Audit of Project Governance and Resource Allocation
- Audit findings and recommendations
- Appendix A: Management response and action plan
- Appendix B: References (non-exhaustive)
- Appendix C: Description of projects sampled
1. The objective of the Treasury Board Policy on the Management of Projects is to ensure that the appropriate systems, processes, and controls for managing all projects are in place and support the achievement of project and program outcomes while limiting risk to stakeholders and taxpayers. The policy defines a project as an activity or series of activities that has a beginning and an end. A project is required to produce defined outputs and realize specific outcomes in support of a public policy objective within a clear schedule and resource plan. A project must also be undertaken within specific time, cost and performance parameters.
2. Project governance is the process by which high-level decisions are made and is normally defined and articulated in a project charter. Effective project governance requires clear terms of reference, processes, escalation procedures, scope change approval requirements, and decision-making bodies. Project steering committees and project management teams are the principal, but not the sole governance structures that may be in place. Governance is used to balance the interest of stakeholders and to provide high-level approvals and guidance to the project team.
3. Each project, regardless of its size or type, should be integrated into overall Public Service Commission of Canada (the Agency) and sector governance reviews, approvals and reporting frameworks. The purpose is to have an enterprise focus that is implemented across the entire range of projects. With respect to resource allocation, the goal is for projects to deliver products or services that address business needs, which have been defined, developed and prioritized from the strategic level downwards. Decisions about whether to proceed during all phases of project management should be tied to strategic priorities and to the benefits and outcomes that can be generated relative to other proposed projects.
4. The Agency is composed of 4 sectors that work together to successfully implement its mandate and priorities. Each sector develops information management (IM) and information technology (IT) enabled (IT-enabled), partially IT-enabled, and non-IT enabled projects in order to innovate, develop and deliver new products and/or services; or to maintain and/or improve existing products and services. Approved IT-enabled projects are included in the Agency’s IT Plan and directly support IT and/or IM aspects of business projects or the improvement of existing systems. Partially IT-enabled projects are primarily business-led projects that have an IT component. Non IT-enabled projects are developed and implemented to maintain or improve business processes or procedures related to new initiatives – such as the implementation of new legislation, reviews of service delivery models, or exercises such as Lean to strengthen existing processes and procedures.
The Agency maintains systems such as the Public Service Recruitment System and Priority Information Management System, which are used by Canadian citizens as well as officials from government departments and agencies. At times these systems require upgrades or modernizations that form part of the overall agency project universe. An example of this is the project that has recently started to replace the recruiting system.
5. The Agency developed an IT-Enabled Project Management Framework (often referred to internally as Project management framework 1.0) to govern and manage projects. Within the Agency, the Information Technology Services Directorate (ITSD), Corporate Affairs Sector and the Business Development and Systems Directorate (BDSD), Service and Business Development Sector have project management related roles and responsibilities.
6. The ITSD project management office is the steward of the Project management framework and is responsible for supporting and guiding IM- and IT-enabled projects. This project management office acts as a centre-hub of communication between ITSD and business owners, with the objective to continuously enhance and mature project management as a discipline within the Agency. The BDSD project management office’s role relates primarily to being a centre of expertise for project management within the Agency and not part of the overall governance of projects. BDSD has staff members that have expertise in project management and this expertise is used to manage BDSD projects and support project managers on projects and user experience initiatives led by other Agency sectors.
7. The following risks were identified during the audit pre-planning phase:
- Project governance mandates, and roles and responsibilities may not be clearly defined, understood and communicated across the Agency.
- Accountabilities may be unclear and impact on overall project direction, timelines and resource allocation decision-making.
- The Agency’s governance committees may not efficiently support effective project management decision-making and project resource allocation.
- The timeliness of project resource allocation decisions may impact other projects within the Agency given the set allocation of funding to support a number of initiatives.
Audit objective and scope
8. The audit objective was to provide reasonable assurance that the Agency has adequate project governance and resource allocation processes in place to support project delivery. Specifically, the audit assessed:
- the Agency’s project governance structures and whether they included clear lines of responsibility and accountability that are supported by adequate processes for the delivery of projects
- the effectiveness of internal control processes in place to support project resource allocation decisions, including the provision of evidence-based information and risk management information to support decision-making
9. The Agency’s project governance frameworks and guidance were reviewed as part of this audit. Furthermore, the audit included a review of project governance and resource allocation decisions related to a sample of five projects that were in progress during fiscal year 2017–2018 and 2018–2019. The five projects, described in Appendix C, are:
- New Direction in Staffing interface led by the Policy and Communications Sector
- Review of the process to assess permission requests to run in an election using the Lean approach led by the Policy and Communications Sector
- Renewed Agency Data Strategy led by the Oversight and Investigations Sector
- Open Government led by the Oversight and Investigations Sector
- Financial Management Transformation led by the Corporate Affairs Sector
10. Specific ITSD-led projects were not considered as part of the selection of projects to be reviewed in detail due to recent internal audits conducted on IT governance and IT general controls. However, the Project management framework developed and managed by ITSD was included as part of the governance in place to support project management within the Agency.
11. In order to conclude on audit objectives and criteria, the following audit procedures were performed:
- interviews with the Agency’s senior management and staff
- a review and analysis of various policies, guidance documents, project plans and related documentation, as well as Agency processes and procedures in place that support project governance and resource allocation decision-making
- walk-throughs of key project governance and resource allocation processes
- a judgmental sample of five projects selected from the Agency’s strategic and planning documents and reviewed as part of the examination
Statement of conformance
12. The audit is in conformance with the Internal Audit Standards for the Government of Canada as supported by the results of the quality assurance and improvement program.
Audit findings and recommendations
13. Criterion: It was expected that the Agency project governance structures existed and included clear lines of responsibility and accountability that were supported by adequate processes for the delivery of projects.
14. Conclusion: Governance structures exist at the strategic, sector, operational and project level that include adequate processes to support the delivery of IT-enabled projects. The Agency has a Project management framework in place to govern IT-enabled projects and the ITSD project management office oversees the development and implementation of the framework, including the guidance, tools and templates. In addition, the BDSD project management office team offers project management and business analysis support to the Agency projects when its assistance is requested. In general, non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled business‑led projects are governed in a less formal manner and could benefit from strengthening project approvals and oversight mechanisms.
The Agency’s project management approach
15. The project management framework uses the Project Management Body of Knowledge definition of a project, which is a “temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service. Temporary means that every project has a definite beginning and a definite end. Unique means that the project or service is different in some distinguishing way from all other products or services.” For IT-enabled projects at the Agency, the definition also includes any activity linked directly to the ITSD Business Plan or that may impact corporate infrastructure or operations; the design, development, and implementation of new corporate software applications; and enhancements to existing corporate applications beyond those required to maintain current levels of essential services.
16. Furthermore, according to the Body of knowledge reference in the project management framework, project management is the “application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the use of processes such as initiating, planning, executing, controlling, assessing, reporting and close-out.” The Agency manages IT-enabled projects by taking a 4 phase lifecycle approach (Initiate, Plan, Execute, and Close-Out) with the following 7 approval gates (phases):
- Phase 1: Investment intake
- Phases 2 & 3: Business case
- Phase 4: Initiation
- Phase 5: Planning
- Phase 6: Execution and monitoring
- Phase 7: Deployment and close-out
17. ITSD led the development of the Agency’s project management framework for IT-enabled projects; some non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled project managers have also used the framework. The project management framework consists of a comprehensive approach to managing IT-enabled projects through their lifecycle. It identifies the various project stages where activities or deliverables are approved before they may progress to the next phase. In addition, the project management framework also includes a Responsibility, Accountability, Consultation and Informed matrix that outlines key roles and responsibilities by project phase. The project management framework was adapted from the Treasury Board Secretariat's enhanced Management Framework and includes a handbook detailing standardized processes, definitions, templates, and guidelines. This information is available on the Agency’s Intracom to support employees in managing IT-enabled projects.
18. The ITSD project management office program consists of 3 aspects: project management oversight in support of controlling and monitoring of performance by senior leaders for IT-enabled projects only; project oversight in the areas of quality, control, coaching and advice; and continuous improvement of frameworks, training and the use of project management best practices. There are 7 employees in the project management office that provide a range of services with a budget of approximately $600,000. The ITSD project management office is not an enterprise PMO and only supports all approved IT-enabled projects included in the Agency’s IT Plan. A single point of contact is assigned to each approved project. Each project team participates in an on-boarding session to support the formation of a team that is comprised of the Agency’s employees from ITSD and business units. Requests for advice from program areas that do not have IT-enabled projects are rare as program areas generally consult the BDSD project management office.
19. The BDSD project management office team offers support in the areas of project management and business analysis and applies the tools and guidelines. BDSD team members received project management training at a post-secondary institution, and employ project management best practices as defined by Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. The team comprises two project managers (with an additional two positions being vacant as of May 10, 2018), 4 business analysts, and two project management officers that support the function. BDSD allocates approximately $500,000 annually to its project management office function in support of the Agency’s projects. As well, the Business Improvement and Integration (BII) team of BDSD offers user experience (UX) advisory services to the Agency’s projects. The UX centre of expertise consists of 2 UX advisors with a third position that became vacant on May 10, 2018.
20. BDSD supported 5 of the Agency’s projects in fiscal year 2017-18 by providing either a project manager, a business analyst or both. The projects were as follows: Application Rationalization; New Direction in Staffing interface; Electronic Managerial In-basket and Second Language Evaluation – Unsupervised Internet Testing; Student Application Renewal Process; and Lean accommodation process for Post-Secondary Recruitment. BDSD allocates resources based on requests made for their services. Support is generally provided based on the Agency’s priorities, and resource availability given the capacity of the team. The team is working on developing a formal intake process to manage requests and allocate resources. There is no formal governance structure that is in place for the use of BDSD project management resources.
21. Recently an initiative was started to develop a joint ITSD – BDSD Working Group. The Working Group would bring together expertise from both groups to focus on the standardization of the implementation of the project management framework across the Agency to improve efficiencies. This initiative will contribute to improving project management practices across the Agency once implemented.
22. Furthermore, there are sections that manage projects independent of the project management framework and use of BDSD support. This is particularly the case for projects managed by the Personnel Psychology Centre (the Centre). For large projects, the Centre normally manages through a steering committee, which is generally composed of the entre members as well as members selected from other sectors. In general, the larger the project, the more formal the governance, which usually includes Executive Management Committee reviews and approvals at key project stages at the request of the project manager.
23. In summary, there are a variety of ways that projects are governed at the Agency. There is a project management framework in place for IT-enabled projects that includes a 7 gate process and clear governance requirements. For priority business projects that may or may not include an IT component, BDSD provides support when requested in the form of business analysts and /or project managers. These projects generally follow the project management framework as it reflects good project management guidelines. Finally, there are relatively smaller business projects that are managed either by business owners and/or through some form of committee structure. These may or may not follow all of the steps outlined in the project management framework depending on the approach taken by the project sponsor or project manager.
The Agency’s governance and project-specific governance
The Agency’s governance
24. Overall, an Agency governance structure exists consisting of committees that provide project guidance, approval, and oversight. All committees have documented terms of reference that communicate authorities, purpose and roles and responsibilities. The main governance committees are the Executive Management Committee, Integration Committee, Resource Management Committee, and the Information Management / Information Technology Committee. The Integration Committee, Resource Management Committee and the Information Management / Information Technology Committee support Executive Management Committee in fulfilling its mandate. The 4 main governance committees are described below along with the IM/IT Project Review Committee, which has responsibilities for reviewing IT-enabled projects for inclusion in the Agency’s IT Plan among other things.
25. The Executive Management Committee is the primary decision-making forum on the operations of the Agency and is primarily responsible for: reviewing and approving strategic and business planning; reviewing and approving plans, policies and budgets relating to the operations and delivery of business lines, programs and services; reviewing and approving major resourcing proposals, resourcing allocations and resourcing frameworks and policies; and monitoring the performance of the Agency against objectives such as performance measures and budgets.
26. The Integration Committee is the forum to address the Agency’s strategic direction regarding its policy, services, oversight and partnership agendas. It provides strategic advice and recommendations, as well as constructive feedback, on an integrated approach towards achieving the Agency’s priorities and objectives in the delivery of its mandate.
27. The Resource Management Committee provides strategic advice and recommendations to Executive Management Committee with a view to ensuring that effective and efficient departmental corporate management strategies, initiatives, and policies are in place. Discussions are held on broad, cross-cutting resource management matters that affect the Agency as a department; they integrate financial and human resources considerations through a single lens. Resource Management Committee provides recommendations to Executive Management Committee on matters falling under its mandate. Resource Management Committee focuses at the strategic level on Agency-specific or government-wide planning, reporting and performance; human resources and engagement strategies; procurement and finance; and key resource management issues.
28. The Information Management / Information Technology Committee was established to advise on the advancement of the Agency’s IM/IT portion of the management agenda, and to review and recommend proposals to Executive Management Committee. Information Management / Information Technology Committee is the forum for reviewing, evaluating and recommending to Executive Management Committee strategies, plans, and priorities relating to IM/IT initiatives, opportunities and challenges and for ensuring the integration of IM/IT considerations and business needs. It provides a forum for discussion, consultation and integration of views across the Agency for all IM/IT initiatives. The Information Management / Information Technology Committee further supports the Agency's enterprise-wide strategic business mandate and vision.
29. The IM/IT Project Review Committee aims to ensure that the Agency’s project management policies, directives, standards, and best practices are respected and consistently applied for IM or IT-enabled initiatives. The IM/IT Project Review Committee is a sub-committee of Information Management / Information Technology Committee composed of representatives from all sectors and from ITSD delivery units. Its mandate is to provide an enterprise-wide challenge and oversight function for IT-enabled projects in terms of gate movement per the project management framework and confirming that projects are delivering expected benefits. IM/IT Project Review Committee supports the Information Management / Information Technology Committee by ensuring it has sufficient information to ensure sound oversight and decision making around IM/IT initiatives. The IM/IT Project Review Committee aims to ensure, via the IM/IT Project Prioritization and Corporate Planning process, that proposed projects are aligned with the Agency’s business objectives and recommends project priorities to Information Management / Information Technology Committee for consideration.
30. Sector management and other committees: In addition to the main corporate governance committees there are 4 sector management committees and various director general and director level committees in place to manage ongoing business and administrative issues. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, projects can also have steering committees and working groups established to oversee project delivery.
31. The organizational governance structure is communicated to all the Agency’s employees via the Agency’s intranet site located under the Committees homepage. Committee agendas and documentation are available to all employees in an open and transparent manner. Furthermore, processes are documented in the terms of reference for the communication of information between the various governing bodies. This clarifies the roles and responsibilities of each committee and their accountabilities in the movement of items through the governance framework to Executive Management Committee approval.
Project specific governance
32. As described earlier in the report, a variety of methods have been used to govern projects based on project type (IT-enabled, partially IT-enabled, or non IT-enabled) and size (dollar value or business priority). Each method has been determined by project managers and project sponsors based on requirements (for IT-enabled projects), good practices (for projects that obtain the support of BDSD), or business owner decision.
33. IT-enabled projects have a documented governance structure that is expected to be in place. For partially IT-enabled and non IT-enabled projects that have engaged BDSD services, there have been a variety of governance structures employed including project working groups, core groups, and steering committees. For projects led by business owners a variety of methods have been employed from directorate level management meetings to the establishment of more formal project steering committees. The audit found that there is no formal process in place to assess and determine how business-led partially IT-enabled projects and non IT-enabled projects should be governed. As such, the governance of these types of projects has been ad-hoc in nature.
34. There have been three main lessons learned from IT-enabled projects that have used the project management framework, which are applicable to all projects regardless of their level of IT-enablement. These are currently being considered to strengthen the framework. The following information is captured from lessons learned documents prepared during the last 2 fiscal years:
- Having a clearly identified and documented project sponsor and project manager who is available to make timely decisions is critical to overall project delivery success.
- Ensuring that the mandate of the ITSD project management office and the associated roles and responsibilities to deliver a project are clearly documented and understood; on certain projects there have been instances where program areas have not demonstrated an understanding of their role on IT-enabled projects and have placed higher expectations on ITSD project management office staff than what is documented.
- Having a dedicated, cross-functional project team that has the right members from the right areas is critical to ensuring collaboration, innovation and efficient project delivery.
35. Based on these lessons learned and an identified need to update the current project management framework, a project to develop plan management framework 2.0 was approved in the 2018–19 IT Plan. This project is in the early stages and is being undertaken concurrent to a Treasury Board Policy on Project Management review and reset that is scheduled to be completed in summer 2018.
36. For non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects, the audit team was informed that the use of governance committees was not always clear for project managers. There has been a perceived lack of clear direction for when projects should be presented at the various governance committees and in what order. The current practice is for project managers to schedule updates to senior management level governance bodies rather than committees having standard, regular briefings on forward agendas to monitor project progress. The audit team was informed that the lack of clarity limited project manager’s ability to move ahead with projects, which has impacted the development and approval of key project documentation such as project charters, approvals, timelines, and project delivery.
37. Given the size of the Agency, the composition of project teams and governance committees often include the same officials, which means the same individuals are reviewing the same documentation at multiple levels. For instance, a number of IM/IT Project Review Committee members are also members of Information Management / Information Technology Committee, which reviews the same documentation. In order for project managers to benefit from the current project governance framework, membership of project teams, committees and governance bodies should be diversified where possible to bring different perspectives and the required skill sets to the discussions.
Approval mechanisms and processes for the successful delivery of projects
38. The Agency project governance and project approval processes generally function well for IT-enabled projects, as the process is formalized and well defined. However, the audit found that there is an opportunity to develop a standardized approval processes for all types of projects within the Agency, which is described further in this report.
The audit team was informed of one business led and IT-enabled project that was successfully governed within the Agency: the project to develop an approach to implement the Veteran’s Hiring Act. The project manager was well supported with proper tools, a robust charter was put in place, a clearly articulated RACI was developed and approved, and the core team held weekly meetings with all key players to get the job done. All areas of the Agency were involved in this project and the governance structure that was used contributed to its overall success.
39. Having clearly identified project sponsors and project managers who are accountable for delivering on a project’s mandate is important for the successful delivery of projects. In general, for IT-enabled projects a project sponsor and project lead are identified as per the project management framework. For non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects, it has not always been the case that a clear project sponsor and project lead were identified. The audit found that at times during the past 2 fiscal years, the interests of the project sponsor may have differed from those of the business owner, which has led to project deliverables being unclear and project documentation – project charters, for example – not being developed in a timely manner. Projects that have clearly identified sponsors and managers that work towards achieving common objectives have been the most successful projects at the Agency, as was the case with the Veteran’s Hiring Act project team.
40. The involvement of key stakeholders from the outset of a project lifecycle is an important element in managing projects. The audit found that the involvement of key stakeholders for IT-enabled projects generally worked well. For non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects, there is room for improvement in involving key stakeholders earlier in the process – particularly IT security and privacy experts. The following factors were identified for why key stakeholders have not been included earlier in the process. Project scopes are not always well defined at the beginning of a project, and it is often difficult to identify who needs to be involved and at what stage they should join project teams.
Project specific analysis
41. Generally, for the 5 projects reviewed, the approval mechanisms were aligned with the governance structure. For example, the audit found that the New Direction in Staffing interface governance structure and approval processes are identified in an approved project charter, which includes a Responsibility, Accountability, Consultation and Informed matrix that was expanded to include supporting functions. The matrix defines levels of authority throughout the project lifecycle and aligns with the Agency’s project management framework. In addition to the departmental governance bodies, the New Direction in Staffing interface project sponsor included the Meeting of the Commission in its governance structure. According to the New Direction in Staffing interface project charter, the Meeting of the Commission is responsible for setting and approving the New Direction in Staffing Policy to Practice direction and for overseeing its overall implementation. The project team also provided quarterly updates to the Agency’s Internal Audit Committee external members as part of their governance framework.
42. Governance structures are currently being finalized for the Data Management Strategy and Open Government projects. The Open Government project began in fiscal year 2015–16 and the project increased in scope since that time, which has led to it being combined with the Data Management Strategy. The Data and Open Government Advisory Board Terms of Reference outlines the membership and the governance framework in place to provide feedback on progress and recommendations on deliverables for moving forward through the governance structure. The advice and recommendations generated by the advisory board is presented to the Champion, Data and Open Government, Information Management / Information Technology Committee and/or Integration Committee, and ultimately Executive Management Committee.
43. For the Financial Management Transformation project, roles and responsibilities were established through a business agreement between the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Agency. The governance structure is composed of a steering committee at the overall transformation program level, supported by a two-tiered structure at the project level. This second level of governance consists of a governance board for individual departments and agencies involved in the project, and an inter-departmental governance board. The focus of the project manager within the Agency was to develop a change management strategy to ensure that the new financial system could be implemented once delivered. The project governance was kept at the sector level and not included in the general Agency governance structure. As such, regular updates were not provided to Resource Management Committee.
44. Recent changes to the Data Management Strategy, Open Government and Financial Management Transformation project scopes are being managed through the Agency governance structure. Data management strategy and open governance modifications were documented and reviewed at a joint Information Management / Information Technology Committee – Integration Committee meeting in December 2017. Clear governance has been established for these projects and resourcing to support their implementation was approved as requested through the Executive Management Committee budget 2018–19 exercise. For the latter project, the approval process is described in the detailed Government of Canada Financial Management and Materiel Management Solution plan approved by the Steering Committee. The implications for the change in project scope are being considered in the Agency governance framework for how to best mitigate the risks associated with the change in project scope by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. The Financial Management Transformation project recently started collaborating with ITSD to develop key project management documents such as a project charter, which will define the governance structure and approval process within the Agency. While Financial Management Transformation is not an IT-enabled project as per the IT Plan 2018–19, it will have an impact on the financial system currently in use at the Agency.
45. The audit found that one of the projects reviewed had a less formal governance process in place. The review of the process to assess permission requests to run in an election project was conducted using a less formal, yet proven and effective lean methodology. The business owner for this program sought internal resources with experience in the conduct of a Lean process (other than BDSD as it was not aware of BDSD’s role as a project management centre of expertise). The internal resources that were sought were not available for the target dates, which were set in order to have the review done, and the results implemented, prior to receiving requests for permission related to a number of elections that were to be held across Canada in 2017. Having internal expertise in leading a lean project could have provided value-added support to the team conducting the Lean review exercise. However, the business owner hired an external consultant who led the Lean review of the candidacy project. Although small in scale, the project was important for the Agency’s political activities sector that impacts all Government of Canada employees.
46. Criterion: It was expected that established processes were in place and working as intended to manage project resources; project risk management processes were in place as part of project governance; and project progress was monitored against established milestones and reported.
47. Conclusion: Established processes are in place for IT-enabled projects in accordance with the project management framework. The established processes include the management of project resources, risk management processes, and project monitoring. Two opportunities for improvement were identified to strengthen project decision-making and monitoring as part of the governance structure. The Agency should clarify the definition and method to categorize all projects that are undertaken to support the achievement of its priorities. Furthermore, the Agency should develop and implement a systematic method to plan, review, approve and monitor all projects through the organizational business planning process and governance structure.
48. For IT-enabled projects, a call letter is sent out every fall to identify proposed projects for inclusion in the upcoming fiscal year IT plan. Business owners’ work with ITSD and other stakeholders to develop project proposals for submission as part of the process (formerly referred to as IT Service Requests). Project proposals present the issue or opportunity and the business case. In general, proposal documentation meets guidelines with some room for improvement. According to the Agency officials interviewed, one of the challenges has been ensuring business areas submit proposals that reflect the business problems and desired outcomes rather than details of the potential technical solution. Another challenge has been the identification of ongoing program and/or policy costs from business owners in project proposals.
49. Project proposals are examined through the Agency’s governance process. This includes sector management committee reviews prior to submission and Project Review Committee reviews as part of the IT-enabled project prioritization exercise. During the approval process, the Project Review Committee Chair presents the prioritized IT-enabled project list to Information Management / Information Technology Committee for review. Every March – April, the list of IT projects proposed for inclusion in the IT Plan is reviewed by Executive Management Committee at a planning retreat and approved by the President. This process does not include a review of the $15 million IT Plan (approximately 20% of the Agency’s budgeted expenditures) by Resource Management Committee prior to it being tabled at Executive Management Committee for approval. Given the mandate of the Resource Management Committee it is important for this committee to review the proposed plan prior to Executive Management Committee review and President approval given the significance of the resource amounts relative to overall Agency budget allocations.
50. The development of the IT plan has evolved over the past 2 years and the ITSD project management office continuously assesses lessons learned to improve processes. In March 2018, when the draft IT Plan was presented at Information Management / Information Technology Committee, a number of opportunities for improvement were identified. This includes ensuring that proposal documentation is properly completed to ensure that the information provided is comprehensive and accurately linked to the Agency’s priorities. In addition, a number of Agency employees interviewed perceived the rating system for projects to be considered for inclusion in the IT Plan as a barrier to having important partially IT-enabled projects considered for funding. It should be noted that sectors may obtain funding for non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects through the annual integrated business planning process.
51. The audit found that having a once per year approval of the IT Plan (for example, $15 million in fiscal year 2018–19) may not leave resources available to support innovation or other project ideas that emerge in-year. Furthermore, the prioritization of projects that occurs separately during the development of the IT Plan and the Integrated Business Plan should be integrated to include the review of all project proposals as there is a perception that non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects may not be receiving adequate funding to progress important Agency initiatives. As such, there is an opportunity to better define and categorize projects based on their type and size and have all projects integrated into the departmental governance, review, approval and reporting structure.
52. Recommendation 1: It is recommended that the Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector, in collaboration with Vice-President Colleagues clarify the definition and method to categorize all projects regardless of their level of IT-enablement that are undertaken to support the achievement of the Agency’s priorities.
53. Clarifying what IT-enabled, partially IT-enabled and non IT-enabled comprise and how they are funded – either through the IT Plan or Integrated Business Plan – would strengthen project review processes in light of the Agency’s priorities.
Project resource use, monitoring and reporting
54. Decisions about whether to proceed with IT-enabled projects are generally linked to the priorities established by Executive Committee Management. Given that there is no single list of approved non IT-enabled or partially IT-enabled projects within the Agency, there is room for improvement in this area to determine whether the expenditure of resources on these types of projects is directly linked to the Agency’s priorities.
55. IT-enabled project resource allocation decisions are made as part of the development and approval of the IT Plan. Project budgets are prepared based on assumptions and related resource allocation decisions, and cost estimates are reviewed by oversight bodies. Budget approval decisions are documented in committee records of discussion. Resource requirements are then included in approved project charters. The audit team was informed that while project specific expenditures have been considered to be within a reasonable variance of cost estimates, there has not been a consistent approach taken to estimate ongoing business costs, as well as ongoing system use and maintenance costs beyond project close-out.
56. Project managers report quarterly on IT-enabled project progress by completing a dashboard tracking tool, which allows for an analysis of planned versus actual spending and progress against key milestones. This supports decision-making processes to either mitigate risks or de-scope projects to manage expectations. It also provides key metrics on the progress of IM/IT initiatives, including scope, schedule, costs, risks and issues. It is presented at Information Management / Information Technology Committee and reviewed by Executive Management Committee members. Additionally, for IT-enabled projects, financial information is reviewed at each gate to ensure that there are adequate resources to deliver on the next phase of a project.
57. The processes in place for non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects are not as robust. Resource allocation decisions are generally made at the sector level in light of current budget allocations, ongoing business needs and priority initiatives. There is no formal process in place to have project financial information, resource allocation, and milestone completion progress reviewed other than on an ad-hoc basis at governance committees when a project manager decides to present. A standardized approach to having formal governance processes in place to review all projects would strengthen resource allocation decisions made at the strategic and operational levels. Furthermore, Agency officials interviewed indicated that a process should be implemented within the governance structure to formally assess whether projects not approved could be re-visited or on-ramped in-year if projects selected encounter significant issues or delays, new priorities arise, or there is a change in capacity.
58. The Agency’s senior management is informed of the status of corporate priorities and deliverables as identified in the Integrated Business Plan, People Management Plan and Management Accountability Framework Action Plan through the Quarterly Status Report on Deliverables and Risk Results that is produced by the Financial and Corporate Planning Division for presentation at Executive Management Committee. The report tracks key deliverable target dates, revised dates (if applicable), and includes comments when necessary. The information provided is presented on a project by project basis. As such, the status of non IT-enabled and partially IT-enabled projects are not specifically monitored on a regular basis by governance committees. This presents a risk that governance committees do not have complete information to support project resource management allocation decision-making processes.
59. Recommendation 2: It is recommended that the Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector, in collaboration with Vice-President Colleagues develop and implement a systematic method to plan, review, approve and monitor all projects through the organizational business planning process and governance structure regardless of their level of IT-enablement.
60. Developing a systematic method would provide a structure for project prioritization decisions and ongoing monitoring of projects as part of the Agency governance framework. It would also allow for greater transparency in the relationship between project resource allocations and the achievement of corporate priorities.
61. The project management framework described how risks should be managed throughout the project lifecycle. It incorporates processes, tools and mechanisms to identify, consider and assess risks within the different project phases. From the initiation phase where risk is considered for strategic alignment to the documentation of risks in the project charter, risk is managed, monitored and reported, including in a quarterly executive dashboard prepared by ITSD. Overall, project risks are generally well managed by the Agency’s officials as part of project governance.
62. The audit team was informed that project management staff capacity is an area of concern given the number of projects currently under way relative to the number of Agency employees. The audit team was informed by interviewees that high expectations have been placed on the Agency’s project managers, and there has been some employee turnover in these key positions. For example, at present 2 of the 4 project manager positions within BDSD are vacant. An opportunity for improvement was identified to better understand workforce needs and how much time employees actually spend on managing projects.
Project specific analysis
63. The audit found that processes were generally in place in place for the management and allocation of resources for the 5 projects reviewed.
64. The business case for the Data Management Strategy and Open Government project was originally drafted in June 2017 and is being updated (as of May 14, 2018) given the evolution of the project. The draft revised business case details the resources needed to update and renew the Agency’s Data Strategy, including the associated government-wide commitments to implementing Open Government. It is anticipated that the revised business case will be approved in June 2018.
65. Information about Data Management Strategy and Open Government project risks and mitigating strategies was included in the Agency’s Open Government Implementation Plan – Objectives and Commitments for 2018–2020. This document was signed by the Information Management Senior Officer, the Chief Data Officer and Champion for Open Government, and the President. As part of the Data Management Strategy; for each project, risks are planned to be included in associated project charters and included in implementation plans.
66. The resource allocation strategy for the Financial Management Transformation project was two-fold. The Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector decided to contribute Agency financial staff to work on assignment with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat as part of the project team. Internally, a core project team was established with an identified project lead that developed a working group composed of employees from all sectors. The mandate of this team was to review key project documentation and inform Agency stakeholders of the progress. A large part of the internal working group mandate was to develop a change management strategy for how the implementation of a new financial system would be rolled out within the Agency.
67. The Financial Management Transformation risk management approach was integrated amongst the various stakeholders and included in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat onboarding strategy, which identified risks and mitigating measures. Furthermore, the partnership agreement defines roles and responsibilities, communication channels, and escalation processes for risks, issues and changes. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat officials also provided early warning signs regarding potential funding implications for overall project scope. This gave Agency officials the opportunity to identify the potential impacts of this scope limitation and develop mitigation strategies to manage the risks to the continued use of the current financial system.
68. With regard to the Lean project, an action plan has been developed and is in the process of being implemented. The audit team could not find evidence to support formal risk management, change management or communication strategies. Monitoring is performed informally within the directorate. The project manager presented the Lean review results to the Integration Committee including the process changes that have occurred since the review was conducted. Communication of these results is a good information practice. Although this is a relatively small project, the potential impact of not meeting targets may be significant, particularly if changes are not communicated and well understood.
69. The audit found that the Financial Management Transformation and New Direction in Staffing interface projects generally used a variety of instruments to effectively monitor and report on progress and performance. The Data Management Strategy and Open Government projects were planning to develop monitoring and control processes given the changes in the scope of the projects.
70. In conclusion, governance structures exist at the strategic, sector, operational and project level that include adequate processes to support the delivery of IT-enabled projects. This includes the management of resources, risk management processes, and project monitoring. The Agency has a project management framework in place to govern IT-enabled projects and the ITSD project management office oversees the development and implementation of the framework, including the guidance, tools and templates. In addition, the BDSD project management office team offers management and business analysis support to the Agency’s projects when their assistance is requested. In general, business-led non IT enabled and partially IT-enabled projects are governed in a less formal manner and could benefit from strengthening project approvals and oversight mechanisms.
71. Two opportunities for improvement were identified to strengthen project decision-making and monitoring as part of the governance structure. The Agency should clarify the definition and method to categorize all projects that are undertaken to support the achievement of its priorities. Furthermore, the Agency should develop and implement a systematic method to plan, review, approve and monitor all projects through the organizational business planning process and governance structure.
Appendix A: Management response and action plan
Senior management agrees with the recommendations and has planned the following actions.
It is recommended that the Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector, in collaboration with the Vice-President Colleagues clarify the definition and method to categorize all projects regardless of their level of IT-enablement that are undertaken to support the achievement of the Agency’s priorities.
Management response and planned action
Agreed. The Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, will lead a discussion with his VP colleagues to secure agreement on the way forward. Following this, analysis on current projects across the Agency will be undertaken and a proposal to categorize the projects will be brought to Executive Management Committee by Q3 of 2018–19.
It is recommended that the Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Sector, in collaboration with Vice-President Colleagues develop and implement a systematic method to plan, review, approve and monitor all projects through the organizational business planning process and governance structure regardless of their level of IT-enablement.
Management response and planned action
Agreed. Once approved by Executive Management Committee, the proposal noted above for the categorization of projects will be used by the Results and Delivery Unit of the Finance and Administration Directorate, Corporate Affairs Sector and incorporated into the approach to planning for the 2019–20 fiscal year.
Appendix B: References (non-exhaustive)
- The Agency’s Integrated Business Plan 2017–18
- Project Management Institute
- Policy on the Management of Projects, Treasury Board of Canada
- Public Services and Procurement Canada Project Management Handbook
- Institute of Internal Auditors Standards
Appendix C: Description of projects sampled
Financial Management Transformation Project
The Agency will implement the Government of Canada Financial Management and Material Management solution as part of the Financial Management Transformation initiative. Under this SAP (Systems, Applications and Products) solution configured by the Office of the Comptroller General, applications will be hosted by departments and agencies through the Office. The change in accounting software will affect all components of the Agency's financial management system.
To launch onboarding activities, a partnership agreement between the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Agency has been signed by both parties. The partnership agreement establishes the general framework that guides the working relationship between the Government of Canada Financial Management and Material Management Solution project and the Agency when delivering the solution.
Implementation of the complete solution is planned for April 1, 2019. On March 6, 2018, the Office of the Comptroller General informed participating departments and agencies that the planned funding for 2018–19 and 2019–20 had not been received and the central agency was working on various options. Since then, the Agency was informed that the scope of the project has been scaled down to include only basic functionalities for all modules being developed.
The total business costs approved for the implementation of this project in 2018–19 is $1,476,392.
The project lead for the Financial Management Transformation project within the Agency is the Corporate Affairs Sector.
Review of the process to assess permission requests to run in an election using the Lean approach
During the period of May–June 2017, the Political Activities and Non-Partisanship Directorate conducted an exercise to improve the efficiency of the political candidacy process. This exercise was aimed at reducing the time spent analyzing applications of potential candidates and improving the quality of risk-based assessments specific to each case.
Following this exercise an action plan was developed and working groups were created for the implementation of the actions identified. Listed below are some of the results of the lean process after its implementation: a 60% reduction of application processing steps; an approximately 36% decrease in decision-making timelines (depending on the type of application); and a 60% reduction in the number of templates that need to be completed as part of the process.
The project lead for this project within the Agency is the Policy and Communications Sector.
The Agency first established an Open Government Secretariat in 2016.
OpenGov refers to “a governing culture that fosters greater openness and accountability, enhances citizen participation in policy-making and service design, and creates a more efficient and responsive government”.
In fall 2017, members of the Open Government Secretariat held consultations with individual Sector Management Committees to help develop and refine the vision, commitments and activities for Open Government at the Agency, commonly referred to as Open PSC.
Open PSC aims to establish appropriate governance for OpenGov activities at the Agency, and to outline the Agency’s planned OpenGov activities as well as the associated roles and responsibilities. It comprises four high-level objectives:
- Support Government of Canada (GC) commitments and expectations
- Create an “open by default” culture
- Optimize self-service through innovation
- Engage users to provide value-added data and information
In May 2018, the Agency published its Open Government Implementation Plan for 2018–2020, which outlined its plan to implement OpenGov and to ensure compliance with the Treasury Board Directive on Open Government.
Renewed Agency data strategy
The overall objective of the Agency’s Data Management Strategy is to promote and establish the necessary practices, infrastructure and governance foundation to meet the Agency’s data and analytical needs in a timely, efficient and effective way. The vision for the Data Management Strategy is to work towards unified data across the Agency to optimize decisions in an ever-evolving staffing environment by:
- providing quality and timely access to data
- presenting it in a way that maximizes the value of that data to users within and outside the Agency
- increasing self-service
A phased approach for implementation was recommended where all activities performed under each phase will be identified through a triage and prioritization process, under the oversight of the Data and Open Government Steering Committee. Authorization to start the project was targeted for February 2018; however, the Data Management Strategy has since "evolved". As such, a new business case is currently being developed for presentation to Executive Management Committee for discussion/approval on June 6, 2018.
The cost proposal for the Open Government and Data Management Strategy projects was initially estimated in the June 1, 2017 draft business case at $640,700.
The lead for the 2 projects is the Oversight and Investigations Sector.
New Direction in Staffing Interface
As of April 1, 2016, the Agency implemented the New Direction in Staffing consisting of renewed policy and oversight frameworks. The New Direction in Staffing Interface project leverages the new appointment framework to facilitate the interaction between the job seeker, hiring manager and human resources service, and support the public service staffing system of the future.
The New Direction in Staffing interface project aims to re-design the Government of Canada staffing system of the future in order to provide stakeholders (applicants, hiring managers, human resources) with a seamless, intuitive experience while navigating the recruitment process. This work will incorporate a design thinking approach to ensure simplified access and improved content management. As a part of this work, the information and services for job seekers and hiring managers will be examined to provide easy access and enable faster, more reliable, and effective completion of tasks.
The New Direction in Staffing interface project consists of 3 phases, each focused on a specific user. Phase 1 is aimed at improving the external job seeker journey; phase 2 will focus on connecting hiring managers with job seekers; and phase 3 is intended to maximize staffing performance through collaboration. The estimated costs of the project, as detailed in the Project Charter, are $926,000 (salary) for the total project in addition to $374,000 for external support for phase 1. External support for the additional phases was to be determined via governance consultations and approvals.
The New Direction in Staffing interface project was formally launched in April 2017 with the signing of the Project Charter and is scheduled to be completed by June 2018.
The lead for this project within the Agency is the Policy and Communications Sector.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: