2023-26 IRCC Data Strategy

Directions for the strategic management and increased impact of data

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Message from IRCC’s Chief Data Officer

In recent years we have witnessed events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis in Afghanistan, and the war in Ukraine, highlighting the importance of having high- quality and accessible data from which to derive insights.

Largely enabled by the effective management of its enterprise data, IRCC has been able to face these head on by creating new services and special programs, by streamlining cumbersome processes, and by continuing to improve the delivery of effective, equitable and inclusive programs.

As IRCC’s Chief Data Officer (CDO), I recognize the progress made to leverage data as a strategic asset. Some challenges remain, such as ensuring consistency in the meaning and interpretation of data, integrating different sources of data, and harboring a departmental capacity for accessing, understanding, and utilizing data.

To that effect, IRCC’s 2023-26 Data Strategy defines a course for the Department to continue to leverage data strategically, no matter the challenges, for years to come. It sets the stage for a future where IRCC’s data are integrated and accessible, and where the tools, knowledge and skills readily exist to derive value from data and its insights.

To realize this ambitious goal, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the implementation of this strategy supports key departmental priorities and goals, and that progress and impact are measured over the course of the next three years. Working together with leaders from across IRCC, I look forward to leading this exciting initiative for the Department, and eagerly anticipate to the ways it will enhance the work of its staff, and improve outcomes for its clients and Canadians alike.

Erica Ren
Chief Data Officer, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada

Executive Summary

Recognizing that data and its insights have increasingly proven invaluable in carrying out its business, IRCC has committed itself to managing its enterprise data as a strategic asset. Over the next three years, the IRCC’s 2023-26 Data Strategy (hereafter referred to as simply “The Strategy”) will set a course for the Department to harness trustworthy, timely, and relevant data as a strategic asset, empowering a service- oriented and effective organization.

Expanding on the Department’s inaugural Data Strategy published in 2020, the Strategy reflects how the Department’s data ecosystem has evolved. Formulated in alignment with government-wide directivesFootnote 1, and as a response to the shifting operational realities underlying IRCC’s lines of business, the Strategy recognizes that enterprise quality data are critical to a future where the Department aims to increase operational agility, enhance client service, streamline employee experience, and improve program effectiveness.

To realize these outcomes, the strategy proposes five missions that constitute our areas of focus for the next three years: maturing data foundations, driving strategic partnerships, improving analytics solutions and data services, building data knowledge and capacity, and increasing the business impact of data.

IRCC’s Chief Data Officer (CDO) will be working with its departmental partners to identify the work that contributes to delivering the outcomes of the Strategy, to coordinate the delivery of reports on our progress, and to report on the impact of the Strategy to IRCC’s senior leaders.

The publication of the Strategy reflects IRCC’s commitment to a journey the Department has already embarked on, one of collaboration, learning, and innovation involving our staff, partners, and stakeholders; critical elements to our success.


Now more than ever, quality data and its effective management have become an integral component of successful program design, and leadership, for the public service.

IRCC has already taken effort to realize the value of its data by working to embed data- by-design principles into the management of its programs and projectsFootnote 2, and by taking concrete steps to ensure that data is used both strategically and responsiblyFootnote 3. And, as a result, data decisions are increasingly made in an integrated and orderly manner. Yet, as we look to the future, the importance of quality enterprise data in realizing our department’s immigration outcomes becomes even more pronounced—Technological innovations are set to revolutionize the way that IRCC does business, and to succeed in doing this, they require data that is accessible, accurate, and shareable among their integrant parts.

This Strategy will see that IRCC’s data management can meet the compounding needs of its business, and not only this, but build to anticipate its future ones as well. Whether it’s driving the Department’s response to a global pandemic, or informing decisions related to precipitous migration crises, data is a critical enabler of IRCC’s present work, and a key ingredient to unlocking the potential of its future. This Strategy posits a way forward that will see the department leverage data to drive insights that will impact decisions in new ways for years to come, and change the way that it does business for its staff, clients, and Canadians alike.


In its recently renewed Data Strategy for the Federal Public Service, the Government of Canada asks that “senior leaders, including deputy ministers . . . take action to embed data activities and needs in initiatives from the start, inform their decisions using disaggregated data, and assess the data skills needed for managers and teams.” For its part, this Strategy will to deliver against this call to action. Some other key drivers detailed below have also brought us to this point.

On the operational front, numerous challenges have illustrated a need for enhanced data management at IRCC. For instance, unlocking the potential value of the enterprise’s data by ensuring consistency in its meaning and interpretation, and harboring a departmental capacity for accessing, understanding, and utilizing it have all been flagged as persistent challenges for IRCC since the first Data Strategy was published in 2020. Now, a renewed vision is necessary for the department to address these challenges.

IRCC has already begun working in earnest to incorporate innovations in data management, and to integrate those into solutions that better support departmental prioritiesFootnote 4. By modernizing and transforming its approach to delivering key services, IRCC hopes to utilize data to fulfill shifting program demands such as those implicated in key initiatives like the Digital Platform Modernization and Strategic Immigration Review. This Strategy looks to put forward a vision and directions to this end.


The objectives of the Strategy are to:

In meeting these objectives, the 2023-26 Data Strategy aspires to increase IRCC’s operational agility, enhance client service, streamline employee experience, and provide for improved program effectiveness across various lines of business.

By enhancing the way we use and manage our enterprise data, we stand to derive faster, more reliable insights to inform our decision-making. We stand to detect risk more rapidly, and manage shifts in client volumes to improve performance against service standards. And not only this, we also strive to identify opportunities for improving our programs and the processes undertaken by staff in service to them.

Expanding on the work that began in 2020 with the publication of the first Data Strategy, the 2023-26 iteration provides an up-to-date vision for the Department that is reflective of its rapidly maturing data ecosystem.

IRCC’s Data Vision

The Strategy sets the organization on a course for the next three years with a clear vision:

IRCC’s data vision is to harness trustworthy, timely, and relevant data as a strategic asset, empowering a service-oriented and effective organization—contributing to IRCC’s vision of a safe and secure country with a shared bond of citizenship and values; a country that continues to support our humanitarian tradition and draws the best from the world to help build a nation that is economically, socially and culturally prosperous.

In line with the above vision, this strategy posits five missions that set a direction for the Department for at least the next three years: maturing data foundations, driving strategic partnerships, improving analytics solutions and data services, building data knowledge and capacity, and increasing the business impact of data.

The missions of the Strategy, tailored to the data needs and challenges facing IRCC, support the four missions set forth by the Government of Canada in the 2023-26 Data Strategy for the Public Service:

Caption text
Data by design Data for decision-making Enabling data-driven services Empowering the public service
Data needs are proactively considered when designing initiatives. Data is stewarded for effective integration into analysis to inform insights. Data flows securely where it is needed to improve user experience while maintaining trust. Teams are equipped and supported to effectively integrate the talent and tools they need.

Missions of the 2023-26 IRCC Data Strategy

Text version: Missions of the 2023-26 IRCC Data Strategy
  1. Maturing Data Foundations
    Continue to mature the foundations needed to derive value from data, including data leadership, governance, policies, standards, and infrastructure.
  2. Driving Strategic Partnerships
    Make strategic use of data-sharing partnerships to better understanding of complex issues, discover new insights, risks and trends, and develop improved service approaches.
  3. Improving Analytics Solutions and Data Services
    Ensure the necessary data and tools are constantly available to understand and manipulate data and its insights.
  4. Building Data Knowledge and Capacity
    Provide IRCC staff with the of competencies, knowledge and skills needed to read, analyze, interpret, visualize and communicate data as well as understand the value and uses of data.
  5. Increasing Business Impact of Data
    Ensure data and its insights are used to enable the realization of targeted outcomes of our programs and in support of key departmental initiatives.

1. Maturing Data Foundations

Maturing data foundations ensures the existence of continued data leadership, governance, policies, standards, and infrastructure, and the availability of integrated, trusted, and timely data upon which the business value of data depends.

Expected Benefits


Strengthen Data Leadership
Evolve Data Governance and Policy
Advance Data Architecture
Mature Data Infrastructure
Ensure Data is Used Responsibly
Enhance Data Accessibility

2. Driving Strategic Partnerships

Driving Strategic Partnerships refers to the growth and application of key data- sharing partnerships to build on IRCC data to enable a better understanding of complex issues, the discovery of new insights, risks and trends, and the development of improved service approaches. Data partnerships can be internal or external — the focus of this mission is on extending the insights available from IRCC data by exploring relationships between different data and information sources.

Expected Benefits   


Explore Partnerships to Support Program Integrity and the Safety and Security of Canadians
Expand Access to Health, Economic and Biometric Data
Improve Integration and Collaboration with Existing and New Partners

3. Improving Analytics Solutions and Data Services

Improving Solutions and Services aims to make the value of data more accessible by building on data repositories and using data science to build access and views of data or analytic models, implementing self-serve data platforms and analytics tools to support those and other analytics, and exploring the potential for innovative technologies to increase the value IRCC can get from its data. By improving analytics solutions and data services, all IRCC employees would have access to basic tools and resources to understand and analyze data.

Expected Benefits


Increase Availability of Data Services
Support Adoption of Business Intelligence
Provide Access to Analytics Tools

4. Building Data Knowledge and Capacity

Building Knowledge and Capacity is a mission that targets the development of competencies, knowledge and skills needed to read, analyze, interpret, visualize and communicate data and understand the value and different uses of data.

Expected Benefits


Plan and Develop Data Talent
Build a Positive Data Culture
Enable Staff Through Knowledge Management

5. Increasing Business Impact of Data

Increasing Business Impact of Data refers to the different applications of data and insights throughout the lifecycle of projects, programs, and initiatives to enable the realization of targeted outcomes that are directly tied to IRCC lines of business.

Expected Benefits


Enhance Client Service
Streamline Employee Experience
Increase Operational Agility
Improve Program Effectiveness
Explore Innovative Solutions and Uses of Data
Ensure Benefits can be Realized


IRCC’s Data Strategy asserts a strong vision for the Department, and to support the realization of its outcomes. A thoughtful approach to plan, report on progress, and measure the results of the Strategy is needed.

The work to be completed in the next three-years will be documented through an implementation plan that will be updated as needed to reflect the evolution of departmental priorities and work in progress. The coordination and development of this plan will be led by the Research and Data Branch (RDB), responsible for engaging internal partners and lines of business to identify the different work needed to implement the missions. The approach to implementation will be consistent with the principles, requirements, roles and responsibilities defined in IRCC’s Data Policy.

Regular reporting on progress against the deliverables associated with the Data Strategy will be provided to data governance bodies through a dashboard that will track risks, progress, outputs and issues. The CDO will draw on all IRCC to coordinate the preparation of the dashboard and to provide regular updates to management and data governance committees.

Lastly, the importance of measuring the outcomes of the strategy cannot be neglected. This is why a report on key performance indicators (KPIs) will be developed and presented to data governance, tracking our progress towards achieving the outcomes for each of the five missions.

Appendix 1: Glossary of Terms

A concrete action undertaken outlined within the IRCC Data Strategy five Missions.
A desired outcome of a Data Strategy activity.
A visual representation of progress and performance that allows a viewer to quickly assess progress, identify trends, and compare performance against targets or benchmarks.
Set of values of subjects with respect to qualitative or quantitative variables representing facts, statistics, or items of information in a formalized manner suitable for communication, reinterpretation, or processing. For example: Data gathered by the Department in the form of a Temporary Resident application by people of any given country (for example: name, date of birth, country of citizenship).
Data Lake

A data storage repository.

The following are important to know about data lakes:

  • Data lakes need to have governance and require continual maintenance to make the data accessible and usable;
  • Unstructured, semi-structured, and structured data are securely stored in large amounts;
  • Can be centralized;
  • Data lakes allow users to access and explore data in their own way, without needing to move the data into another system;
  • Data in a data lake are not transformed until needed for analysis; and
  • More and more, data lakes are being housed in a cloud.
Data Repository

A collection of data in a physically stored location. This includes locations within an existing IT infrastructure where organizations or businesses store data across multiple databases in a structured or unstructured manner (that can later be assigned metadata).

Data repositories are categorized into four types:

  • Data Warehouse;
  • Data Lake;
  • Data Mart; and
  • Data Cube.
A tangible or intangible artifact produced as a project-related output submitted during any project phase, that is intended to be delivered to a stakeholder (either internal or external). A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgRDBe or any other building block of an overall project.
Enterprise Data

Centralized data shared by the users of an organization.

This includes:

  • Structured data (such as records in spreadsheets and relational databases); and
  • Unstructured data (such as images and video content).
Data that is processed, organized, structured or presented in a given context so as to make it useful. For example: A report indicating the number of Temporary Resident applications received that are sorted by country of citizenship within given period (calendar year), and broken down by date of birth.
Logical Model

A visual representation that outlines logical relationships between the components of a program, initiative, or intervention.

It illustrates how inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the program or intervention are related, and how they contribute to the achievement of the desired results.

Priority areas for improvement under the Strategy that identify specific benefits aligned to Strategy outcomes. Benefits realized through the Strategy’s implementation (and the activities undertaken to bring them about) are grouped under a mission.

A result.

Outcomes are more challenging to assess because they are both qualitative and quantitative.

Whether an outcome has been achieved will rely greatly on the perception of the people who receive the service. Perceptions are not easy to measure or report on, but it is essential to find a way to do so.

Performance Measurement

A process used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the Data Strategy.

It is a systematic approach to collecting, analyzing and evaluating how “on track” a project/ program is to achieve the desired outcomes, goals and objectives of the Data Strategy after implementation.

A measure of the extent to which the missions and related activities outlined in the Strategy have been completed within its three-year timeframe.

A risk is a potential hazard that may adversely impact either progress or performance; management of risk includes an assessment of probability and impact risk.

Risk is conceptual and represents overarching danger. Risk events are potential happenings that may occur.

Risks events are identified stakeholders and managed by IRCC Integrated Risk Management.


A general plan of guiding principles (that when communicated and adopted within an organization) generates a desired pattern of decision-making. A strategy guides stakeholders to make decisions and allocate resources in order accomplish key objectives.

A strategy generally involves setting goals and priorities, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the required actions.

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