solutions require clear lines of accountability and oversight to ensure that all the parties involved (such as government, suppliers, vendors), processes, and components are integrated and work together seamlessly.
  • Establish outcome-based Key Performance Indicators to monitor progress on what you are trying to deliver.
  • Large-scale initiatives benefit from strong oversight. Consider putting in place an external panel of experts for this purpose or identify an internal senior executive not implicated in the initiative who could provide advice to help ensure the initiative meets its intended objectives.
  • Limit internal steering committees to a small number of members (5 people maximum) at each level, comprised of participants who have direct accountability. Consult true end-users to seek their feedback.
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