Review of the BizPaL Service — Final Report
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.
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.
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.
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.
|January 1, 2006||January 1, 2007||January 1, 2008||July 31, 2008|
|Nova Scotia||New Brunswick
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.
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.
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.
|January 1, 2006||January 1, 2007||January 1, 2008||July 31, 2008|
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.
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.
- Are you planning a business start-up in the near future?
Yes o No o
- 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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".
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.
* 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Domain Name Renewals and Meeting
Marketing, Mapping, Support Desk (08/09)
and Research. Approved.
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:
- The vision statement for BizPaL has been tuned and agreed upon as of December 2007;
- 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
- 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 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).
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
Employee Benefits Plan
Total Salaries and Benefits
Marketing and Promotion
POR (focus and usability testing)
Evaluation and implementation
User Centred Design
NationalBizPaL Office Support
Ongoing Operations and Maintenance
General FTE related O&M
Misc. (supplies etc.)
Innovation & Evolution (e.g. leveraging other subjects)
General FTE related OO&M
Misc. (supplies etc.)
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
|Primary Success Category||Measurable Key Success Indicators (KSIs)|
|Source: Primary Success Categories and Measurable Success Indicators, AJ Shenhar, 2000|
|Internal Project Efficiency
|Impact of the Customer
|Business and Direct Success
|Preparing for the Future
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
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