Archived — Review of the BizPaL Service—Final Report

December 17, 2008

Prepared for:
Industry Canada

Prepared by:
Hallux Consulting Inc.

Tabled and approved at DEC on December 8, 2008

Table of Contents

Tables

Table 1: Cumulative growth in participation among Provinces and Territorial
Table 2: Cumulative growth in participation among Municipalities
Table 3: Growth in industry (NAICS) sectors mapped in BizPaL
Table 4: BizPaL — Estimated Financial Position, 2007–08 (actual) and 2008–09 (target)
Table 5: Key Success Indicators for Successful Projects

Figures

Fig i: BizPaL presence across Canada, July 2008
Fig ii: Partner Website Survey Example
Fig iii: Number of visitors by length of visit
Fig iv: Views and Page views 5–Quarter Trend
Fig v: Partner sites Download Times
Fig vi: Current Governance Structure
Fig vii: Strategic Governance Structure — Suggested
Fig viii: Example of Financial Reporting

Executive Summary

The online Business Permits and Licences (BizPaL) project was launched in 2003, with federal funding to create a business case for, and a subsequent prototype of, a web-based permits and licences system. The objective of BizPaL was to help small to medium-sized businesses comply with permit and licence requirements of all three levels of government, namely federal, provincial / territorial and municipal, by providing information to the user. BizPaL is not a transactional system; that is, it does not issue the licence or permit to the user, nor does it handle fee payments.

An independent review of the pilot phase of the project was conducted in 2006Footnote 1 covering the initial $3.3M in project funding. In 2007 long term federal funding of $12.0M over four years for capital expansion was provided by the federal government, which supplements internally generated partner funding for maintenance and hosting.

The overall objective of this review was to determine whether the design of the BizPaL Service and its activities are sound and whether BizPaL meets the needs of clients. The scope of the review concentrated on the areas of service design, service delivery, client needs, governance and sustainability, and covered the period since the first review (2006) to the present (2008) (Please refer to section 1.2). The review fieldwork was conducted between March and July 2008. The review team interviewed internal and external stakeholders, conducted document reviews, examined program data and performed hands–on testing consistent with methodologies employed for similar reviews.

Service design and implementation

The BizPaL Service has been relatively successful at securing collaboration with other senior governments. BizPaL's participants are willing players within a multi–jurisdictional, government partnership that presently includes two federal departments, nine out of thirteen provinces and territories and 130 municipal governments. Over 640 federal North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)Footnote 2 sectors have been "mapped" for inclusion in the Service's database, thereby incorporating some 95% of small and medium sized businesses in Canada.

While much progress has been achieved in the last two years, the partnership still has some work ahead to achieve national reach, extending to businesses across Canada. Major areas of population—for example, the Province of Quebec—are not yet represented in BizPaL. Industry Canada's continued leadership is key to bringing the four remaining provinces and territories—Quebec, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador—into the fold and also in strengthening the representation of the federal sector in BizPaL. In turn, the leadership of provincial and territorial partners will determine if the rate of implementation within their jurisdictions will meet the Service's aggressive target of reaching the majority of Canadian municipalities by 2011.

Increasing the rate of implementation and participation by provincial/territorial governments will result in these governments bringing their municipalities into BizPaL. That in turn will increase the awareness among the target business audience and facilitate expansion of BizPaL at the municipal level. At the present time, however, it is difficult to gauge the level of awareness among the target audience, even for benchmarking purposes. Provincial and territorial partners do not have mechanisms in place to monitor awareness by the business community of the BizPaL Service within their respective jurisdictions, which makes it difficult for the partner community to determine the effectiveness of any potential promotional effort. Nationally, the Service has conducted qualitative studies and determined that awareness is generally low, but specific statistical data is not available.

Recommendation

1. Develop and implement specific strategies, plans and mechanisms to broaden reach and achieve engagement among the currently non-participating provinces and territories and other federal government departments and agencies.

Service delivery and addressing client needs

Technologically BizPaL is, in some way, constrained by its own success. Built on a non-relational, centralized database, using an easily distributable HTML approach (IFrame), BizPaL supports by helping businesses identify their permit and licence requirements quickly and easily, reducing the time it takes entrepreneurs to understand their compliance requirements. Users in participating jurisdictions can access BizPaL via the Internet and—by answering a number of specific questions—can obtain a listing of the federal, provincial and municipal permits or licences required for their proposed business. Almost immediately BizPaL's early adopters saw its potential and a more sophisticated "web services" option was created for some partners to deliver the service within their jurisdictions. Growth in the partnership places further pressure on following either a unified or a multi-faceted technical solution. The limitations of BizPal's underlying technical architecture have been recognized by the program and the partners. As noted earlier, federal funding, in response to the business case in 2007, was subsequently obtained to begin to address these issues.

From the client standpoint, the appropriate use of contemporary web technologies is key to client satisfaction. Generally accepted web development standards, such as those set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), determine how effectively websites achieve user needs for accessibility, refresh speed, readability and other such determinants of user satisfaction and acceptance. Current awareness of the Service is still in its infancy according to Public Opinion Research studies, but statistics indicate that BizPaL online usage is increasing. Nevertheless, for the majority of BizPaL websites, clients cannot easily find the start-point, a key indicator for user acceptance. Should web development standards vary among jurisdictions and compromise consistency, the client experience will be frustrated and ultimately affect desire to use.

The growth of the partnership, pressures of partner constituencies and the expectations of an ever-more internet-savvy target audience means that a robust technical platform, quality assurance in development standards and practices and contemporary web-based functionalities are strategic requirements.

Recommendations

Explore, together with all current BizPaL partners

2. ways to develop and implement a standardized awareness monitoring mechanism at the business audience level, with results shared nationally.

3. specific options for technology strategies that are implementable in the medium term, that promote client–oriented service, that suit a compliance environment for government to business offerings and that recognize emerging internet usage trends.

4. appropriate quality assurance measures to achieve generally acceptable web development standards in future BizPaL development, including ease of access to the BizPaL wizard from BizPaL websites.

Governance and sustainability of the initiative

The financial and operational commitment by all partners has alleviated concerns about the current sustainability of the initiative. The review estimated that in 2007–08 the partnership committed, in toto, approximately $8.3M in tangible value from actual and "in–kind" contributions, including $3.0M of annual funding from the federal government until 2010–11. Nevertheless, the partnership's growth places pressure on maintaining a common strategic course and places stresses on evolving governance processes.

A narrow access to strategic advice and less than optimal structural relationships presently hamper the effectiveness of BizPaL's governance processes, limiting the Steering Committee's strategic oversight capability and Industry Canada's responsiveness. Improving linkages among the various committees and access to qualified participants would be most helpful for BizPaL governance.

Likewise, within the National BizPaL Office (NBO) linkages between segments of the support areas have been blurred as a result of organizational and staffing changes. While the dedication and commitment of NBO staff is acknowledged by partners, an appropriate degree of formal project management is needed in order for the NBO to more effectively support the partnership in areas such as financial and performance analysis and problem tracking and resolution.

Industry Canada's leadership continues to be required in order to facilitate strategy and actions, clarify roles and formulate a more effective relationship structure for the design, development and delivery of the next generation of the BizPaL Service.

Recommendations

5. Review the reporting relationship between and among the partnership committees and adjust the structure to facilitate appropriate strategic oversight.

6. Review and revise formal terms of reference for the NBO including essential linkages; establish a more formal project approach to BizPaL project management, including but not restricted to implementing a single point of contact for service and support with standard problem ticketing processes, and improved financial and performance reporting and appropriate functional segregation of duties.

The BizPaL initiative is a model that requires consensus building, collaboration and goodwill among all partners. Industry Canada's role is key to facilitating strategies, plans and actions and providing the mechanisms to guide and monitor the project's overall progress to the satisfaction of a diverse partnership.


Footnotes

  1. 1 back to footnote reference 1 Review of the BizPaL Project, September 2006
  2. 2 back to footnote reference 2 NAICS is an industry classification system developed by the statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States designed to provide common definitions of the industrial structure of the three countries and a common statistical framework to facilitate the analysis of the three economies. The NAICS 2007 consists of 928 national industry codes.

1.0 Introduction

This report presents the results of the second review of the BizPaL (Online Business Permit and Licences) Service. The first review was completed in September 2006. The current review was undertaken in consultation with the Steering Committee established for the purposes of the review, and managed by the Audit and Evaluation Branch of Industry Canada. (See Appendix A for a list of Review Steering Committee Members.) This report is organized into four sections: Section 1 provides the general background and objectives for the study; Section 2 presents the methodology followed in conducting the review work; Section 3 presents our findings, organized in relation to the Review Framework's main themes; and Section 4 presents our overall conclusion.

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1.1 Background

BizPaL is a project involving three levels of government (federal, provincial/territorial and municipal) working collaboratively to help small to medium–sized businesses comply with government requirements. Through a strong partnership of municipal, provincial/territorial and federal participants, the BizPaL product delivers an online service, which allows business to access a customized list of permits and licences they require. As of July 31, 2008 the BizPaL service has expanded to include two federal departments, nine Provinces and Territories and 130 participating municipalities (see Fig i). Municipalities include large urban centres such as Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax, and numerous smaller centres.

BizPaL presence across Canada, July 2008
Long Description — BizPaL presence across Canada, July 2008

BizPaL is a project that was initiated and developed from concept to pilot project under the umbrella of Government On–Line (GOL) funding. BizPaL was one of ten projects that were recommended to receive $200,000 to develop a business case to accelerate service transformation. The business case related to development of a common permits and licences system involving three levels of government. BizPaL development started in 2003 and the pilot project concluded in 2006.

  • In fiscal year 2003–2004, Industry Canada received $336,000 in GOL funding to collaborate with provinces, territories, and municipalities to develop a proof of concept of a permit and license service.
  • Support for the refined BizPaL concept led to a pilot project that initially involved a number of smaller jurisdictions. This pilot received $2.5M in funding in January 2005.
  • The BizPaL pilot project sought to further expand the project. Additional funds of $480K were granted in September 2005 for fiscal year 2005–06.

The BizPaL Pilot project encompassed the initial design, development and test implementations at partner sites between January 2005 and March 2006. A technical solution for the BizPaL service was developed under a contract signed with EDS Canada in January 2005. The technical solution involves a centralized database using System Query Language (SQL) tools and server, a web–based Administration Module (developed using Microsoft dot–NET), and a series of web services that enable partners to integrate BizPaL functionality into their individual websites.

In November 2006, the Government of Canada released Advantage Canada, its long–term economic plan, in which it identified ways to give Canada an entrepreneurial advantage and reduce paperwork burden by 20 percent. Key among the initiatives identified was the expansion and roll–out of BizPaL. Policy approval for the expansion was obtained on December 6, 2006 in response to BizPaL's federal funding submission identifying the nature and scope of proposed expansion. Specifically, BizPaL funding was intended to evolve the project to reach all interested provincial/ territorial governments as well as a growing number of local governments, to expand its scope and functionality beyond permits and licences, to include other types of business regulation and to support initiatives undertaken to rationalize regulations or ease the paperwork burden on business. As a result Industry Canada received federal funding of $3.0M per year for four years (2007–08 to 2010–11) towards the BizPaL initiative.

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1.2 Objective and Scope

This report is a review of BizPal. Reviews tend to emphasize operational aspect while evaluations frequently use a more comprehensive and/or more in depth assessment than a "review"3.

The overall objective of this review was to determine whether the design of the BizPaL Service and its activities are sound and whether BizPaL meets the needs of clients. To accomplish this, this review addressed four main themes:

  • Service design, addressing reach and awareness;
  • Service delivery, including expansion and roll–out;
  • Client needs, such as value to business users; and
  • Governance and sustainability, including strategy and success factors.

Specifically, the review objectives:

  • considered the rationale of the service (compared to similar services at other government departments);
  • assessed design and delivery issues / implementation issues in terms of the roll–out, preliminary impacts and lessons learned;
  • assessed the value received for the stated cost of project and service delivery;
  • determined whether the current delivery approach is appropriate and effective;
  • assessed whether BizPaL is likely to meet expected results and identify factors that lead to effective delivery;
  • examined the performance management aspects of the development effort and of the operational delivery (service standards); and
  • identified the characteristics of projects most likely to yield results; and
  • addressed the extent to which the recommendations (and Action Plan) of the first review have been implemented.

Although there has been media coverage as a result of BizPal launches, an assessment of federal visibility as a result of BizPal is outside the scope of this report as this is not a started objective of the program.

3 POP8930–OECD Glossary on Evaluation.pdf back to text

2.0 Methodology

2.1 Approach

Using the finalized review plan and review matrix (see Appendix B), the review team (which included one Industry Canada Audit and Evaluation employee) undertook four major lines of evidence, during the fieldwork phase between March and July 2008 with data current as of July 31, 2008, as outlined below:

Document and Literature Review

A variety of documents were reviewed, including documents related to rationale and funding, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Intergovernmental Letters of Agreement (ILA) and relevant third party reports. The document list is attached as Appendix C.

Interviews with key participants

A series of 25 interviews were conducted with 27 participants in order to address the review questions. A listing of interviewees is provided in Appendix D.

Interviewees included a cross section of municipal, provincial, territorial and federal partners, including BizPaL Steering Committee and Project Managers' Committee members. Management and staff in the National BizPaL Office (NBO) were also interviewed.

Program Data

Available program data associated with the BizPaL Service was researched and requested from BizPaL's internal data repository as well as from the partner site. This program data consisted of quantitative and qualitative material relevant to the review, including website analytics, client feedback data, Public Opinion Research (POR) and performance reports.

Hands–on Testing

In order to assess and document a proxy experience of typical first–use clients (business users) who are seeking information on business permits and licences, the review team applied its hands–on testing (HOT) methodology to 18 BizPaL websites. The testing emulated the ease of use and client experience for the BizPaL web–based service from both a navigational perspective and a standards–based perspective. These tests were carried out from May 21 to June 6, 2008. To ensure the reliability of results, a second period test was carried out between August 22 and September 4, 2008. The results are similar to the first test. Some sites obtained exactly the same results, as in the case of Ontario, Alberta, Edmonton, and Whitehorse. Slight differences were observed for 13 sites. The main changes refer to the total size or the quantity of images of the sites. These changes have an impact on the download time. Only one website (NRCan) has been greatly modified since the last test. Indeed, it has been updated in June. The HOT methodology is listed in Appendix E.

2.2 Limitations

As in reviews of this nature, some limitations existed with respect to the methodologies employed. As expected, it was not feasible to identify and interview BizPaL business users for client input, as these are anonymous internet users. In lieu of business users, the Program suggested the review team consult specific business community representatives to provide input into the review. No responses were received to the two invitations issued for these interviews. A second consideration was that all the key participants interviewed were stakeholders in BizPaL, either by virtue of their staff functions or their jurisdictional roles. Although their input provided insight and feedback that was analyzed by the reviewers at a high level of confidence, such feedback was not intended nor used as statistical data.

3.0 Findings

This section of the report outlines the findings of the review, organized by the four major themes of service design, service delivery, client needs and governance and sustainability.

3.1 Service Design

A key question for this review was whether the design of the BizPaL Service and its activities have been successful enough to advance the objective of the Service. Due to the multi-jurisdictional nature of the initiative this particular question involved two distinct parts:

Q1 a) Is BizPaL successful in securing collaboration with other senior government partners; and

Q1 b) Is BizPaL successful in extending its reach to businesses across canada?

For both of these questions the review examined available documentation and program material and talked with partner representatives.

Conclusion

BizPaL has made progress in building the senior stratum of provincial and territorial partners, with nine provinces and territories now engaged. Industry Canada has the role of federal facilitator tasked with ensuring BizPaL exists as a truly national service —a task which can only be successfully accomplished when significant populaces, such as those within the Province of Quebec, are represented in BizPaL and the rate of uptake by other federal departments with regulatory compliance objectives improves.

Much underlying effort in sector mapping and communications regarding launching a new site has been required and expended by all partners and the NBO between 2006 and 2008. This work has been a necessary prerequisite to the growth of the partnership, at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels.

More and more municipalities are coming on line and momentum is building. It is too early yet to suggest that the BizPaL Service has achieved its goal of extending across Canada, as it is not currently available in most communities. Without their provinces and territories on–board, particularly in eastern Canada, municipalities simply cannot join the project and, therefore, cannot extend the reach of BizPaL to business start–ups in their respective communities. Standard reporting mechanisms on client awareness do not yet exist; Public Opinion Research4 (POR) has indicated that awareness of BizPaL remains low.

Findings

Provinces and Territories

BizPaL targets small businesses in the pre–start–up and start–up stages5. It is estimated that small and medium sized enterprises (SME)—i.e. with fewer than 50 employees—comprise 95% of Canadian businesses. These SMEs tend to be distributed mostly in urban/suburban locations (50%) and in Canada's towns and villages (36%), with the remainder in rural areas.

As a consequence, to effectively reach the target audience for this Service, BizPaL is designed to extend through a jurisdictional tree, involving the federal government (with the role to enlist federal, provincial and territorial participation) and provincial /territorial governments (which support the expansion of the BizPaL partnership into their respective municipalities). These partnerships are formalized within a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and an Intergovernmental Letter of Agreement (ILA) between Canada, as represented by the Minister of Industry, and the respective government. The MOU is a 5–year Ministerial level agreement which guides the governance of BizPaL6.The ILA provides the operational and financial details that guide the implementation of BizPaL within that jurisdiction in conjunction with the federal partner's responsibility. The MOU and ILA together stand as the formal acknowledgement of the partnership and terms of agreement.

Table 1: Cumulative growth in participation
among Provinces and Territorial, as at
January 1, 2006 January 1, 2007 January 1, 2008 July 31, 2008
2 5 6 9
Yukon
British Columbia
Manitoba
Ontario
Saskatchewan
Nova Scotia New Brunswick
Alberta
NWT

Long Description—The cumulative growth in participating among Provinces and Territories by year.

Understandably then, BizPaL's intent has been to seek to engage Canada's 13 provinces and territories. The Service has made steady progress in this regard, growing from just 2 participating s in 2005 subsequent to Proof of Concept, to 9 participating s by July 31, 2008. Regionally, western provinces and territories have now all signed the BizPaL MOU as have Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the east.

Still outstanding are Nunavut, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. BizPaL's most recent strategic plan7 identified achieving "national roll–out by adding governments as partners" with a target of 100% of provinces and territories participating by 2011. While work to engage some remaining s continues, the absence of the Province of Quebec, in particular, looms large in BizPaL's ability to achieve a truly national reach based on population distribution.

Federal Departments

Another important part of BizPaL's intended design, as reflected in its federal funding submission, was to actively engage federal departments which have regulatory responsibilities that impact businesses. Recent research8 indicates that many federal level requirements are most burdensome to businesses. GST/HST, payroll taxes, income taxes (personal and corporate), records of employment and Statistics Canada surveys are all cited as examples. Although not specific examples of permits and licences, these illustrate the potential for strategic options for content and technological expansion that are being discussed within the partnership and which highlight BizPaL's pathfinder approach.

Currently Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is the sole federal partner with regulatory responsibilities, although it has been indicated that BizPaL presents information from 20 federal departments. As part of their pilot "BizPaL+" NRCan has mapped five key natural resource sectors in conjunction with provincial and territorial partners. Little information is available to identify what initiatives Industry Canada has undertaken, in its role as federal partner representative, to enlist wider federal government participation. BizPaL's progress reporting9 only identifies, for example, the status of provinces and territories in partnership expansion, with no progress reporting on federal partner engagement. Recruitment activity—comprising the delivery of recruitment presentations to provincial and federal ministries—is considered a high priority action item for 2008–09. While the Executive Director is the IC lead for partnership management, it is unclear, however, how Industry Canada will go about achieving enlistment of other federal government departments.

Municipalities

Most Canadian SMEs operate in a "local" setting within municipal jurisdictions. It is estimated that there are over 4,000 local governments in the country10. Based on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, there are 3,761 municipalities in Canada11. The BizPaL Service had expected that, by 2011, BizPaL will be offered in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions12. Based on the 3,761 municipalities in Canada a majority of jurisdictions would include over 1,800 municipalities: current operating plan targets propose an increase of 25% for 2008–09 in the number of participating municipalities, which, by extension, would account for less than 300 municipalities by 2011. Currently there are 130 participating municipalities—a significant year-over-year increase over the last few years (see Table 2), yet a rate that falls far short of achieving roll–out to a majority of jurisdictions. BizPaL may need to review its objective of being offered in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions, with a view to establishing a more realistically achievable roll–out target.

Table 2: Cumulative growth in participation
among municipalities, as at
January 1, 2006 January 1, 2007 January 1, 2008 July 31, 2008
9 20 76 130

Long Description—The cumulative growth in participating among municipalities by year.

Although major cities like Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City and Charlottetown are not yet in the pipeline, the targeted increase of 200% in population coverage13 may be achievable by Provincial /Territorial partners rolling–out larger centres.

Awareness Among Businesses

BizPaL participants express satisfaction that some success has been achieved in two key aspects related to awareness and reach over the last two years. First, promotional opportunities at local launch events have become more consistently and formally structured. Positive communications messages have been crafted and participation among jurisdictional partners has been increasingly visible.

Second, success at mapping industry sectors is cited as a positive precursor to making BizPaL more accessible at the local level. An Industry Sector is a category of business activity where specific permits and licenses may be necessary. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)14 is the commonly accepted method used to reference industry sectors. Partners select priority industry sectors within a jurisdiction, analyse the licencing and permit requirements for those sectors, and prepare that information for inclusion in the BizPaL database.15

Partners choose to map the sectors most appropriate to their jurisdictions and have undertaken significant mapping efforts in 2007. At present the partnership has achieved the mapping of 640 NAICS sectors federally (see Table 3). This is seen as a success factor because 95% of Canadian businesses are believed to be covered by these 640 sector codes. Furthermore, more than 30,000 SMEs in Canada are found within about 20 NAICS codes.

Table 3: Growth in industry (NAICS)
sectors mapped in BizPaL
Province/ Territories 2005 2006 2007 2008
YT 179 199 201 201
ON - 120 270 271
BC 0 60 441 441
SK - 130 294 400
MB - 70 215 400
NS - 258 258 258
AB - - 275 480
NB - - - 0
NT - - - 0
Fed. 179 200 568 640

Many of the people interviewed during the review suggested that it may be too early yet to effectively gauge awareness and reach among BizPaL's business audience. At present, however, little effort to monitor awareness exists, aside from NBO activity. For example, no independent data is collected by provincial, territorial or municipal partners on the awareness of BizPaL among businesses in their respective jurisdictions. A simple mechanism would be the implementation of a two question survey on partner websites, as shown in the example in Figure (ii). Properly constructed and keyed, such web page content could attract relevant hits by Google searches. Survey results could be fed back to the NBO for aggregating and national reporting. Without such shared market intelligence tools, continued reliance must be placed on POR to test awareness. Recent POR studies indicate that awareness of the BizPaL Service is clearly not yet there, as "few participants had heard of, or been to… (the) websites"16.

Figure (ii) Partner Website Survey Example

  1. Are you planning a business start-up in the near future?
    Yes o No o
  2. Are you aware that all necessary federal, provincial/territorial and municipal/local business permit and licence information is being made available to you in one service, called BizPaL?
    Yes o No o

Recommendation: It is recommended that BizPaL

1. Develop and implement specific strategies, plans and mechanisms to broaden reach and achieve engagement among the currently non–participating provinces and territories and other federal government departments and agencies.

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3.2 Service Delivery

The delivery of the BizPaL Service involves both the technology and business process elements working together to achieve effective implementation, in light of opportunities and threats in the service environment. The review relied on discussions with key participants as well as on documents and program data to help assess the following two questions:

Q2 a) Does BizPaL demonstrate leadership in its technology development?

Q2 b) Is BizPaL flexible enough to adjust to currently identified opportunities and threats?

Conclusion

At the present time BizPaL continues to be a one–of–a–kind initiative that has evolved little in its technological development. In the simplest terms, BizPaL grew from a ground–breaking proof-of-concept to a large operational database in essentially one step. A strategic focus on the future of the technical solution is just emerging under the auspices of Industry Canada's Service Innovation group at the NBO.

While BizPaL remains a unique collaborative approach to multi–jurisdictional service delivery and service functionality, it has only just started to identify and analyze strategic opportunities and threats in the operating environment. As the partnership grows, unsymmetrical evolution—that is, pursuit of many strategic paths simultaneously—may be unavoidable in order to address the emerging challenges of service delivery to and beyond the 2011 horizon.

Findings

Government to Business

As part of the review a comparison was undertaken of the functionality demonstrated on certain government to business websites to that of BizPaL. These were selected as a result of an internet search or because they had been suggested by interviewees. The purpose of this exercise was to see if BizPaL presently exists as a relatively distinctive initiative in its service delivery scope. These sites included:

  • Industry Canada's Canada Business Service
  • Canada Revenue Agency's Electronic Services for Businesses
  • The Province of British Columbia's One–Stop Business Registry
  • The Province of Quebec's Services to Businesses portal
  • Brisbane, Australia's Toolbox
  • New York City's NYC Business Express
  • Government of Singapore's Enterprise One Service

These services tended to use simple HTML links to guide the user to additional information or reference material. The tools or services most functionally similar to BizPaL were those from Singapore and New York City, as well as British Columbia's One Stop Business Registry.

  • The Singapore Government's service offers lists of registrations, licences and permits relevant to a particular business activity, generated using an online tool similar to the BizPaL wizard. Transactional activity (e.g. licence renewal) and fulfillment (e.g. payment) are also offered which is not the case for BizPaL. Unlike BizPaL, however, this is a single jurisdiction application offering compulsory licences, occupational licences and business activity licences and permits.
  • In New York City, the NYC Business Express service helps a start–up business obtain a customized list of City, State, and Federal permit, license, tax, incentive, and other useful information for the business by answering the questions in a wizard. Like BizPaL the service is informational only. Unlike BizPaL, only three sectors—Restaurant, Retail and Service—are represented.
  • In Canada, the Province of BC's One Stop Business Registry provides information for users on business registration. This is similar to BizPaL, in that One Stop facilitates business services (in this case registration) with all three levels of government— provincial, federal and municipal—on the Internet. The BizPaL wizard is one of several services that entrepreneurs can access through the One Stop Registry portal for businesses. Likewise the Province of Quebec's Services to Businesses portal provides access to information and printable forms for business start–ups, including some related to permits and licences, with some limitations.

Most of the web documents we examined relating to multi–jurisdictional projects in the U.S.A generally concerned multi–state alliances, bi–national border issues, public/private partnerships and multi–jurisdictional projects formed primarily to address post–9/11 impacts on transportation links.

Overall, this limited comparative sample suggests that, at present, BizPaL exhibits some distinctive features, both in Canada and internationally, in terms of its depth (e.g. extensive sector mapping) and breadth (i.e. tri–jurisdictional nature). As regulatory compliance is a common denominator for all levels of government striving to achieve improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, BizPaL has successfully positioned itself as a viable multi-jurisdictional service delivery vehicle in providing information. To achieve long–term success in the provision of government to business service, however, BizPaL must demonstrate leadership not just viability.

Web Technologies

Online users are increasingly savvy about internet use and more demanding of application designers. This is particularly so for BizPaL's target audience—start–up business owners—who are most likely younger entrepreneurs, familiar with contemporary web trends such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs and other such "Web 2.0" innovations. The business user only sees the "wizard", an input logic device that seeks answers to questions to help identify the information result for the user. The wizard is an effective tool, but highly limited by the structure and content of the data17.

BizPaL's data is housed in a central database18, a key advantage of BizPaL's technical solution. Information is entered into this database using the BizPaL Administration Module (AM), a secure web–based application. The database contains the permit and licence information from all participating jurisdictions and the questions that link a business activity to the permit or licence required to perform that activity. The BizPaL database structure, however, is not "relational" like modern database technology; that is, data is related to each other and managed as such in the database. The non–relational nature of the current BizPal database structure limits the flexibility of the Service to adapt to a changing information management environment.

A further challenge for BizPaL partners is to be able to maintain the service as a technologically relevant utility amidst the growth of BizPaL's community of practice — now in 130 municipalities and growing. In particular the Service is at a juncture with regard to maintaining a unified technological approach or sanctioning a less symmetrical strategy. For example, BizPaL already currently offers two levels of sophistication, or platforms, to link the business client to the partner jurisdiction's data: a simple IFrame (HTML inline frame command) approach around the partner's central web application or the more customizable (albeit costly) integration option called "Web Services". Other possibilities may arise as new partners join or existing partners harvest emerging technologies, thereby placing strain on BizPaL and the partnership's relatively unified technological approach.

Client–oriented Service

Content expansion highlights the issues faced by all jurisdictions as to the type of content the target audience (the ultimate client) is looking for. The NBO reports that about 81% of current BizPaL content is exclusively related to permits and licences, while some 19% are not permit and licence requirements19, such as business registration, incorporation and approval processes. The possibilities surrounding content expansion have also been debated intensively20.

Nevertheless, based on the interviews, jurisdictions reflect their public's need in the following examples:

  • municipalities seek opportunities to optimize zoning and mapping;
  • provinces see an emerging need for regulatory compliance initiatives in day care and seniors' care; and
  • federal agencies seek to rationalize compliance issues in fishing, agriculture and the environment.

As the partnership grows the standardized offering and presentation of BizPaL is at risk of becoming increasingly fragmented. Even at present, as noted earlier, depending on whether a user follows an IFrame or Web Services option, different levels of customization are possible. Clearly content expansion into other transactional elements can be seen as aiding take–up of BizPaL among business users. Still, it may also pose a threat to the Service's technical and support capability and result in drift away from partnership priorities. Either way, BizPaL partners are faced with dealing with client–oriented priorities which will ultimately test BizPaL's capability to adapt.

Several upgrades have been made to the Administration Module, to the IFrame client application and to the hardware. Industry Canada's Service Innovation group, within the NBO, has begun to focus on BizPaL's technology strategy. Nevertheless, at the present moment BizPaL's technology architecture is not robust enough to maintain its leadership position and address opportunities and threats. BizPaL is currently in technological stasis—a condition which, should it persist, is likely to limit opportunities for service expansion.

The consolidated recommendations for Service Delivery section can be found at the end of the section 3.3.

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3.3 Client Needs

BizPaL was initiated as a means to help business clients use the Internet to find out about and access the permits and licences they need in order to set up or to continue operating their enterprises.21 Adoption of BizPaL by the user community is a key indicator in judging BizPaL's success in meeting client needs. This question involved three different parts: a) the volume of transactions through BizPaL, b) the clients' satisfaction and, c) the reliability and functionality of BizPaL websites.

Q3) Has BizPaL been adopted by the end–user community?

To address this issue the review examined documentation and program data and conducted hands–on testing (see Appendix E for hands–on testing (HOT) methodology used).

Conclusion

Although the document review showed a progression in terms of volume of traffic through BizPaL websites and generally positive reaction from users about BizPaL, it is not possible to conclude that it has been generally adopted by the end–user community at large.

As of yet, there have been limited mechanisms for user feedback, either directly through the BizPaL survey form or through POR studies.22 Nevertheless, what POR results indicate is that awareness of the BizPaL Service is still low among the potential audience and the web is not an intuitive first stop for business permits and licences information. Adoption by end–users can also be affected by how well underlying web development standards have been applied to influence the user experience. An increased need for quality assurance is indicated with regards to technical standards.

Findings

Volume of Traffic

Web page visits are generally viewed as a loose proxy for website awareness. According to the statistics provided by the program, the number of visits and pages viewed has increased significantly since 2007. Furthermore, under a third of visitors stayed between three and thirty minutes, suggesting these users are retrieving information and not just dropping in and out of the Service (see Figure iii). This length was related by an average time of about 17 minutes (9 to 32 minutes) to complete a transaction during the "Scenario Test 1".

Number of visitors by length of visit and by quarters
Long Description—Number of visitors by length of visit and by quarters

Available web metric reports from BizPaL sites from 12 cities, 4 provinces and territories, and NRCan23 indicate an increasing number of visits and pages viewed in successive quarters (see Figure iv below). The page views per visitor trend over the 5 quarters for which data were available remains stable at 5–6 pages24.

Views and Pageviews 5-Quarters trend
Long Description—Views and Pageviews 5-Quarters trend

* Provided by program. Total Visits in Q1 of 08/09 does not include data from Halton, Ontario. Subject to revision.

On the other hand, BizPaL is not a transactional web site. Users are provided with information about the permits and licences they need to start a new business but they cannot complete the permit request (registration) on BizPaL. Although some users would like to do that, they can gain access to downloadable forms and available information links for each type of permit on most sites.

Client Feedback

Overall, the document review showed that the client feedback was mostly positive. It confirms that 75% of users find BizPaL a valuable service and 65% find it easy to use25. Testimonials and letters received between 2006 and 2008 through partners' websites indicated that users found that obtaining information through BizPaL saved them time and money. Participants in the POR studies also appreciated BizPaL's step–by–step approach and found that navigating these steps was generally intuitive26. Some had concerns about the lengthy nature of Step 3 which requests answers to "Questions about your business". Indeed, users had to read and answer a series of between 3 to 48 questions (average of 12), based on our test estimation.

Users had some criticisms over the impossibility of completing transactions, the inability of paying fees online, difficulties with printing forms, the difficulty of finding a type of business on the list and certain entries that offered less specific information (e.g. no or limited information on costs). They also expressed mixed views on whether they could trust information provided on the results pages.

During our own Scenario Test, a high degree of satisfaction was achieved, with expectations being met (94%) in spite of some unexpected problems with printing (83%). According to the qualitative POR27 studies, participants initially held overly high expectations for the Service's offerings. They expected that the BizPaL Service would be their "one–stop" for all their dealing with governments with regard to setting up a business.

In spite of these shortcomings, many POR participants remarked that they would be looking for the site, bookmarking it as a favourite and telling their friends about it.

Reliability and Functionality

Our testing reinforced positive findings from the POR, in that BizPaL is a simple to navigate, easy to understand, and a relatively quick information resource.

As mentioned, to assess and document a proxy experience of typical first–use clients who are seeking information on business permits and licences, the review team applied its hands–on testing (HOT) methodology. The testing emulated the ease of use and client experience for the BizPaL web–based service from both a navigational perspective and a standards–based perspective. The review team conducted these tests twice (HOT 1, from May 21 to June 6, and HOT 2, from August 22 to September 4, 2008) for the 18 websites. From a technical, standards-based standpoint, underlying web design and web structure issues resulted in most BizPaL websites generally testing poorly.

  • Validation testing examined the markup language of web pages (e.g. HTML, XHTML, SMIL, MathML, etc) to see if the pages met W3C standards. W3C standards become evident in design if the site provides appropriate expectation management alerts such as site policies, capability limitations for monitors, browsers and plug–ins. While generally transparent to the user, the failure of markup validity can result in the website's performance failing acceptable levels and perhaps failing entirely. That is, a valid web page is not necessarily a "good" web page but an invalid web page is a potential "showstopper." During HOT 1, only the Moose Jaw site's web page was found to comply with the set of test rules. During the HOT 2 testing, Moose Jaw and NRCan were both successful. The NRCan site had been updated in June, thus explaining the positive change. Overall, BizPaL websites showed a low–level of performance.
  • The Accessibility Test compares the selected page against W3C web page design standards, intended to address the specific needs of persons with physical limitations, such as visual acuity. Every website tested failed this test during HOT 1 and HOT 2, tending to indicate that such sites may not have been constructed to W3C accessibility standards to respect the needs of persons with disabilities.
  • The Readability Test (using the Flesch English Readability index and the Kandel & Moles French index28) examined the sentence structure, the font, the writing style and other such elements that are present to the reader on the web page. In both English and French and during HOT 1 and HOT 2, websites attained scores of 27 indicating a high level of difficulty29. The test results suggested that a typical reading level of "Grade 15", (that is, requiring 15 years of schooling) was needed to understand the content. In the HOT's Scenario test, however, the words and expressions were found to be "very easy to understand". The POR study in 2007 confirmed that language use was easy to understand. Such discrepancies can be explained by the differentiated focus of an automated interrogation tool (examining discontinuous web page text) and human visual interpretation (compensating subjectively, based on educational level, for non–relevant text).
  • The Speed Test is an indicator of site design and performance in a low transfer rate environment (e.g. rural businesses on dial–up). The analysis assesses the acceptability of wait–times, considering such components as file size, number of objects, images and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)30 elements. Only the Whitehorse site performed well on this test. For most sites, the page size reflected the speed or slowness of download time. An optimized value of less than 30K in file size achieved an eight–second response time on a 56K connection. Only three sites obtained that result31. These results have been observed during the HOT 1 and HOT 2. Furthermore, during the HOT 1, six sites exceeded the average of the HOT Scenario Test32 with download times from 34.98 to 88.35 seconds. While the same sites as HOT 1 as well as NRCan ran over the average during the HOT 233 with download times from 35.68 to 87.92 (see Figure v). This can be explained by the updated of the site in June.

Partner sites download times (in second)
Long Description—Views and Pageviews 5-Quarters trend

  • Qualitative studies revealed that launching BizPaL from the respective host site was less than intuitive for most users, who had trouble finding the BizPaL link or, once there, determining an appropriate "business type" in order to proceed. In our testing, direct access to the BizPaL wizard only existed in 28% of tested sites, confirming that users need to search out the link to find the Service.

While there are known issues with achieving client take–up on BizPaL related to awareness and availability, underlying design and markup issues that veer away from standards pose longer term re–development costs to the partners and a hazard to the acceptability of BizPaL among its eventual users.

Recommendations: It is recommended that BizPal

Explore, together with all current BizPaL partners,

2. ways to develop and implement a standardized awareness monitoring mechanism at the business audience level, with results shared nationally.

3. specific options for technology strategies that are implementable in the medium term, that promote client–oriented service, that suit a compliance environment for government to business offerings and that recognize emerging internet usage trends.

4. appropriate quality assurance measures to achieve generally acceptable web development standards in future BizPaL development, including ease of access to the BizPaL wizard from BizPaL websites.

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3.4 Governance and Sustainability

A viable enterprise exists within a set of practices aimed at achieving the vision of the enterprise. This is generally referred to as governance. Governance involves setting strategic direction, enabling an accountable management framework to address short— and long–term business objectives, overseeing the achievement of the business case and guiding the scope and sustainability of the enterprise34.

Q4 a) Is BizPaL sustainable over the long term?

Q4 b) Does the performance of the BizPaL development and delivery function provide assurance that approach is effective? Have the recommendations and the action plan of the first review been addressed?

Interviews, program data and document reviews were used in developing this finding.

Conclusion

BizPaL is currently sustainable, as the partnership and the development and delivery functions have made a good start on addressing the elements of effective governance. Any risk to sustainability stems from difficulties that a distinct, collaborative enterprise such as BizPaL faces in focusing on strategic issues. These are, in and of themselves, governance challenges that require the highest level of executive attention. These challenges deal with converting strategy to actions, clarifying roles and formulating an effective framework for the design, development and delivery of the next generation of the BizPaL Service.

Findings

A Sustainable "Program"

To all current BizPaL partners interviewed during this review, the BizPaL initiative is a clear success story. Some of the comments include "it works," "it demonstrates collaboration," "it is inexpensive," "it is effective," and "a great success."

Participating provincial and territorial jurisdictions share the costs of operating BizPaL based on a formula in the ILA. Participants make annual contributions into the Specified Purpose Account (SPA). These funds can be carried forward to the next fiscal year and used for the maintenance and hosting of BizPaL. In addition, federal funding of $3.0M per year from 2007–08 to 2010–11 is managed by Industry Canada for development purposes (see Table 4). Funds in the SPA and the IC account are administered separately by the NBO under the oversight of the Steering Committee and the Executive Director, Service Delivery and Partnerships, respectively.

Furthermore all federal, provincial, territorial and municipal partners have made ongoing financial commitments to support the implementation of BizPaL in their respective jurisdictions. BizPaL requires an initial effort by all partners for mapping and for roll–out. Subsequently, the level of effort becomes more operational and, depending on the size of the jurisdiction, will decrease as implementable levels are achieved. At the present time, based on what partners have indicated regarding internal resourcing, we estimate that the provincial and territorial "in kind" contribution amounts to approximately $2.3M per year35, in addition to an equivalent in–kind contribution of $2.5M by municipalities36 actively rolling out. The federal commitment of $3.0M per year and current SPA receipts of about $0.5M represent the explicit contributions to BizPaL. When all these values are summed, therefore, it can be inferred that the BizPaL partnership received about $8.3M of tangible value in 2007–08. With 56 municipalities (see Table 2) launched in 2007–08, the estimated value (or cost per site) of a successfully rolled–out municipality is $148,00037. This would appear to indicate that a relatively small partner contribution leverages significant shared benefit.

 
Table 438
BizPaL – Estimated Financial Position, 2007-08 (actual) and 2008-09 (target)
 
 
2007
act
 
2008
tar
Revenue
LEI
IC
Total
LEI
IC
Total
Carry forward
0
 
 
139,000
 
 
SPA Contributions (MOU signatories)39
276,000
 
 
540,000
 
 
IC Partnership Share
120,000
(120,000)
 
134,000
(134,000)
 
IC40
 
3,000,000
 
 
3,000,000
 
Total fund
396,000
2,880,000
3,276,000
813,000
2,866,000
3,679,000
Expenditures
 
 
 
 
 
 
SPA: Service Websites (Hosting and
Maintenance; Enhancements)
144,000
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Secretariat Support (Teleconference Charges,
Domain Name Renewals and Meeting
facilitators)
14,000
 
 
32,000
 
 
On-going Partner Support: National
Marketing, Mapping, Support Desk (08/09)
and Research. Approved.
99,000
 
 
 
359,000
 
 
 
IC (not specified)
 
2,880,000
 
 
 
 
Total expenditures
257,000
2,880,000
3,137,000
813,000
2,866,000
3,679,000
Ending balances
139,000
0
139,000
0
0
0

Given the increasing level of commitment there is a general acknowledgement that BizPaL exists as a de facto program. From a financial perspective, then BizPaL appears to be currently sustainable, failing untoward political, technological or service changes.

Governance and Structural Relationships

BizPaL partners recognize that, for the Service to attain its objective as a true multi–jurisdictional initiative, all levels of government — federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal/ local—must be engaged at the strategic decision–making level in BizPaL's governance model.

The current governance structure—see Figure (vi)—is formed around the BizPaL Steering Committee (SC), for strategic vision and decision making, the Project Managers' Committee (PMC) for day–to–day operational activities and the NBO which provides partnership support to both. The PMC—comprising representatives from all jurisdictions—makes recommendations for decision by the Steering Committee. In addition advisory bodies have been created. At the Halifax Partners meeting in 2007 the BizPaL Steering Committee approved the creation of a Governance Task Force (GTF) to develop a governance model and to provide advice to the SC on governance issues raised in the first review. Two relatively new advisory committees have been added, reporting to the PMC. One is the Technology Architecture Working Group (TAWG). The TAWG is a knowledge–sharing and advisory body focussed on technology issues. Participants are volunteers that meet the membership criteria outline in the Terms of Reference, with co–chairs appointed by the SC41. The other is the Marketing and Communications Working Group (MCWG). The latter has no significant membership pre–requisites. The SC approves the annual Communications Plan.42

The BizPaL Steering Committee is the apex of the governance structure, responsible for guiding "the strategic direction of the BizPaL initiative in relation to the agreed principles in the Memorandum of Understanding."43 The SC has been responsible for three important pieces of work related to improved governance over the last two years, among other things:

  1. The vision statement for BizPaL has been tuned and agreed upon as of December 2007;
  2. Finalized "terms of reference" from the GTF for the Steering Committee, PMC, TAWG and MCWG, as well as a report and recommendations for increasing municipal engagement; and
  3. A formal Strategic and Operational Plan document covering strategic goals to 2011 and operational objectives for 2008–09.

These initiatives have gone a long way to address the recommendation in the initial review seeking clearly specified rules of engagement for all groups (e.g. partners, steering committee members, project teams, etc).

The current governance structure
Long Description—The current governance structure

The Steering Committee comprises representatives from each of the participating provinces and territories, two federal representatives and one municipal representative per province and territory. With 13 jurisdictions in Canada, the SC can, therefore, have as many as 28 members once all provinces and territories are on board. In addition provision may be made for aboriginal representation if the opportunity is present. Today, with nine participating s, the full membership would be 20. During the pilot project, the SC was limited to seven members.

Some members of the Steering Committee may have dual roles as project manager and partner representative for their jurisdiction. All interviewees consulted during the review agreed that the commingling of project management and steering committee roles made it difficult for SC members to consistently wear the mantle of strategic oversight. The influence of the PMC agenda appears to concentrate debate and discussion around operational issues at the expense of the "broader national perspective to guide the governance of BizPaL."44

The review was unable to ascertain why the PMC requires such a close and ongoing reporting relationship to the SC. With potentially 130 members and a wealth of operational experience, expert knowledge and NBO guidance, the PMC is a competent and self–supporting group that can now exist with only minimal connection to the SC.

Furthermore, the SC has delegated strategically important relationships to the PMC and withheld others. For example, technology architecture is a critical driver for BizPaL sustainability and a key element of Strategic Goal #4, objective #4.3, "BizPaL technology supports current and future partner and client needs."45 Yet the TAWG is under the direction of the PM committee without a clear linkage to the SC; that is, a member of the SC is not required to be a TAWG co-chair. Likewise, the Marketing and Communications Working Group is mandated to "make recommendations to the Project Managers Committee on operational details related to communications and marketing such as the BizPaL identity, key messages, promotional materials, web content etc.".46The MCWG, then, is focused to address operational issues, including those dealing with launches and expanding the community of interest: "all levels of government have an equal interest in obtaining visibility with their respective constituents at launch/MOU signing events"47. While this context may be an appropriate adjunct to the PMC, there is a level of strategic marketing of BizPaL that is not represented at the SC level. As noted earlier, this can be seen in the absence of provinces like Quebec and PEI, large cities like Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver and other federal government departments.

Not recognized, or not yet integrated, are the critically important aspects of "financing and sustainability" and "expansion and municipal engagement," which both merit SC leadership and formal mechanisms such as working groups led by SC members. Significant effort in the area of municipal engagement is clearly indicated. For example, the BizPaL Governance Task Force's survey and report48 included a telling finding that the "majority of the municipalities are unaware a municipality from each participating province/territory has the opportunity to sit on the Steering Committee."

Strategic focus is further hampered by a lack of expert input from other groups with a stake in regulatory compliance for business. Other federal government departments (OGDs), non-participating provinces, major cities, national business associations, bylaw enforcement associations, legal and regulatory associations and other important stakeholders and supporters have not been invited to contribute to BizPaL's longer term direction within a meaningful forum. We know of at least one other federal agency that has instituted advisory boards of stakeholders to provide business intelligence and managerial advice to the executive team. The BizPaL Steering Committee could facilitate achievement of its strategic objectives by inviting participation of executive representatives of such groups within a Strategic Advisory Board (see Figure vii).

Strategic Governance Structure — Suggested
Long Description—Strategic Governance Structure—Suggested

Overall then, while governance has started to be more formally addressed, the framework of support for strategic direction has not adequately materialized. The SC needs to counterbalance its historic tendency to address the operational element of BizPaL with the gathering of business intelligence, input and advice on technology, marketing, expansion and sustainability.

Recommendation: It is recommended that BizPaL

5. Review the reporting relationship between and among the partnership committees and adjust the structure to facilitate appropriate strategic oversight.

Partner Service and Project Management

The National BizPaL Office Organization Chart49 identifies the Service Innovation (SI) Division and the Service Delivery and Partnership Division (both within the Small Business Policy Branch) together as the "National BizPaL Office."

The National BizPaL Office (NBO) is organizationally within Industry Canada and the successor to the six–member BizPaL Secretariat. The NBO Senior Manager reports to the Executive Director, Service Delivery and Partnerships (SDP), within the Small Business Policy (SBP) Branch. Operationally the current NBO continues to provide secretariat support to the Steering Committee and the Project Managers' Committee.50 This "core" NBO comprises 8 full–time project manager positions dedicated to BizPaL. There are also 5 staff and consultants supporting BizPaL within the SI Division of the SBP Branch. All resources within the SBP Branch in SDP and SI—with the exception of the core NBO—also have responsibility for other tasks beyond BizPaL. We refer to the total IC effort in support of BizPaL as the "extended" NBO.

NBO staff are viewed by partners as dedicated in their duties and competent administrators of the SPA. The NBO has been affected by two re–organizations in the time between the first and second reviews. There have been many changes in staffing, personalities, approach and responsibilities.

The Executive Director, SDP has many roles, including: as managing executive for the NBO; federal BizPaL partner; signing authority for the SPA; responsible authority for BizPaL's federal development funds; standing co–chair of the Steering Committee; and Industry Canada Director responsibility for other deliverables within SDP Division not directly related to BizPaL. The built–in duality in roles is accepted if not understood and partners acknowledge that consensus building rather than an overly directive approach is preferred and in place. An increasing spirit of collaboration, beyond consultation, is noted within the NBO.

Technical expertise is provided by the SI Division. This team sees its responsibility as stewardship of BizPaL, vision of service delivery, provision of support, advice, guidance and expertise on service delivery solutions and innovation. A logical convergence of tasks has occurred under SI, involving solution design, development and delivery (mapping and implementation) functions. Business services such as requirements analysis, usability testing and AM training co–exist with the management of development and maintenance services, such as contractor oversight, mapping operations and website management. While these organizational changes may make for efficient processes, the convergence of responsibilities (i.e. lack of segregation of duties) within SI poses a risk trade–off.

Clearly the delivery of the BizPaL service through the NBO should rightly be transparent to stakeholders. The published NBO organizational chart, however, does not clarify linkages and functions are not clearly spelled out, as, for instance, in issues of role clarification. For example, partners currently do not have a single point of contact within the extended NBO, thereby being offered different channels for problem resolution. Since no comprehensive issue management /help desk process has existed, issue resolution has not been consistently tracked to closure. An expanded technical Partner Support function is now being implemented via the new service provider contract. Such a function will need to be organizationally independent of the issue resolution process. On the other hand the controls over the SPA appear adequate, as signing authority is properly segregated from the contract management function.

The BizPaL initiative has been successfully advanced through conception to the design (pilot) stage and is now in the implementation stage of its development lifecycle. Although BizPaL is presently seen as an ongoing venture, it still exists as a funded development project from the federal government's perspective, with specific deliverables or outcomes. As such there is an expectation that system development projects incorporate principles and practices of good project management.

According to the International Association of Program and Project Managers (IAPPM), project management "is the centralized management by an individual to plan, organize, control and deploy key milestones, deliverables and resources from conception through retirement, according to customer goals."51 The federal government's Enhanced Management Framework (EMF) for projects defines four overall principles that set the broad parameters within which information technology projects are to be managed:52

  • Projects are aligned with and support the business directions
  • Clear accountabilities are established
  • Project managers are developed in, and work within, a corporate discipline
  • Project management decisions are based on risk management

Industry Canada provides overall project management for BizPaL with responsibilities split between two groups, the core NBO and Service Innovation team. As the coordinating body, the core NBO is responsible for overseeing the central operations of the initiative on behalf of the participants. As such, the core NBO acts as the Project Management Office for BizPaL, under the guidance of the Senior Manager. Recent changes in the roles and responsibilities of the extended NBO have introduced positive changes. For instance, the relationship with the primary contractor is to be managed through a single point of contact between SI and the contractor. This was not the case in the past where multiple points of contact existed. While the new contract has just been put into place, there is an expectation that regular meetings and detailed progress reports will be introduced, which again has not been the case in the past. These changes will be of benefit to the Steering Committee which is charged with strategic direction and overall risk management for BizPaL.

Since the NBO has undergone significant changes in roles and responsibilities, it will undoubtedly be reviewing and revising specific accountabilities and appropriate segregation of functions, as described earlier. An update to the terms of reference outlined in the initial Project Charter created in 2003–04 will help clarify focus for all project team members and help delineate an increasingly complex project environment.

The Senior Manager and certain other public service staff in the NBO have considerable project experience. Nevertheless, for a project management office there is a limited pool of qualified project staff, experienced in service delivery, available to BizPaL and none identified to the review team with professional project management certification.

From the perspective of a professional project management discipline there is an expectation that the project management office will provide adequate project reporting to the Steering Committee to facilitate the duties of the SC. The NBO does estimate level of effort expended by the NBO; for example, it estimates that 76% of time spent on BizPaL represents effort in Secretariat & Partnership Development (26%), IT/IM Support & Innovation (28%), Planning & Performance Measurement Reporting (12%) and Mapping (10%). This information is seen as a requirement for internal IC management purposes.

The Partner's site has very limited information under "Performance Reporting", listing only web analytics and client feedback statistics. The review was only able to find bulleted items in progress reports as a proxy for financial statements and analysis. For example, total expenditures were not available for both the SPA (operating) and the development (capital) budgets similar to the format example in Figure (viii). IC utilizes departmental financial reporting systems to record expenditures on the $3.0 M expansion funds. While it may not be appropriate for the NBO to disclose the details of IC expenditures to external parties, it is hard to make the argument that the BizPaL Steering Committee can effectively direct progress against strategic objectives when a significant amount of funding intended for BizPaL development is not referenced in any formal BizPaL financial reports available to the SC.

Figure (viii): Example of Financial Reporting

Salaries
Employee Benefits Plan
Total Salaries and Benefits

Travel (non-employee)
Marketing and Promotion
POR (focus and usability testing)
Evaluation and implementation
User Centred Design
Contingency
Federal Component
NationalBizPaL Office Support
Ongoing Operations and Maintenance
Translation services
General FTE related O&M
Misc. (supplies etc.)
Total Operational

Application enhancements
Expansion Strategy
Platform/technology enhancements
Innovation & Evolution (e.g. leveraging other subjects)
General FTE related OO&M
Misc. (supplies etc.)
Total Capital

PWGSC Accommodation
Total costs

The project's data repository still comprises a shared network directory at IC and a document archive in the partners' site (currently undergoing re–development). In the area of overall project management, practices such as a formal problem tracking and an adequate project data repository have lagged and these elements were noted in the last review.

A successful project is generally seen as one where measurable success indicators exist for the key stages or categories of the project lifecycle. In the article, Optimizing Success by Matching Management Style to Project Type, September 2000, authors Aaron J. Shenhar of the Stevens Institute of Technology, NJ and R. Max Wideman, offer the following success criteria:53

Table 5–Key Success Indicators for Successful Projects
Primary Success Category Measurable Key Success Indicators (KSIs)
Source: Primary Success Categories and Measurable Success Indicators, AJ Shenhar, 2000
Internal Project Efficiency
(Pre-completion)
  • Meeting schedule
  • Completing within budget
  • Other resource constraints met
Impact of the Customer
(Short term)
  • Meeting functional performance
  • Meeting technical specifications & standards
  • Favorable impact on customer, customer's gain
  • Fulfilling customer's needs
  • Solving customer's problem
  • Customer is using product
  • Customer expresses satisfaction
Business and Direct Success
(Medium term)
  • Immediate business/commercial recognition
  • Immediate revenue & profits enhanced
  • Larger market share generated
Preparing for the Future
(Long term)
  • Will create new opportunities for the future
  • Will position customer competitively
  • Will create new market
  • Will assist in developing new technology
  • Will add/has added capabilities & competencies

Many of the indicators have been incorporated into BizPaL's broad project objectives and form part of the project outcome's specific activities and committed performance measurement approach. Overall, though, most issues with adequate financial reporting and analysis, problem tracking, project information management, contractor management and performance measurement point to a lack of formality in project management processes, as noted in the last review54. In addition, revised terms of reference for the NBO and appropriately created functional linkages offer a more rigorous approach to ensure that BizPaL's continued development and delivery will be effective over the project term.

Recommendation: It is recommended that BizPaL

6. Review and revise formal terms of reference for the NBO including essential linkages; and establish a more formal project approach to BizPaL project management, including but not restricted to implementing a single point of contact for service and support with standard problem ticketing processes, improved financial and performance reporting and appropriate functional segregation.


4 Industry Canada–Service to Business, Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, Ipsos–Reid, April 2008 back to text
5 BizPaL Content Expansion: Business Needs, What's Next, November 27, 2007 back to text
6 BizPaL Orientation Package, January 2008 back to text
7 BizPaL Strategic and Operations Plan, 2008—2009 back to text
8 BizPaL Content Expansion: Business Needs, What's Next, November 27, 2007 back to text
9 BizPaL Progress Report, Winnipeg Partners Meeting, June 9–11, 2008 back to text
10 BizPaL Evolution Plan, 2006. back to text
11 Federation of Canadian Municipalities, September 2008. Statistics Canada, Census 2001 numbered 5,600. back to text
12 BizPaL Online Business Permit and Licence Project, Project Overview, Annex B, 2007 back to text
13 BizPaL Strategic and Operations Plan, 2008—2009 back to text
14 NAICS is an industry classification system developed by the statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States designed to provide common definitions of the industrial structure of the three countries and a common statistical framework to facilitate the analysis of the three economies. The NAICS 2007 consists of 928 national industries. back to text
15 BizPaL Glossary of Terms back to text
16 Industry Canada—Service to Business, Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, Ipsos–Reid, April 2008 back to text
17 BizPaL: The Next Generation, March 2008. back to text
18 BizPaL Technical Integration Manual March 4, 2008 back to text
19 BizPaL Progress Report, Winnipeg Partners Meeting, June 9–11, 2008 back to text
20 BizPaL—Content Expansion: Business Needs, What's Next, November 27, 2007 back to text
21 BizPaL Business Case, December 2003 back to text
22 BizPaL Qualitative Research, Ipsos Reid, 2007; Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, Ipsos Reid, 2008. back to text
23 Ottawa, Burlington, Milton, Winkler, Windsor, Brandon, NRCan, Prince Albert, Regina, Moose Jaw, Morden, Whitehorse, Halton, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Ontario. back to text
24 Page views divided by visitor. back to text
25 BizPaL Client Feedback Survey (n = 146), November 2006 to March 2008. back to text
26 BizPaL Qualitative Research, Ipsos Reid, 2007; Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, Ipsos Reid, 2008 back to text
27 BizPaL Qualitative Research, Ipsos Reid, 2007; Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, Ipsos Reid, 2008. back to text
28 Only the English version provides the level. The French version only provides the score. back to text
29 A high score implies an easy text to read. Index varies from zero to 100. back to text
30 The CSS is a stylesheet script used to describe the presentation of a document written in a markup language. back to text
31 Whitehorse, Saskatchewan, and Halton back to text
32 British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Edmonton, New Glasgow, and Ottawa back to text
33 Same sites as HOT 1 and NRCan. back to text
34 There is no single, commonly–accepted definition of governance, as the concept is dependent on the cultural and normative context for its application: our definition is a synthesis of the most common elements. For example, The Institute on Governance (www.iog.ca ) describes Governance as "the process whereby societies or organizations make important decisions, determine whom they involve and how they render account.." back to text
35 Average of actual estimates provided ($257k) x 9 s = $2.3M per year. back to text
36 Estimated 0.5 FTE @$60k for PM, plus estimated IT cost of $15k per site. Note: BizPaL estimated $3.0M per annum from municipalities.(BizPaL Project Charter, August 2007). back to text
37 $8.3M divided by 56 (municipalities rolled out) back to text
38 Figures have been provided / validated by the Program back to text
39 BizPaL anticipates 1–2 additional MOU signatories in 2008/09 resulting in an increase to the MOU/SPA funds. back to text
40 $3M less IC Partnership Share: $120,000 for fy 2007/08; and $134,400 for fy 2009/10. back to text
41 Terms of Reference—Technology Architecture Working Group, Final April 1, 2008 back to text
42 Terms of Reference—BizPaL Marketing and Communications Working Group FINAL—February 27, 2008 back to text
43 Terms of Reference—BizPaL Steering Committee FINAL 2008–03–13 back to text
44 Terms of Reference—BizPaL Steering Committee FINAL 2008–03–13 back to text
45 BizPaL Strategic and Operations Plan, 2008—2009 back to text
46 Terms of Reference, BizPaL Marketing and Communications Working Group, February 2008. back to text
47 Communications Guidelines for BizPaL Launch Events back to text
48 Governance Task Force Municipal Engagement Report, May 2008 back to text
49 National BizPaL Office Organization Chart back to text
50 BizPaL Committee Structure, February 27, 2008 back to text
51 http://www.iappm.org/concepts.htm back to text
52 http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/emf-cag/ back to text
53 http://www.maxwideman.com/papers/success/intro.htm. Sourced through http://www.IAPPM.org—Knowledge Repository back to text
54 Review of the BizPaL Project, September 2006 back to text

4.0 Conclusion

BizPaL continues to be a multi–jurisdictional, government partnership of willing participants. It has extended its reach to nine provinces and territories and 130 local governments as of July 31, 2008. To be considered a truly national service, BizPaL still has to engage the remaining provinces and territories and their major centres of population and promote BizPaL coast-to-coast among the targeted business audience. The participating partners — federal, provincial, territorial and municipal — have undertaken a significant effort within the last two years, particularly in such areas of sector mapping and communications protocols around new launches.

Technological development of BizPaL has not progressed as rapidly as the practices and uses of the web, but funding developments and a better understanding of strategic opportunities and threats are starting to focus the partnership's direction beyond 2011 in ways the original concept of BizPaL only alluded to. Client end–users will need to see a technically robust and functionally up to date tool in order to adopt BizPaL as a valid means of reducing the effort in achieving regulatory compliance.

BizPaL's sustainability is currently assured, assuming no unexpected threats arise. Still, the partnership's growth places pressure on maintaining strategic direction and hence on the governance framework. These stresses can frequently be addressed through simple changes and structural adjustments. Most recommendations of the first review have been addressed with general success. Issues of role definition (rules of engagement) have been tackled but need further attention. More formal project management carries over as an outstanding item from the first review.


Management Response

Review of the BizPaL Initiative
September 2008

Background

BizPaL involves federal, provincial/territorial, and local governments working together in a new service delivery model to improve access to information on permits and licences required from all orders of government to start or operate a business. It operates under a highly collaborative governance model, set forth in a ministerial level Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the federal government and each participating provincial/territorial government. The main decision-making body is the multi-jurisdictional BizPaL Steering Committee, which establishes the vision and the strategic objectives for the initiative. The National BizPaL Office (NBO), located in the Small Business and Tourism Branch of IC provides secretariat support to BizPaL.

This evaluation examines the collective effort of all BizPal participants, a large and diverse group in terms of mandates, priorities and resources. While IC is committed to addressing each of the recommendations, some require support and action on the part of all participants to fully implement. Where applicable, the Department highlights in its Management Response the roles and responsibilities of the provincial/territorial and municipal partners in helping to respond to these recommendations.

Management Response to the Recommendations

Overall, the NBO welcomes this report from the evaluation as a basis for further improvement. Specific responses to the recommendations are detailed below:

1. Service Design and Implementation

Develop and implement specific strategies, plans and mechanisms to broaden reach and achieve engagement among the currently non-participating provinces and territories and other federal government departments and agencies.

Management Response: Agreed

Since completion of this review, additional partnerships have been successfully negotiated with Newfoundland and Labrador, raising provincial/territorial participation to ten out of thirteen jurisdictions. More than 150 municipalities are participating in BizPaL, covering 32% of the Canadian population. Resource constraints have been offered as a reason for lack of participation of Nunavut and Prince Edward Island. A different partnering approach may be required to secure the participation of Quebec. Industry Canada will develop possible options to form the basis of future discussions by March 2009.

Industry Canada is also implementing a strategy to increase the awareness of BizPaL on the part of key federal government departments, to secure their support for in updating information, and to identify opportunities to offer the BizPaL service to their clients, for example, on their websites, via their front line staff, and/or as part of their own promotional activities. Industry Canada will implement this strategy with seven key regulatory departments by March 31, 2009.

2. Service Delivery and Addressing Client Needs

Explore together with other BizPaL partners:

2.1.
Ways to develop and implement a standardized awareness monitoring mechanism at the business audience level, with results shared nationally.
2.2.
Specific options for technology strategies that are implementable in the medium term, that promote client-oriented service, that suit a compliance environment for government to business offerings and that recognize emerging internet usage trends.
2.3.
Appropriate quality assurance measures to achieve generally acceptable web development standards in future BizPaL development, including ease of access to the BizPaL wizard from BizPaL websites.

Management Response 2.1: Agreed

Standardized awareness monitoring including feedback forms has been implemented by the majority of partners. Implementation of the feedback form by the remainder of the partners will be strongly encouraged by IC, which is planning to conduct a client satisfaction survey by March 2009.

Management Response 2.2: Agreed

A consultative process will be put in place by March 31, 2009 for gathering and understanding the evolving needs of partners and clients so that BizPaL enhancements in the medium and long-term continue to reflect a client-oriented service. This consultative process will ensure valuable information is collected from a multitude of key areas to support evidence-based investment decisions (i.e., client usage trends, intelligence gathered by partner and client support staff, usability testing, public opinion research, etc.).

Industry Canada, in collaboration with partners, will continue to investigate and utilize technology strategies that meet industry best practices and applicable government standards for the continuous improvement of the BizPaL System. In scenarios where customized components of BizPaL are controlled exclusively by individual partners, such as the presentation layer of BizPaL that is rendered on provincial / territorial and municipal Web sites, Industry Canada will only offer recommendations on technical implementation. Approximately 66% of the Web sites tested for this report reside outside the Department's realm of responsibility and accountability.

Management Response 2.3: Agreed

BizPaL partners have identified the need to develop a quality assurance framework to address information management issues in fiscal year 2008-2009. Since responsibility for IM is distributed across the partnership, IC will lead a consensus-building exercise to develop a more uniform approach to managing the accuracy and currency of information as well as to assess its usability and readability; to set information management quality assurance goals; to establish quality assurance measures; and to outline corrective actions. Industry Canada will lead by example to encourage the adoption of the new IM approach, as partners are responsible for their own information stored in the system.

The BizPaL public website www.bizpal.ca will be re-designed to enhance ease of access in FY 2009-2010.

3. Governance and sustainability of the initiative.

3.1.
Review the reporting relationship between and among the partnership committees and adjust the structure to facilitate appropriate strategic oversight.
3.2.
Review and revise formal terms of reference for the National BizPaL Office (NBO) including essential linkages; establish a more formal project approach to BizPaL project management, including but not restricted to implementing a single point of contact for service and support with standard problem ticketing processes, and improved financial and performance reporting and appropriate functional segregation of duties.

Management Response 3.1: Agreed

It has been recognized by the BizPaL partnership improvements can be made to the existing governance structure. The BizPaL Steering Committee will analyse the current governance structure and develop a strategy to increase the efficiency in decision-making and strategic oversight within and among the various partnership committees. To support this effort, a proposal will be made to the Steering Committee that an independent consultant be hired to provide support and advice.

Management response 3.2: Agreed

NBO Managers will continue to collaborate to properly identify and communicate linkages among the various work units within the NBO. All changes to the NBO terms of reference will be communicated in a timely fashion to the BizPaL partnership following an established protocol.

The BizPaL support function has been formalized by introducing a single point of contact to record, triage, resolve and monitor partner and client service support issues. Mechanisms to measure and report on the performance of and the satisfaction with the service will also be implemented.

A resource for partner/client support staff in the form of a Wiki to promote self-service and to nurture a knowledge sharing culture beyond individual areas of expertise has been established.

IC is leading development of a performance management strategy with the partners to be completed by March 2009. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will be linked with project objectives and resources and reported on annually.

Financial reporting will continue to be conducted in accordance with federal government requirements and departmental standards. Industry Canada is responsible for managing the partner's cost-shared fund, in addition to its own program funds that support expansion of the initiative. While the partners are fully satisfied with the way in which the cost-shared fund is managed, Industry Canada will provide the partners with additional information on federal plans and activities relating to the expansion funds as part of the 2009-2010 business planning process.


Long Descriptions

Figure  i

  • BizPaL presence across Canada, July 2008
    • The participating provinces are: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.
    • Newfoundland, Nunavut, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island do not participate.

Approximate number of participating municipalities

  • Alberta is in progress
  • In British-Columbia, there are 7 municipalities
  • In Manitoba, there are 6 municipalities
  • New Brunswick is in progress
  • In Nova Scotia, there are 2 municipalities
  • Northwest Territories is in progress
  • In Ontario, there are 22 municipalities
  • In Saskatchewan, there are 30 municipalities
  • In Yukon, there are 9 municipalities

Back to Figure i

Table 1

  • The cumulative growth in participating among Provinces and Territories by year.
    • On January 1, 2006 there are two participating P/T as Yukon and British Columbia
    • On January 1, 2007, there are three more as Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan for a total of five P/T
    • On January 1, 2008, Nova Scotia is added for a total of 6 P/T
    • On July 31, 2008, the total increased to 9 P/T with New Brunswick, Alberta and NWT

Back to Table 1

Table 2

  • The cumulative growth in participating among municipalities by year.
    • On January 1, 2006 there are 9 municipalities
    • On January 1, 2007, there are 20 municipalities
    • On January 1, 2008, there are 76 municipalities
    • On July 31, 2008, there are 130 municipalities

Back to Table 2

Figure iii

Number of visitors by length of visit and by quarters
  2007-2008 2008-2009
Time Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
0-3 minutes 8 529 8 970 10 649 16 927 20 162
3-10 minutes 2 644 3 034 3 655 4 594 6 509
10-30 minutes 1 125 1 286 1 627 1 983 2 876
30+ minutes 214 251 290 342 478

Back to Figure iii

Figure iv

Views and Pageviews 5-Quarters trend
  2007-2008 2008-2009
  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
Visits 12 512 19 717 21 749 33 284 38 004
Pageviews 69 692 96 555 143 637 197 994 232 956

Return to Figure iv

Figure v

Partner sites download times (in second)
Government HOT 1 HOT 2
Alberta 42,40 42,40
Brandon 26,78 27,44
British Columbia 34,98 35,68
Edmonton 42,95 42,95
Halifax (French) 23,88 20,00
Halton region 8,01 8,02
Manitoba 15,70 15,71
Mayo (French) 12,17 9,58
Moose Jaw 25,79 25,79
Nova Scotia 19,24 19,23
NRCan 14,30 42,10
Ontario 51,20 51,20
Ottawa (French) 88,35 87,92
Saskatchewan 5,52 5,52
Sudbury French) 22,84 22,84
Whitehorse 1,24 1,24
Yukon 12,67 10,08

Return to Figure v

Figure vi

The current governance structure

The structure is composed of a Steering Committee, whose role is to guide the strategic direction of the BizPaL initiative and to make decisions; as well as three advisory bodies.

The Governance Task Force Workgroup provides advice and recommendations to the Steering Committee. The working groups Marketing & Communications and Technology Architecture provide advice, guidance, and recommendations to the Project Managers' Committee.

The Project Managers' Committee, in conjunction with the National BizPaL Office, supports the day-to-day operations and delivery of the BizPaL initiative. It provides advice and recommendations to the Steering Committee and executes approved operational plans.

The National BizPaL Office supports partners in order to help them meeting BizPaL strategic and operational goals and objectives.

Return to Figure vi

Figure vii

Strategic Governance Structure — Suggested

The suggested governance structure is composed of the Steering Committee and four subcommittees: Marketing and Promotions; Technology; Expansion and municipal engagement, and Financing and sustainability, all responsible for providing information and advice to the Steering Committee.

The National BizPaL Office provides advice and recommendations directly to the Steering Committee or through projects and operations. The Strategy Advisory Board is added to the structure. It is composed of executive representatives of particular groups (e.g. provinces, associations) which are invited to supply information and advice to the Steering Committee.

Return to Figure vii

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