Frequently Asked Questions: Implementation of the Policy on the Management of Projects and the Policy on Investment Planning — Assets and Acquired Services

General questions about the policies and on transitioning to the new policies

  • 1. How are the Policy on the Management of Projects and the Policy on Investment Planning—Assets and Acquired Services linked to the Treasury Board's existing policy framework? (on web)

    The two policies are key to the Policy Framework for the Management of Assets and Acquired Services. When the policy renewal exercise is completed for this policy suite, it will consist of the following:

    Departments should note that most policies are accompanied by mandatory directives and/or standards and should seek additional information on the Secretariat's website.

  • 2. What are the expected results of these policies? (on web)

    It is expected that the Policy on Investment Planning and the Policy on the Management of Projects will result in the following:

    • departments taking a consolidated and integrated approach to investment planning and the management of all departmental projects;
    • investments and the allocation of resources being clearly linked to program activities and departmental, and government-wide strategic outcomes;
    • the Treasury Board and the Secretariat being provided with a comprehensive overview of all departmental investments at the enterprise level, as well as advanced notice of proposed projects and other transactions; and
    • the Treasury Board being strategically positioned to enable early oversight and direction to departments on their current and planned investments.
  • 3. How are the Policy on Investment Planning and the Policy on the Management of Projects different from the old policies? (on web)

    The new policies support a common approach to the planning of investments in assets and acquired services across the Government of Canada, providing deputy heads with more and better information to support investment decisions.

    The expectation is that deputy heads will have a better and more complete understanding of their organizational capacity to manage projects and of the risk and complexity of those projects. Deputy heads will also have the flexibility to undertake the projects identified in their investment plan and within their organizational capacity, without first needing Treasury Board approval, regardless of the dollar value.

  • 4. When do the new policies come into effect? (updated from web)

    Both policies came into effect on . A phased implementation strategy is being pursued for both policies, starting with an initial group of four departments. Upon conclusion of the initial implementation phase, a review was undertaken to identify lessons learned, make any necessary adjustments, and finalize supporting instruments.

    By , the outgoing policies governing projects and long-term capital plans will be rescinded and all departments will be subject to the new policies.

  • 5. Which departments participated in the initial phase of implementation? (on web)

    The departments that participated in this first phase are the Canada Border Services Agency, National Defence, Environment Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

  • 6. What is the role of the program sectors at TBS during a department's transition to the new policies?

    Program sectors collaborate with the policy sector and actively provide support and direction to their departments. Program sectors with their departments, the policy centre, and the Secretariat's Chief Information Officer Branch to ensure that what is submitted to Treasury Board has been appropriately scrutinized and meets all necessary requirements.

  • 7. What is the range of instruments associated with these policies? (on web)

    Treasury Board Secretariat has issued a range of policy instruments that are designed to establish mandatory requirements (rules) or discretionary best practices. There are three types of mandatory instruments (policies, directives, and standards) and two discretionary instruments (guidelines and tools). The Secretariat is responsible for providing the appropriate policies, directives, tools, and guidance necessary to support this framework and government-wide learning.

    The Policy on Investment Planning – Assets and Acquired Services is supported by the Guide to Investment Planning. The Policy on the Management of Projects is supported by two standards, the Standard for Organizational Project Management Capacity and the Standard for Project Complexity and Risk, which require departments to use the Organizational Project Management Capacity Assessment and Project Complexity and Risk Assessment Tools. These tools are supported by an online application and respective user guides.

  • 8. Can my department access the new policies and their supporting instruments? (on web)

    The new policies and standards, and their supporting instruments are available on the Secretariat's website or can be requested through your program sector contact.

  • 9. If my department is not in the current phase, what can my department do to get ready for transition to these policies?

    Your department can review the new policies and other documents available on the TBS investment planning and project management website, meet with your TBS program analyst, and document your department's current investment planning and project practices, and governance structure. It is also beneficial to identify a responsibility centre within the department and review relevant MAF Areas of Management for potential areas of improvement.

  • 10. Who can I contact about the new policies if I have questions? (on web)

    Inquiries about the Treasury Board's Policy Renewal Initiative, these new policies, and the implementation strategy should be directed to the department's program sector contact at the Secretariat.

  • 11. Is there someone from the Phase 1 Departments who we could speak with about how they developed their Investment Plan?

    TBS has worked closely with phase 1 departments to gather and document lessons learned that will be helpful to departments in developing their first investment plans. These lessons learned have been posted on the TBS investment planning and management of projects website (link).

  • 12. What if our department cannot transition to the new policies by ?

    If a department has not secured a Treasury Board approval of their departmental Investment Plan by , it will default to a project approval authority limit of $1 million. This non-compliance will also be reflected in MAF.

  • 13. Will an increase in resources be needed for departments to comply with the new policies?

    Additional resources are not expected to comply with the new policies, as the intent of the Investment Plan is for the department to outline the current investment planning process and governance structures that are in place. This provides an opportunity for the department to evaluate processes and structures to determine whether resources should to be reallocated or increased.

  • 14. Is it necessary to create a centre of expertise or a project management office within our department to support these new policies?

    It is not an explicit requirement of the policies and departments should apply a model that best suits their operational reality. TBS advises that the departments treat the transition to the new policies as a project and establish a project team. A number of departments have found it beneficial to have a central team to coordinate investment planning on an ongoing basis. Similarly, a project management office can help improve project management activities through providing guidance, standardizing procedures, and assisting senior managers and decision-makers in their oversight role.

Investment Planning

  • 1. What is investment planning?

    Departmental investment planning is the function of allocating and reallocating resources to new and existing assets and acquired services that are essential to program delivery. Departmental investment planning is key to achieving value for money and demonstrating sound stewardship. Investments in assets and acquired services have significant strategic, public policy, operational, risk and financial implications. Investment planning is founded on an effective regime of integrated planning, decision-making and governance; it underpins a department's ability to manage investments in terms of priorities and risk.

  • 2. What is an investment? (also in glossary)

    The Policy on Investment Planning-Assets and Acquired Services defines an investment as "the use of resources with the expectation of a future return, such as an increase in output, income or assets, or the acquisition of knowledge, or capacity".

  • 3. What is an asset? (also in glossary)

    The Policy on Investment Planning-Assets and Acquired Services defines assets as tangible and intangible items of value that have a future life beyond one year, whether they are Crown-owned, -leased or accessed through other arrangements.

  • 4. What is an acquired service? (also in glossary)

    The Policy on Investment Planning-Assets and Acquired Services defines acquired services as "services obtained through formal arrangements, such as contracts, memorandum of understanding and letters of agreement, to support internal or external clients or stakeholders in achieving specific outcomes."

  • 5. What are the requirements of the Policy on Investment Planning?

    Deputy heads are accountable to their minister and to the Treasury Board for the effective management of the investment planning function within their departments. Effective management includes developing a departmental investment plan, exercising oversight in the implementation of the investment decisions and ensuring appropriate, ongoing measurement of investment performance. A full list of requirements can be found in section six of the policy.

  • 6. What is a departmental investment plan?

    The departmental investment plan is a high-level, strategic document that defines the direction, capacity and commitments of a department with respect to its investment in assets and acquired services. The plan must clearly set out departmental priorities and strategies for at least the upcoming five-year period that meets the needs of the department within available resources. The departmental investment plan, as a deputy head responsibility, aims to inform Treasury Board Ministers of future key investments within the organization.

  • 7. What level of detail is required in the investment plan?

    Investment plans are not expected to include an exhaustive list of all planned investments over the planning horizon. Rather, they should provide a summary of regular low risk, planned investments and then highlight and provide more detail on significant investments deemed complex, high risk, sensitive or extraordinary (investments that should be brought to the attention of the deputy head and TB Ministers).

  • 8. Which investments are to be highlighted in the investment plan?

    Deputy ministers are responsible for ensuring that the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) is consulted in determining the appropriate investments to highlight in the Investment Plan.

  • 9. When should a department include an acquired service in their investment plan?

    All acquired services must be accounted for in a department's investment planning process. However, many acquired services have only a minor impact for there to be value in highlighting them individually within the investment plan. Collectively though, they may provide insight into a departments expenditures. In these cases, the acquired services can be grouped together as a category and represented as such within the investment plan.

    In many cases a department's decision on whether to highlight an acquired service will require judgement by the department, in consultation with the TBS program analyst. Decisions regarding which services to highlight can vary between departments, as long as the decision can withstand external scrutiny.

  • 10. Should we use the fiscal year or calendar year for the investment plan?

    A fiscal year is the most commonly used as it is aligns with many other planning timelines, such as the Report on Plans and Priorities. However, if there is a compelling reason for a department or agency to use a different time period, they should discuss this with their program analyst. Departments are not expected to change their planning cycles. Departmental planning activities should be designed to best meet defined planning needs.

  • 11. What sort of guidance material is available for departments preparing investment plans?

    A Guide to Investment Planning is available for departments (link) as well as lessons learned (link) and voluntary reports (links for EC and RCMP) gathered from departments participating in the first phase of the implementation strategy.

  • 12. Are there templates? Will all departmental investment plans look the same?

    Not all investment plans will look the same, as each department has its own planning needs and approach and this is accommodated by the policy. The minimum requirements are in Appendix A (link) and there is further advice on the content of investment plans provided in the Guide to Investment Planning.

  • 13. What are my responsibilities with regards to informing stakeholders of planned investments?

    Section 6.1.8 of the policy on investment planning and acquired services states:

    "Key federal stakeholders are informed of the department's planned investments including, but not limited to, central agencies, relevant socio-economic departments and common service providers."

    This means that departments are expected to have a defined strategy for identifying stakeholders and keeping them informed.

  • 14. What does the responsibility to 'inform' mean?

    The policy requires each department to inform their key government stakeholders of their planned investments. This requirement is intended to enhance the coordination of activities across the Government of Canada.

Project Management

  • 1. What is a project? (updated from web) (also in glossary)

    A project has a defined beginning and end and is intended to produce specific outputs and outcomes. In achieving these outputs and outcomes, a project has a clear timeline or schedule and has both a human and financial resources allocation plan. Overall, a project is managed within time, cost, and performance parameters. One or more projects with related outcomes could be a part of a program.

  • 2. How do I determine whether an activity is a project? (on web)

    There are certain criteria that define a project. Answer these questions to help determine if an activity should be considered a project :

    • Does the activity have defined start and end dates?
    • Does the activity have defined objectives, outputs, and outcomes?
    • Does the activity have a set of specific resources required?
    • Is the activity producing something unique?

    Answering yes to the above questions means the activity could be considered a project and would benefit from being managed as such.

  • 3. Should the process used to complete the Organizational Project Management Capacity Assessment (OPMCA) be described and what are, if any, the expectations for the level of signoff required on an OPMCA, given the authority that is conveyed?

    TBS will review the OPMCA and will wish to understand how it was developed and approved. Ultimately, the minister signs the submission seeking TB approval of the proposed OPMC class and the deputy head is accountable for its accuracy.

  • 4. How does the department position the Organizational Project Management Capacity Assessment (OPMCA) in the submission that covers the IP? How does it position it in the IP?

    In the submission seeking approval of the Investment Plan, the OPMC class is to be included as a proposal to TB. The IP sets the "context" for the authority granted by the OPMCA, it provides TB Ministers with an understanding of the capacity of the department to manage planned projects over the minimum five year horizon.

  • 5. How does the new Organizational Project Management Capacity Assessment (OPMCA) Tool relate to the Management Accountability Framework (MAF)? (on web)

    The MAF measures departmental performance of what constitutes reasonable and responsible management. It is a high-level assessment based on lines of evidence indicating performance. The new assessment tool provides a departmental rating that reflects the organization's capacity to manage projects of a certain level of complexity and risk. Departments should continuously seek to achieve a rating of "Strong" in the MAF assessment but should be striving to achieve an appropriate balance between the capacity of the organization to manage projects and the level of risk and complexity of their planned projects.

  • 6. Should my department have the highest organizational project management capacity (OPMC class 4)?

    Not all departments should be looking to establish the highest level of project management capacity (i.e. Level 4 – Transformational). More reasonably, the department should be in a position to demonstrate, through assessment that the appropriate level of capacity is in place to successfully manage planned projects. This capacity could vary over time to reflect project activities and could be developed internally and/or acquired from external sources (e.g. professional services or PWGSC). Over time we would expect a department to make the appropriate investments in their capacity to manage the majority of their planned projects better ensuring the likely achievement of project outcomes.

  • 7. Does every project need a Project Complexity and Risk Assessment (PCRA)?

    All projects, which are subject to the Policy on the Management of Projects (link) and must be assessed to determine their level of risk and complexity. The standard does not apply to projects funded through transfer payments.

  • 8. What does tailored project oversight mean and what are some examples?

    The new project approval process provides greater flexibility to departments and TBS, to propose and recommend more tailored and scalable monitoring and control mechanisms to TB in support of their oversight of specific projects. This approach promotes innovation and supports the sponsoring department's efforts to determine the best suited monitoring and control measures which reflect and respond to the specific aspects of the project which make it risky and complex. The development of an effective and meaningful monitoring and control framework is to be informed by the Project Complexity and Risk Assessment. For example: the one-size-fits all, two stage-gate approach may not be relevant to all projects and may not be the best suited control framework for every project. The monitoring and control activities of many, more complex, long-term and developmental projects would be improved through a number of stage-gate approvals and/or other key decision points, over the life-cycle of the project. The new Policy enables this kind of flexibility in establishing and appropriate and meaningful monitoring and control framework, tailored to the particular needs of the project. Other options include regular reports on performance to TBS/TB, an interdepartmental oversight committee, independent reviews, detailed procurement management plan, etc

  • 9. What is contained in the project brief and when is one required?

    According to the Policy on the Management of Projects, a project brief is required when a proposed project exceeds a department's project approval authority. A project brief must be presented to Treasury Board Secretariat to seek Treasury Board project approval and expenditure authority. The content of the project brief is outlined in Appendix B (link) of the policy.

  • 10. Under the new policy, there is a requirement to assess the complexity and risk of a project in support of investment planning to determine if the project is within the department's capacity. However, without the benefit of definition work a project may appear to be higher risk due to unknowns. What is the best approach for departments to take in determining if Treasury Board approval is required for these projects?

    While a Project Complexity and Risk Assessment (PCRA) must be completed for each project included, the assessment can be updated as the initial project planning progresses. Activities that may be undertaken at this stage include: determining operational needs and producing a statement of operational requirements; conducting an initial options analysis and feasibility studies; developing a business case, project charter, and project management plan; assigning resources; and, completing the initial risk analysis. As the department nears the end of these activities, the PCRA should be updated and made available to TBS in order to determine if TB approval will be required.

  • 11. What happens when departments are working together on a project? Does one department have to be designated as the sponsor or lead? How will it be determined if the project must be approved by TB?

    Yes, one department must be designated as the sponsor or lead for joint projects. The sponsoring department, in concert with participating departments, must complete the Project Complexity and Risk Assessment (PCRA) for the project. The primary means of determining if TB will be the project approval authority will be to compare the PCRA with the project management capacity class of the sponsoring department. However, TBS will consider the project management capacity of all departments involved along with relevant roles and responsibilities, interdepartmental working arrangements, and governance structures.

  • 12. My department recently received approval for a project; which policy applies? (updated from web)

    The current policies governing long-term capital plans and projects will not be rescinded until . TBS is pursuing a four-year transition period, during which time there will be parallel policy regimes in effect. Until a department has a Treasury Board–approved investment plan, it is subject to the old policies. Once a department has transitioned to the new policies, the department has the option to transition individual projects from the old policies to the new policies in consultation with TBS; however, previous TB decisions must be respected.

  • 13. When would a project that is within a department's capacity be brought before Treasury Board?

    The Policy on the Management of Projects states that the "Treasury Board may require any project to be brought forward for their consideration and approval."

  • 14. How should my department submit a classified PCRA?

    Your department should complete a classified PCRA by using the spreadsheet version of the PCRA tool. Please send the completed classified PCRA to your department's TBS program sector analyst through secure means.

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