Archived — Evaluation of Industry Canada's BizPaL Service

Final Report

March 2011

Tabled and approved at the Departmental Evaluation Committee on March 31, 2011

Table of Contents


Annexes (separate document)

(Note: Annexes are available via an Access to Information Request)

  • Annex A – BizPaL Evaluation Advisory Committee Members
  • Annex B – BizPaL Logic Model
  • Annex C – List of Individuals Interviewed
  • Annex D – List of Documents Reviewed
  • Annex E – Interview Guides



Glossary of Acronyms

AAFC
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
BC
British Columbia
CFIB
Canadian Federation of Independent Business
FPT
Federal, provincial and territorial
FTE
Full-time equivalent
FY
Fiscal year
GTF
Governance Task Force
IC
Industry Canada
ILA
Intergovernmental Letter of Agreement
IQM
Information Quality Management
MOU
Memorandum of Understanding
NBO
National BizPaL Office
NRCan
Natural Resources Canada
OGD
Other government department
ON
Ontario
P/T
Province or territory
PBRI
Paper Burden Reduction Initiative
PWGSC
Public Works and Government Services Canada
SC
Steering Committee
SMEs
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
SPA
Special Purpose Account
STF
Sustainability Task Force
TAWG
Technology Architecture Working Group

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Executive Summary

Introduction

Through the BizPaL Service, the three levels of government work collaboratively to help small to medium-sized businesses comply with government requirements. BizPaL aggregates licence and permit information from multiple jurisdictions and gives businesses and third-party business service providers the ability to navigate this information through a simple online client-centric service. Business clients respond to some questions regarding their enterprise and receive an integrated list of the permits and licences needed from all three levels of government in order to conduct their business.

This report presents the results of the third review of the BizPaL (Online Business Permits and Licences) Service. The first review examined the pilot project completed in September 2006. The second review was completed in September 2008. The purpose of the current evaluation is to assess the relevance and performance (effectiveness, efficiency and economy) of the BizPaL Service.

Methodology

The study methodology included a review of documents, 43 in-depth interviews, and data analysis. Although there were limitations with the evaluation methodology, overall the approaches used provided the basis for addressing all study issues through multiple lines of evidence.

Findings

Relevance

There appears to be an ongoing need for the BizPaL Service. Intuitively, the idea of three levels of government working together to provide a common source of information on permits and licences to business is a logical approach. BizPaL is linked to broad government priorities related to reducing red tape and assisting business to be more competitive.

There is an important role for the federal government within BizPaL and, given Industry Canada's mandate, it would appear that the department is the most appropriate organization to represent federal interests within the BizPaL partnership.

Interviewees acknowledged that there is a lack of factual information on actual client needs, as well as limited data on client satisfaction with the current Service, making it more difficult to gauge future needs of potential users of the BizPaL Service.

Performance

The partnership model for the Service has been effective and has received many public and private sector awards. The Service's success is due to the commitment and collaborative efforts of all three levels of government.

Federal and provincial/territorial (P/T) partners agreed to a set of operating principles that have guided the development of the Service. A key feature of the model is shared decision-making responsibilities among the partners. Direct costs have been shared by federal and P/T jurisdictions based on a population-based funding formula.

Although the BizPaL business model is highly regarded, it has not evolved as originally envisioned. At the federal level, with the exception of Natural Resources Canada's involvement in the early years, other federal departments have not been part of the governance structure, although information from 34 federal departments and agencies has been included in the BizPaL Service.

Similarly, local governments have not played as significant a role within the partnership as was originally intended. However, the implementation and roll-out of BizPaL has been accelerated because the National BizPaL Office (NBO) in Industry Canada took the lead on the collection of federal business requirements and P/Ts led efforts to collect provincial, territorial and municipal requirements.

Significant progress has been made with respect to national implementation and roll-out, a key objective of the BizPaL Service. However, there are opportunities for further expansion of the Service to more municipal jurisdictions.

A sufficient level of knowledge of client needs and experience with the Service in its current form is lacking. There are opportunities to increase awareness of the BizPaL Service among federal regulators, municipalities and target clients. The fact that BizPaL is a different user experience depending on the jurisdiction is a challenge in designing performance measurement tools.

The NBO and Technology Architecture Working Group (TAWG) have worked to evolve the BizPaL Service from a technology perspective, resolving issues of data quality and developing cost-effective options for the next generation of BizPaL that will address the spectrum of partner needs. The main challenges in this area are determining how the BizPaL Service should evolve given the diverse needs and expectations of various partners.

Utilization of the BizPaL Service to support regulatory transformation has been limited, in large part due to the fact that other federal departments were not directly involved with its implementation. Expectations for the NBO with respect to this objective are unclear, particularly since the NBO does not have a policy mandate in this area. Now that there is a comprehensive inventory of federal requirements within the BizPaL database, opportunities exist to raise awareness of the BizPaL Service with federal regulators to determine if the information can be used to support regulatory transformation.

As the number of jurisdictions has increased, and the needs of the various partners have become more diverse, the model has become increasingly difficult to manage and decision making has become more cumbersome. The Steering Committee should review the governance structure, and in particular the number, size and membership of each committee, for the next generation of BizPaL.

Lastly, although total IC costs for BizPaL were close to 30% lower than originally anticipated, the Service was still effective in achieving its objectives, leveraging funds from other parties, and minimizing the costs of P/T partners and municipal participants.

Recommendations

Given that the BizPaL Service is at a crossroads with respect to its future direction, and considering the above findings, the following recommendations are presented.

1. The governance structure needs to be adapted to the rapid growth, increased complexity and multi-layered stakeholders. The National BizPaL Office should encourage the BizPaL Steering Committee to consider:

  1. Reviewing the number of committees;
  2. Reviewing the size of committees;
  3. Reviewing membership of each committee; and
  4. Examining the decision making process (e.g. consensus, quorum).

In reviewing the governance structure, it will nevertheless be important to preserve aspects of the governance that have made the partnership successful, such as the collaborative spirit, as well as the principles established to guide the implementation of the BizPaL Service.

2. The National BizPaL Office should work with the BizPaL Steering Committee to improve performance monitoring practices. This will help ensure that customer needs and satisfaction is measured and that operational data on the performance of BizPaL is reported.

3. The National BizPaL Office should work with the BizPaL Steering Committee to raise awareness of the benefits of the BizPaL Service to key target groups and stakeholders. The program would benefit from leveraging successes achieved to date. Implementation strategies should include consideration for:

  1. increasing awareness and interest among potential users of BizPaL (i.e. SMEs and providers of support services to business);
  2. increasing awareness of the benefits of the Service among local governments; and
  3. increasing awareness of the Service in federal departments and agencies that could benefit from the Service (e.g. enhanced information on business regulations to help inform regulatory reform).

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1.0 Introduction

This report presents the results of the third review of the BizPaL (Online Business Permits and Licences) Service. The first review, which examined the pilot project, was completed in September 2006. The second review was completed in September 2008.

The purpose of the current evaluation is to assess the relevance and performance (effectiveness, efficiency and economy) of the BizPaL Service. The report is organized into five sections:

  • Section 1 provides the general background and objectives for the study along with a brief profile of the BizPaL Service.
  • Section 2 presents the methodology followed in conducting the review work.
  • Section 3 presents the findings and conclusions pertaining to the relevance of the BizPaL Service.
  • Section 4 presents the findings and conclusions pertaining to the performance of the Service.
  • Section 5 provides management with recommendations stemming from the conclusions presented throughout the report.

1.1 Background

All three levels of government in Canada (municipal, provincial / territorial and federal) are involved in regulating business activity. As a result, an economic sector is often subject to business permit and licence requirements from three jurisdictions. Through BizPaL, the three levels of government work collaboratively to help small to medium-sized businesses comply with government requirements.

BizPaL aggregates licence and permit information from multiple jurisdictions and gives businesses and third-party business service providers the ability to navigate this information through a simple online client-centric service. Business clients respond to some questions regarding their enterprise and receive an integrated list of the permits and licences needed from all three levels of government in order to conduct their business.

BizPaL information is delivered through the web sites of participating jurisdictions. These web sites receive information from the BizPaL database and software application and present this information in a format that complies with the requirements of the BizPaL system, including compliance with the Federal Identity Program, and the look and feel of the jurisdiction's web site.

The BizPaL Service was developed over a two-year period starting in 2004. A pilot service was successfully completed in March 2006 with the participation of the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, the cities of Kamloops and Whitehorse, and the Region of Halton. Each of these jurisdictions identified at least 10 priority business sectors for inclusion in BizPaL's initial release. BizPaL was developed from concept to pilot project under the umbrella of the Government On-line Initiative.

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 to 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. As a result, IC received federal funding of $3 million per year for four years (2007–08 to 2010–11).1 BizPaL funding was intended to:

  • expand the Service to reach all interested provincial and territorial (P/T) governments as well as a growing number of local governments;
  • expand its scope and functionality beyond permits and licences;
  • include other types of business regulation; and
  • support initiatives undertaken to rationalize regulations and ease the paperwork burden on business.

A clear outcome of these efforts is that, by 2011, BizPaL is expected to be offered in a majority of Canadian jurisdictions and that Canadian businesses will be able to find licence and permit or regulatory information relevant to their local and industry context by using the BizPaL Service.

The logic model for BizPaL is provided in Annex B. It is based on four project objectives:

  • Enhance operations and implement national roll-out;
  • Promote service and technology innovation;
  • Support regulatory transformation; and
  • Provide for long-term governance and sustainability.

The logic model served as the basis for assessing the performance of the BizPaL Service for this evaluation.


1 Source: BizPaL Online Business Permit and Licence Project Project Overview. (Return to reference 1)


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2.0 Methodology

IC's Audit and Evaluation Branch (AEB) managed the BizPaL evaluation, which was conducted by Performance Management Network Inc. An Evaluation Advisory Committee (EAC) was established by AEB to provide advice and guidance during the course of the review. The committee reviewed and provided input on the methodology, findings, conclusions and recommendations presented within the evaluation report. A list of BizPaL EAC members is provided in Annex A.

The evaluation covered the period from April 2007 to September 2010. It addressed the following evaluation issues:

  • Relevance
    • Is there a continued need for the BizPaL Service?
    • Is the BizPaL Service aligned with federal government priorities?
    • What is the legitimate and necessary role for Industry Canada?
  • Performance – Effectiveness, Efficiency and Economy
    • How effective is the BizPaL Service as a business model?
    • To what extent has the BizPaL Service been effective in achieving its objectives?
    • What are some of the barriers to success (including to the engagement of all provinces and territories)? What are some of the factors that have facilitated its success?
    • Have there been any unintended impacts (positive or negative) resulting from the BizPaL Service?
    • To what extent have the recommendations and Action Plan of the second review been implemented? How effective has this been in enhancing the overall effectiveness of the BizPaL Service?
    • How could the BizPaL Service be improved to enhance its efficiency and economy?

The study methodology was designed to ensure that multiple lines of evidence would be available for all issues and questions. In addition, rather than duplicating the efforts of previous studies, the study used existing research, where feasible, to help maximize its use and minimize the burden on individuals consulted.

The methodology therefore included a review of documents, in-depth interviews and data analysis. An experimental or quasi-experimental design was not considered because of the nature of the Service and the fact that it would not have been cost-effective to do so.

The document review included a range of program documents such as documents related to the rationale for the Service, Memoranda of Understanding, Intergovernmental Letters of Agreement (ILA), third-party reports, minutes of meetings of the various committees, task forces and working groups, planning documents, performance reports, annual reports, etc. In addition, findings from previous review reports (2006 and 2008) were used to help avoid duplication and to minimize interviewee burden. Documents provided evidence or background information pertaining to all review questions.

A total of 43 interviews (with 44 people) were completed:

  • Industry Canada (IC) representatives (5);
  • Representatives of provincial or territorial (P/T) governments (19 with 20 people);
  • Representatives of local governments, which also included representatives of service delivery organizations in some provinces (17); and
  • Representatives of other federal government departments (2).

Available program data associated with the BizPaL Service were obtained from the program (and from participating governments through the program). This included the use of performance information available through Industry Canada databases. Information was important to help assess particular questions related to relevance (continued need) and performance (effectiveness, efficiency and economy).

Although the overall study methodology was strong and provided the basis for addressing all study issues through multiple lines of evidence, there were some limitations with the evaluation methodology. Key limitations included:

  • The methodology was mostly limited to gathering information from people who are directly involved in specific aspects of BizPaL programming and delivery. Although documentation and data on previous consultations with target user groups were available, the study did not include consultations with users on their needs and on their satisfaction with BizPaL.
  • Whereas the scope of the evaluation was from April 2007 to September 2010, BizPaL is by nature a moving target going through constant delivery and governance changes. The information presented in this report is based on feedback received before decisions were made about the next generation of BizPaL at the September 28 and 29, 2010 meeting of the BizPaL Steering Committee.
  • The BizPaL logic model was used to assess the performance of the Service. However, the model was developed in the early stages of the Service, when limited information was available on how the Service could / would evolve. As such, the model is out-of-date and parts were found to be unrealistic in terms of expected activities, outputs and / or outcomes.

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3.0 Findings – Relevance

In this section, relevance of the BizPaL Service is examined with respect to ongoing need, alignment with federal government priorities, and whether there is a legitimate and necessary role for IC.

The main lines of evidence are documentation review (e.g. Federal Budget, Statistics Canada reports, independent research reports) and interviews with IC management, P/T partners, local government representatives and other federal departments.

Findings by Evaluation Issue

3.1 Is there a continued need for the BizPaL Service?

Evidence from the document review supports the view that there is an ongoing need for the BizPaL Service.

Statistics Canada and IC, as part of the Paper Burden Reduction Initiative (PBRI), analyzed regulatory compliance costs for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). The first Survey of Regulatory Compliance Costs was conducted in 2005, followed by a second survey in 2008 with preliminary results published in April 2010.

The 2008 PBRI Progress Report indicates 92 percent of municipal and 86 percent of provincial licence and permit forms are manually prepared (forms may be available online and downloaded for completion). A key finding of the PBRI report is that "government information and communications technology systems need to be updated to allow SMEs to prepare and submit their paperwork claims and forms electronically. Until now, many departments' information technology systems have limited SMEs to mainly downloading paper claims and forms online."2

Findings from the Survey of Regulatory Compliance Costs support the need to enhance BizPaL's functionality to allow users to complete their transactions when they apply for licences or permits from government bodies. According to Statistics Canada, the majority of businesses that perceive overall compliance costs to be rising say it is because of an increase in the complexity of compliance.

It is also interesting to note that businesses with fewer than 20 employees are disproportionately affected by compliance; a small business with one to four employees incurs at least seven times more costs per employee than its larger counterparts (i.e. those with 20 to 99 employees).3 BizPaL is particularly relevant to this target group.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) endorses the use of BizPaL as a means of reducing red tape for SMEs. The CFIB developed an Entrepreneurship Index to determine Canada's top entrepreneurial cities. The Index includes 12 core indicators under three broad categories:

  • The presence of a high concentration of entrepreneurs and a high business start-up rate;
  • A high level of optimism and success in operations; and
  • The presence of supportive local government tax and regulatory policies.

One of the 12 criteria measured in the Entrepreneurship Index is whether a local government has subscribed to the BizPaL program4, which suggests that the BizPaL Service contributes to the success of businesses.

Qualitative research conducted on behalf of IC in April 2008 suggests there is an ongoing need for a service such as BizPaL. Ipsos Reid Public Affairs conducted the research to help IC gain a better understanding of the needs and expectations of business owners (start-ups and growth firms) as well as professional intermediaries who assist business (e.g. lawyers, accountants, economic development staff, etc.) with Canada Business (an online source of information on government services, programs and regulations) and BizPaL. The research methodology included focus groups and interactive user interviews.5 Key findings include:

  • The Internet and in-person contact are generally considered the most efficient ways to access business information from government.
  • When prompted for types of business information and services they are most likely to expect from government, respondents most commonly included general market intelligence, regulatory information (specifically licencing and permit information), financing information, etc.
  • The Internet has the potential to reduce paper burden and speed up the application process, though a few say it could increase the burden because they now might have to comply with regulations of which they previously had been unaware.
  • Some participants expressed a desire for concrete information related to regulatory requirements. These individuals need specific information on what levels of government to deal with on a given directive, or baseline information to understand rules / legislation from various levels of government.6

Interviewees from all jurisdictions (federal, P/T and local) indicated that there is an ongoing need for BizPaL. Several observed that clients tend to view government as a monolithic entity rather than distinct organizations, each with its own requirements. As such, it makes sense to provide one source of information that covers the requirements for all levels of government.

With the exception of one jurisdiction, all P/T partners indicated that the continuance of the BizPaL Service is important. Some interviewees representing local government were staff located within entrepreneurship centres or economic development organizations. These individuals, who provide consulting advice and information services directly to new business owners, were particularly positive about the need for BizPaL. They said it is a useful tool, not only for business clients, but for economic development staff who play a special role in assisting business owners.

Information on the perceived needs of actual and potential users of BizPaL is not available except through the limited aforementioned focus research undertaken by Ipsos Reid Public Affairs. Interviewees acknowledged they lack data on actual client needs, making it difficult to assess client satisfaction with the current service and future needs for BizPaL. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to determine the specific needs of the target audience and the extent to which the Service, as currently designed and delivered, is meeting those needs.

Therefore, interviewees were asked to identify future priority areas for BizPaL to ensure it continues to address the needs of businesses and participants. Priority areas identified include:

  • Enhancing the marketing and promotion of the Service;
  • Expanding the Service to address the information requirements of existing businesses rather than just start-ups (more of a life cycle approach);
  • Expanding coverage to other sectors not currently included within BizPaL;
  • Continued roll-out to additional municipalities not currently involved; and
  • Enhanced online functionality (while recognizing the limitations and desires of some partners).

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3.2 Is the BizPaL Service aligned with federal government priorities?

As indicated in the previous section, federal priorities related to reducing red tape are included in Budget 2010: Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth as well as in previous Budget documents such as Advantage Canada (2006).

The federal government continues to place priority on easing the compliance burden on business and enhancing online access to government services. Budget 2010 continues to emphasize the need to reduce the regulatory and administrative burden on SMEs and calls for the creation of a Red Tape Reduction Commission involving parliamentarians and private sector representatives.7 Similar initiatives have been underway in several provincial jurisdictions for the past few years.

Evidence from the documentation and interviews with IC management indicate that the BizPaL Service continues to be aligned with federal government priorities. The 2008 Progress Report on the PBRI recommends the need to "increase cooperation and coordination throughout the federal government and with other orders of government to reduce and control paper burden."8 The report states that initiatives such as BizPaL, which follow this approach and simplify interaction with government, should be expanded.


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3.3 What is the legitimate and necessary role for Industry Canada?

The Department of Industry Act established the Department to foster a growing, competitive and knowledge-based Canadian economy. Industry Canada's mandate is to help make Canadian industry more productive and competitive in the global economy, thus improving the economic and social well-being of Canadians.

BizPaL, a sub-activity under the Entrepreneurial Activity Program area, supports the IC strategic outcome: Competitive businesses are drivers of sustainable wealth creation.

Most P/T and municipal interviewees indicated that, for BizPaL to succeed in the long run, the continued involvement of a federal partner is important. They saw no reason to move the National BizPaL Office (NBO) to another federal department or agency. Interviewees described the NBO as a coordinating body that provides a secretariat function to support the partnership, oversees the technology infrastructure, and provides the link to all other federal departments and agencies.

Some interviewees indicated that in theory these functions could be performed by another organization, but also noted that it would be unlikely for any one provincial jurisdiction to want to take on this responsibility on behalf of the entire partnership. Interviewees agreed that NBO's current role is appropriate and offered no real suggestions for either adding or removing areas of responsibility.


2 Advisory Committee on Paperwork Burden Reduction, 2008 Progress Report on the Paperwork Burden Reduction Initiative. (p. 15). (Return to reference 2)

3 Statistics Canada Survey of Regulatory Compliance Costs (Source: http://www.reduirepaperasserie.gc.ca/eic/site/pbri-iafp.nsf/eng/sx00120.html) (Return to reference 3)

4 Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Communities in Boom: Canada's Top Entrepreneurial Cities, October 2008. (Return to reference 4)

5 Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, Industry Canada – Service to Business Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, (Draft Report), May 2008. Ten focus groups were held in five cities across Canada including 6 with SME owner/operators, 2 with business intenders, and 2 with trusted third parties (e.g. lawyers, accountants, economic development officers, etc.). Nineteen interactive use interviews were conducted to examine functionality of the sites. (Return to reference 5)

6 Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, Industry Canada – Service to Business Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL, (Draft Report), May 2008. (p. 9-22). (Return to reference 6)

7 Federal Budget 2010. Chapter 3.3: Building a Strong Economic Foundation, (p. 16). (Return to reference 7)

8 Advisory Committee on Paperwork Burden Reduction, 2008 Progress Report on the Paperwork Burden Reduction Initiative. (p. 2). (Return to reference 8)


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4.0 Findings – Performance

This section examines the overall performance of the BizPaL Service with respect to efficiency, economy and effectiveness in achieving desired results as set out in the program logic model.

The main lines of evidence include: document review (e.g. strategic and operational plans, Steering Committee meeting minutes, and reports of Working Groups); data analysis (e.g. performance reports, partner and client satisfaction data from previously conducted surveys); and interviews with IC management, P/T partners, local government representatives and other federal departments.

Findings by Evaluation Issue

4.1 How effective is the BizPaL Service as a business model?

The business model for the BizPaL Service is set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between IC and the P/T signatories, as well as in Intergovernmental Letters of Agreement between IC and each P/T partner.

Federal and P/T partners agreed upon a set of principles that have guided the development of the BizPaL Service. Local government participants enter into agreements with their respective province or territory that reflect the principles set out in the MOU.

The principles established to guide the implementation of the BizPaL Service were as follows:

  • Respect for the autonomy of the participants;
  • Participants all have a voice in how the BizPaL Initiative is to be managed and operated;
  • The BizPaL Product is ultimately shared by all of its participants;
  • Each participant will decide how it will adjust its own internal practices in light of its participation in the BizPaL Initiative;
  • Major decisions related to the BizPaL Initiative will be made by consensus among representatives of the SC (includes one representative from each P/T, one local government representative from each P/T, one representative from the federal government and one representative for other government departments); and
  • Participants are responsible for their own costs of devolving, launching, maintaining, operating and developing BizPaL. Signatories to the MOU share in additional centralized costs, as specified in ILAs.9

The ILAs are legally binding documents between the federal government and each P/T that set out the cost-sharing terms for each party. The cost-sharing model is based on population and is intended to cover the cost of system hosting and maintenance as well as the NBO functions. Overall, the partnership model for the BizPaL Service is highly regarded by all categories of interviewees. IC management indicate the model has worked well. Its success is due to the commitment and collaborative efforts of the partners involved.

Some P/T interviewees commented that the BizPaL Initiative has been the best example of federal/provincial/territorial (F/P/T) cooperation they have ever been associated with and have suggested the adoption of the BizPaL approach to other F/P/T initiatives.

P/T interviewees acknowledged that NBO staff have done a good job in leading the partnership, coordinating activities and seeking consensus on issues. The partners appreciate that the role played by the NBO has become more challenging with the expansion of BizPaL into more jurisdictions.

Some partners also noted that the model has provided sufficient flexibility for them to tailor their approach to their own requirements. Interviewees (IC, P/T and local government) indicated the BizPaL model provided an opportunity for all three levels of government to gain a greater appreciation for each other's operating environments and challenges.

A review of the minutes for the various BizPaL committees provides evidence of the collaborative approach and commitment of partners. The partnership has assigned small working groups to address issues such as sustainability and marketing. Interviewees cited the work carried out on the Data Transformation Project by members of the Technology Architecture Working Group (TAWG) as an example of collaboration.

BizPaL has received a total of 12 awards from various federal, provincial/territorial, municipal and private sector organizations (e.g. Canadian Information Productivity Awards, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, Government of Canada's Public Service Award of Excellence). Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia also provided recognition awards, as did Kamloops (BC) and Milton (ON). The Service has received awards for Cross-Jurisdictional Partnerships, Leadership in Information Management, and Excellence in Citizen-focused Service Delivery. These awards attest to the effectiveness of BizPaL as a business model.

According to BizPaL project documents from 2006, the original intent was that local governments would play a significant role within the partnership. Interviewees said municipal involvement within the partnership did not evolve as originally intended.

Interviewees from P/Ts indicated that, in order to achieve implementation targets and to proceed with the roll out of BizPaL in a reasonably timely fashion, P/T staff played a much more involved role in bringing municipalities on board than may have been originally envisioned. Municipalities' limited resources (time and money) affected their ability to play a lead role. As a result, P/Ts indicated, the bulk of the work with respect to process mapping and uploading information was done by their staff on behalf of local governments.

Most local government interviewees are supportive of BizPaL, particularly because it has required minimal effort and cost on the part of local government and is serving the needs of business clients. It should be noted that some of the early municipal participants have played a significant role in the design and implementation of the BizPaL product. Municipalities that came on board later have benefited from the work conducted by early champions. Several interviewees indicated that the role of municipal governments within the partnership should be revisited to better reflect how the BizPaL Service has evolved.

In a similar way, the role of other federal government departments did not evolve as originally intended. The NBO realized it was more important to focus on ensuring that federal content was incorporated into the BizPaL database. Therefore, instead of setting up a formal intergovernmental committee or inviting other government departments (OGDs) to participate within the BizPaL governance structure, NBO staff gathered the required information from the various departments and sought clarification on specific matters where needed. This was deemed to be the most efficient approach to populating the database.

Other than IC, the only federal department represented on the SC was Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which had a member until 2009. Because of changes in priorities, NRCan no longer sits on the SC.

At present, NBO staff are establishing more direct relationships with relevant federal departments. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has sought NBO advice and lessons learned as the department is in the planning stages of a similar tool called AgPaL. AgPaL will provide an inventory of federal and provincial funding programs relevant to the farming community. AAFC has appreciated the assistance provided by the NBO.

The NBO has also shared BizPaL data with other IC staff working on internal trade issues to support the analysis of potential barriers to trade within Canada.

As the number of participating jurisdictions has increased and the needs of the partners have become more diverse, the business model has become increasingly difficult to manage and decision making has become more cumbersome. Some of the key challenges identified by IC management and P/T partners with respect to the business model are:

  • Capacity varies among partners. Some P/Ts have significantly more resources to dedicate to BizPaL than others.
  • Different jurisdictions operate within different policy environments with respect to service to business.
  • Municipalities are engaged to varying degrees. Some provinces have experienced challenges in getting municipalities to participate in BizPaL, and some are unable to find a local government representative to participate on BizPaL committees. A few interviewees commented that municipalities are not equal partners. There are varying opinions as to whether this is a problem.
  • Local government interviewees were satisfied with the business model, stating they have had strong support from provincial representatives. There was no real indication from local government interviewees that they felt under-represented within the business model.
  • Some P/Ts feel they are contributing more to the partnership (level of effort and resources) than other jurisdictions that require more staff support from the NBO. Consequently, some are of the opinion that a population-based formula is no longer reasonable and that each partner's financial contribution should be more in line with the level of service required. There are also differences in how various jurisdictions want to use BizPaL. Some jurisdictions are satisfied with the current technology infrastructure whereas others are not.

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4.2 To what extent has the BizPaL Service been effective in achieving its objectives?

The BizPaL logic model (see Annex B) served as the basis for assessing the performance of the BizPaL Service for this evaluation. The following sections discuss findings with respect to four main objectives:

  • Enhance operations and implement national roll-out;
  • Promote service and technology innovation;
  • Support regulatory transformation; and
  • Provide for long-term governance and sustainability.

4.2.1 Enhance operations and implement national roll-out

Federal funding of $12 million for BizPaL was to be used to accelerate expansion and evolution from 2007–08 to 2010–11. The overarching project goal was to maintain the momentum of the BizPaL pilot project and successfully implement a national roll-out. This included activities pertaining to other federal departments, as well as the provinces and territories.

Federal Content

The table below presents planned activities at the federal level, as identified in the BizPaL logic model, and actual results:

Results of Federal Level Planned Activities (as identified in the BizPaL logic model)
Planned Activities Results10
Establish a project team within Industry Canada to maintain liaison with other federal departments and harmonize the provision of federal data to BizPaL. The NBO adjusted its activities to take on the lead role for managing the federal content for BizPaL.

A project team was established but its role was expanded to include content management in addition to liaison and harmonization activities. The engagement of other federal departments has been limited because the requirement for their input has been limited.

Increase the comprehensiveness and relevance of federal information with BizPaL by engaging all federal departments administering business-related regulations.

As of July 31, 2006 (pilot project), there was only one federal department represented on BizPaL (Natural Resources Canada). At the time of the last review of BizPaL (as of July 31, 2008), the Service had been expanded to included 20 federal departments. There are now 34 departments and agencies represented in BizPaL offerings. According to IC interviewees, this represents all departments and agencies with business permit and licencing requirements.

The NBO's role in maintaining up-to-date information is ongoing; all federal departments, although not engaged, are represented. No other federal department participates in the Steering Committee for BizPaL.

Assist federal departments in customizing their user's view of BizPaL to serve their specific clients more effectively. As the NBO maintains the content, there is no need to assist federal departments in this regard.

Intended immediate outcomes related to federal activities, as identified in BizPaL's logic model, were:

  • Focal point for harmonization of data – Because the NBO manages the federal content for BizPaL, it serves as the focal point. All federal departments and agencies with business permit and licencing requirements are represented on BizPaL.
  • Business users will find it easier to find federal regulatory information – There is no specific information on the extent to which business users find it easier to find federal regulatory information. However, as noted above, the amount of federal information available through BizPaL has increased significantly since the BizPaL pilot project (in which only one federal department was represented), with 34 departments and agencies now represented. In addition, the number of users has increased significantly (from fewer than 90,000 visits in 2007–08 to more than a quarter of million visits in 2009–10). Details on visits and page views are as follows:
    Number of BizPaL visits and Page Views (for Fiscal Years 2007–2008 — 2009–2010)
    Fiscal Year Visits Page views
    # % Increase # % Increase
    2007–08 87,262 n.a. 507,878 n.a.
    2008–09 214,403 145.7% 1,144,212 125.3%
    2009–10 264,201 23.2% 1,487,312 30.0%

    Although this data does not directly show that federal regulatory information is easier to find, it does show that more users have access to more federal regulatory information through BizPaL.

    Information from user surveys provides little additional data. Based on a limited survey of 384 users between 2008–09 and 2010–1111, 47% agreed or agreed strongly that the Service was easy to use, and a slightly higher percentage (53%) believed the Service was valuable. Again, this does not directly show the extent to which federal regulatory information is easier to find, just the extent to which the Service is easy to use and / or valuable. There is no evidence from documentation, interviews, or client survey data on which to assess whether business users find it easier to find federal regulatory information.

The intended intermediate outcome associated with federal information was identified in the logic model as: BizPaL integrates all federal business-related data. The methodologies used in this evaluation do not allow for a comprehensive review of all federal business-related data in general versus all federal business-related data on BizPaL. However, Industry Canada interviewees noted that content for all federal departments and agencies with business permit and licencing requirements is included in the BizPaL database.

Provincial / Territorial Content

At the provincial / territorial level, planned activities and actual results are as follows:

Results of Provincial/Territorial Level Planned Activities
Planned Activities Results
Confirm partnership with all interested provinces and territories. Participation by P/Ts has grown as follows:
  • As of January 1, 2006: 2 P/Ts (Yukon and British Columbia);
  • As of January 1, 2007: 5 P/Ts (Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan became partners);
  • As of January 1, 2008: 6 P/Ts (addition of Nova Scotia);
  • As of July 31, 2008: 9 P/Ts (addition of New Brunswick, Alberta and Northwest Territories)
  • As of September 30, 2010: 11 P/Ts (all P/Ts except Quebec and Nunavut).

Nunavut has signed a letter of agreement.

Quebec is not expected to become a partner as it already has a service that is comparable to BizPaL.12

Therefore, partnership with all interested provinces and territories has been confirmed.

Help provinces and territories roll out BizPaL to interested local governments. P/T partners expressed satisfaction with the role played by NBO in supporting the implementation of BizPaL. This included satisfaction with training and technical support, business process mapping tools and other assistance provided.

However, responsibility for rolling out the service rests with the P/T jurisdictions. Concerns were expressed with processes related to launch events involving representatives from all levels of government (i.e. coordination and scheduling).

Intended immediate outcomes related to P/T activities, as identified in BizPaL's logic model, were:

  • BizPaL will be available in most provinces and territories – As noted in the above table, 11 P/Ts are now partners on BizPaL and the Service is therefore available in most provinces and territories. These 11 P/Ts represent 76.7% of the total Canadian population13 and 80.2% of all Canadian business establishments14.
  • BizPaL will be available in a growing number of municipalities – As of July 31, 2006 (first review), 13 municipalities were involved in BizPaL. As of July 31, 2008 (last review), 130 municipalities were participating. As of June 15, 2010, 454 municipalities were involved in BizPaL, with 136 in the process of joining. Since the last review, there has therefore been a growth of 324 municipalities, representing a 249% increase. In addition, in some P/Ts (e.g. BC, Yukon, Ontario, Saskatchewan), information on provincial and federal permits and licencing requirements is available for those located in municipalities that are not part of BizPaL.

Distribution of participating municipalities by P/T is as follows:

Municipal Coverage (as of June 15, 2010)
Province or Territory # of Municipalities on BizPaL # of Municipalities in Progress % of Provincial Population Covered15
Newfoundland and Labrador 14 3 40.2%
Prince Edward Island 2 0 28.9%
Nova Scotia 19 14 57.4%
New Brunswick 18 1 45.0%
Ontario 119 8 76.2%
Manitoba 34 28 67.0%
Saskatchewan 61 47 64.3%
Alberta 92 34 76.6%
British Columbia 84 0 68.6%%
Yukon 9 0 80.3%
Northwest Territories 2 1 14.5%
Total 454 136 54.2%16
71.2%17

It should be noted that the BizPaL Service had expected to include the majority of Canadian jurisdictions by 2011.18 According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, there are 3,647 municipalities in Canada.19 This means that the municipalities on BizPaL currently represent less than 20% of all Canadian municipalities.

The 2008 review report noted that BizPaL may need to review its objective of being offered in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions with a view to establishing a more realistic roll-out target.20 The findings from this evaluation support this advice. In fact, one could argue that municipal targets may not be the best indicators of coverage for a service targeting potential or existing businesses. Instead, targets related to business reach might be more appropriate.

In the intermediate term, it is intended that Canadian businesses will have access to online regulatory information. Information on BizPaL is available at the 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) level. The number of sectors published or approved21 by jurisdiction is as follows:

Sector Coverage (as of July 19, 2010)
Jurisdiction # of Sectors Published or Approved % of Business Establishments with Potential Access22
Newfoundland and Labrador 635 91.6%
Prince Edward Island 640 92.1%
Nova Scotia 330 89.1%
New Brunswick 509 89.2%
Ontario 277 95.6%
Manitoba 414 88.6%
Saskatchewan 534 85.5%
Alberta 550 93.5%
British Columbia 444 90.7%
Yukon 199 59.0%
Northwest Territories 576 92.5%
Canada 858 99.4%

Although the number of sectors published or approved is indicative of a broad coverage, it is not realistic to compare coverage across jurisdictions because some sectors may not be applicable to some jurisdictions and / or may not be included in the provincial or territorial strategy as priority sectors. For example, ocean fishery sectors are not applicable to the Prairie Provinces.

The table therefore also shows the proportion of businesses covered in each jurisdiction, based on the number of business establishments across each jurisdiction in published sectors versus the total number of business establishments. The table shows that the most important sectors are published in the great majority of jurisdictions (all jurisdictions, except Yukon, provide information on sector-related business permits and licences for more than 85% of the businesses in the jurisdiction). This confirms that the Service is available to a large number of businesses.

Ultimate Outcome

Ultimately, the objective of enhancing operations and implementing national roll-out is to contribute to the enhanced provision of government services to business. The previous parts of this section highlight BizPaL's contribution to this objective.

In 2006–07, the BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenue conducted a BizPaL Business Mapping Project as part of the province's Regulatory Reform Initiative. The project report indicates that BizPaL is "a significant improvement for citizens to find information about the permits and licences required to start a small business in BC. Using the BizPaL Service, the entire process for determining the list of permits and licences required took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. The traditional manual approach for the same scenario took more than 12 times as long."23

The report included a number of recommendations related to the future of BizPaL (e.g. broadening the scope beyond permits and licences, online applications, and expanding the language selection beyond French and English).

Local government interviewees were asked what feedback they had received from business clients regarding their level of satisfaction with the comprehensiveness of BizPaL. Apart from a few anecdotal comments, local government representatives have not had much in the way of feedback on client satisfaction.

A few municipal interviewees were business consultants located within entrepreneurship centres or enterprise development agencies. They indicated that BizPaL was a useful tool in helping them provide assistance to business clients. Some have presented BizPaL at various small business events and received a positive reaction from participants.

A lack of awareness of BizPaL among SMEs was identified as a major issue by all interviewees. This was somewhat confirmed in the Ipsos Reid focus research, where awareness of BizPaL was low. However, once aware, research study participants were impressed with the Service and its ability to provide information on three levels of government.24

Some of the ongoing and future challenges identified by interviewees with regard to this objective include:

  • Managing different needs and expectations of various partners (some partners want more out of BizPaL than others). These differences are due in part to the fact that some partners have been involved since the early stages, some are more recent participants, and some have greater resources than others. These factors contribute to differences in capacity and expectations.
  • Uncertainty with respect to securing ongoing resources (federal and P/T).
  • Difficulties in expanding to other municipalities (particularly smaller and more remote locations that may lack staff and technical capacity).

9 The BizPaL Initiative Memorandum of Understanding, March 27, 2007. (p. 5). (Return to reference 9)

10 As of September 2010. (Return to reference 10)

11 It should be noted that, based on the number of visits in the same timeframe, this sample is extremely small (less than 0.5%) and is not representative of the opinions of all users. (Return to reference 11)

12 Services Québec provides a service to identify permits, certificates and licencing requirements. It covers: starting a business; hiring employees; employee departures; commercializing a product; changing the direction of the business; exporting; change of address; and many others. The service provides a list of the requirements as well as information on government programs and assistance available to the business. It enables the user to obtain a detailed description of the requirements, the cost of meeting the requirements and help and advice available regarding the requirements. It allows the user to print the required forms or complete them online. The user can also have all the information he or she completed online (including the answers to the questionnaire completed) emailed and an online file maintained for future reference. The service does not include municipal data and federal content is limited. (Return to reference 12)

13 Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM, as of July 1, 2010. (Return to reference 13)

14 Source: Industry Canada, Canadian Industry Statistics, December 2008. (Return to reference 14)

15 Note: the percentages depicted in this table are based on the population in the municipalities on BizPaL. One could argue that, in some P/Ts, the coverage is higher because provincial and federal regulatory information is available for those businesses locating in municipalities not included on BizPaL. (Return to reference 15)

16 Based on total Canadian population including Quebec and Nunavut. (Return to reference 16)

17 Based on total Canadian population excluding Quebec and Nunavut. These numbers were extrapolated from data available in quarterly reports. (Return to reference 17)

18 BizPaL Online Business Permit and Licence Project, Project Overview, Annex B, 2007. (Return to reference 18)

19 Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2009. (Return to reference 19)

20 Hallux Consulting Inc. Review of the BizPaL Service, Draft Final Report, September 26, 2008. (Return to reference 20)

21 "Published" refers to the sectors included on BizPaL, whereas "approved" refers to sectors that have been approved for publication but for which information on the requirements is not yet available online. (Return to reference 21)

22 These percentages were calculated by determining the number of business establishments in published sectors versus those in non-published sectors in each jurisdiction. The percentage of business establishments with potential access is based on the number of business establishments throughout the province, not just in the municipalities on BizPaL; additionally, it is based on statistics available at the three-digit NAICS level rather than the six-digit level included in BizPaL. Percentages may therefore be overstated. (Return to reference 22)

23 British Columbia Ministry of Small Business and Revenue, BizPaL Business Mapping Project, 2006–07. (p. 2). (Return to reference 23)

24 Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, Industry Canada – Service to Business Qualitative Research on Canada Business and BizPaL Draft Report. Field dates: April 1st to April 8th, 2008. (Return to reference 24)


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4.0 Findings – Performance (continued)

4.2 To what extent has the BizPaL Service been effective in achieving its objectives? (continued)

4.2.2 Promote service and technology innovation

As discussed in the previous section, the priority has been on expansion of the Service across jurisdictions while ensuring the technology infrastructure was sustainable. In some jurisdictions, the system has been expanded from permits and licences to licences, permits, permissions, approvals, registrations and certifications.

IC management indicated that innovations identified in the logic model related to online portfolio management, transactions and fulfillment have not been addressed because the focus was on supporting roll-out.

Interviewees said the technology innovation elements of the logic model may have been overly ambitious. They noted that the model was developed at the time of the Treasury Board submission and that some of the elements may not have occurred as planned because of refinements resulting from further exploration of the proposed activities or because changes were required as a result of input from other jurisdictions.

Interviews with P/T partners indicated that some are satisfied with the Service in its current form; others noted that the technology platform is not adequate for bringing BizPaL to the next level.25 There are different views within the partnership about how to improve BizPaL (the application) and financial implications associated with expanding its functionality.

In June 2009, the terms of reference for the TAWG were approved by the SC. The primary goal of this working group is to conduct analysis and supply recommendations on the ongoing technological aspects of BizPaL. TAWG members represent the views of their respective jurisdictions and try to fulfil their jurisdictional requirements while respecting the collective BizPaL platform.

The TAWG has led the Data Transformation project since September 2009. As a result of this work, TAWG presented recommendations for technology evolution to the SC in September 2010.26 The background documentation identifies the following limitations of the current service:

  • Increasing administrative costs;
  • Declining responsiveness to new requirements;
  • Decreasing system performance; and
  • Decreasing search effectiveness for clients.

The documents also identify the following as persistent partner needs that are going unaddressed:

  • Activity-based searching;
  • Administrator task streamlining;
  • Flexible access to and/or integration with partner data; and
  • Expansion of content beyond permits and licences.

The TAWG recommended:

  • The use of existing IC staff to transform BizPaL using ExpressionEngine;
  • After development, testing, data migration and partner acceptance, the existing BizPaL platform be turned off;
  • Transition to a fully managed virtualized dedicated server by a third-party hosting vendor; and
  • Transition to in-sourced application maintenance within IC / NBO.

The TAWG reported that one-time and ongoing hosting / maintenance costs of this option are substantially cheaper than supplementing the current BizPaL platform. Its recommendation was based on the following statement of benefits:

  • Significantly reduced reliance on proprietary third-party tools used by outsourced service provider;
  • Significantly lower cost to support host and enhance the Service;
  • Increased flexibility and agility to respond to partner needs; and
  • Improved long-term sustainability both in terms of cost and service offering value.

Interviewees expressed a high degree of confidence in the work being done by the TAWG. In addition, they said steps have been taken by the NBO and TAWG to address data quality.

A review of documentation shows that "symptoms of poor quality information are evident across many jurisdictions despite the best efforts of the partnership. Preliminary assessments of the BizPaL database have identified content mapping variances, spelling and grammar errors, neglected broken links, missing data, misuse of data fields, and incorrect information. The fact that there are no Information Quality Management (IQM) benchmarks against which quality can be evaluated makes it difficult to determine the effectiveness of the varied quality control activities."27

An IQM Framework has now been developed to address issues related to poor data quality. In addition, Communities of Practice have been established to promote technology and innovation; the partners can share knowledge and expertise on such topics as quality assurance and content management.28

4.2.3 Support regulatory transformation

The logic model for BizPaL indicates that one of the activity areas is to "support Smart Regulations and Paper Burden Reduction initiatives" by analyzing opportunities for regulatory transformation. The intermediate outcome is "regulatory rationalization is enhanced and accelerated" and the long term outcome is "business related regulations are rationalized."29

There are no documents that highlight specific achievements in this regard. Some IC interviewees were not clear on what was actually intended by this element of the logic model, particularly with respect to the Smart Regulations part of the objective. The observation was made that the NBO does not have a policy mandate for regulatory reform.

Nevertheless, some success has been achieved in this area: data from 34 federal government departments and agencies have been collected and the content resides within the BizPaL database. Neither IC management nor interviewees representing other government departments were able to say whether this has contributed directly to the rationalization of regulations.

Recently, the Strategic Policy Sector of IC used the data in the BizPaL database for the F/P/T Committee on Internal Trade. It researched the extent to which business licencing acts as a barrier to inter-provincial trade in Canada. The goal of the work was to set out a methodology for identifying areas where licencing requirements are significant and thus areas that could serve as priorities for harmonization initiatives among the provinces and territories.

Both the Strategic Policy Sector and the participating consulting firm concluded that BizPaL was the only viable source of reliable and comparable information on the P/T licencing burden across a wide range of different industry sectors. BizPaL data were used to develop a "burden index" that showed the relative burden imposed by licencing requirements for each sector in each jurisdiction. By combining the data with Statistics Canada data on the number of businesses in each sector and the contribution of each sector to GDP, the report was able to identify business sectors, both nationally and regionally, that are heavily burdened by licencing requirements.

In addition, a few P/T interviewees said the inventory of provincial permits and licences in BizPaL could be used to support regulatory review initiatives within their jurisdictions. None was able to provide specific information regarding the extent to which BizPaL data have been successfully used for this purpose.

4.2.4 Provide for long-term governance and sustainability

The BizPaL governance structure is presented in the diagram below.

Diagram 1: Advisory Bodies

Diagram 1: Advisory Bodies[Description of Diagram 1]

In 2007, the BizPaL Governance Task Force (GTF) was established to confirm and finalize the Terms of Reference, mandate, membership, timeline for entrance or commitment, and administration for the Steering Committee (SC) and the Project Managers' Committee (PMC).

Membership on the SC and PMC includes one representative from each P/T, one local government representative from each P/T, one representative from IC and one member representing all other federal participants. Each jurisdiction has one vote, in order to ensure fair representation of all participants.

The SC guides the strategic direction of the BizPaL initiative in relation to the agreed principles in the MOU. The SC members represent their respective jurisdictional views; members must also step outside of that role to provide a broader national perspective on horizontal issues to support effective seamless service delivery.

Decision making is by consensus. The terms of reference state that dissenting opinions must be reconciled before any further actions are taken on the issue in question. If consensus cannot be found, the issue enters the conflict resolution process defined in the governance handbook.

The PMC, in conjunction with the NBO, supports the day-to-day operations and delivery of the BizPaL initiative by preparing toolkits, checklists and guides for use by BizPaL Project Managers. The PMC has limited decision-making authority, and is responsible for the incubation and development of plans that support the execution of the strategy. It provides recommendations and informed input to support SC decision-making.

The NBO is responsible for managing technical platform delivery, maintaining liaison with participants and other federal departments, performance reporting and articulating a promotional strategy. It manages project finances, keeps track of expenditures and draws up budgets for further development. It is also responsible for the development of new functionalities and carrying out usability studies with all participants. Finally, it is responsible for negotiating agreements with new jurisdictions interested in joining BizPaL.

In addition, other committees have been established to address specific issues. For example:

  • The TAWG is a knowledge-sharing and advisory body that investigates and analyzes technology issues and provides business-focused analysis and recommendations. The primary goal of this working group is to conduct analysis and supply recommendations for consideration on the ongoing technological aspects of BizPaL.
  • The SC established a Sustainability Task Force (STF) to address long-term governance and sustainability in December 2008. The SC recognized that the partnership requires a business continuity plan in the event the federal government or any other partner is obliged to withdraw from or reduce their contribution to BizPaL beyond the 2011–12 transition year.

Overall, all categories of interviewees are supportive of the partnership model as the basis for the governance of BizPaL and noted that it was particularly effective in the earlier phases of BizPaL. Interviewees were also impressed with the professionalism and dedication of NBO staff, and acknowledged they have a challenging role within the partnership.

However, most interviewees agreed that, as the partnership has expanded, the governance structure has become increasingly cumbersome. They said governance now requires improvement. Their observations included:30

  • The consensus model for decision making is awkward, particularly given the number of players involved and their differences (longevity, capacity, expectations, and size).
  • The governance structure and consensus decision-making approach require substantial support from NBO staff, who prepare documentation and provide support to the various committees.
  • There is strong support for reducing the number of committees. Some interviewees indicated the SC and PMC could be combined given the redundancy in membership for some jurisdictions. Others feel there is a distinct role for each.
  • Quorum is an issue because of the required composition (1 P/T and 1 local representative per P/T) of committees.
  • Representation of local government within the governance structure is inconsistent. Some P/Ts do not have any local representatives on committees. Several interviewees suggested that the role of municipalities within the governance structure needs to be rethought, particularly in light of the fact that municipalities are not directly contributing financial resources to the partnership. However, most felt there should be some form of representation for local governments as they are key contributors of information and play an important role in promoting the Service to clients.
  • The TAWG has high credibility, and there was some suggestion it could report directly to the SC if the PMC is eliminated in the future.
  • The Governance Task Force and Sustainability Task Force could be merged.
  • Some interviewees feel the NBO has a stronger voice within the governance structure because of the federal financial resources dedicated to BizPaL. There is also a perception, expressed by only a few interviewees, that NBO staff are wearing two hats, one as a partner, and the other as representatives of IC priorities.
  • A few P/T interviewees said they would like to have more face-to-face meetings, whereas others need to manage restricted travel budgets.

The BizPaL logic model identifies the immediate outcome for the objective of long-term governance and sustainability as the implementation of governance and sustainability models. The evidence presented in this section shows that models have been accepted by all participants and that progress has therefore been made toward this immediate outcome. It is, however, too early to assess intermediate or long-term outcomes.

Recommendation 1: The governance structure needs to be adapted to the rapid growth, increased complexity and multi-layered stakeholders. The National BizPaL Office should encourage the BizPaL Steering Committee to consider:

  1. Reviewing the number of committees;
  2. Reviewing the size of committees;
  3. Reviewing membership of each committee; and
  4. Examining the decision-making process (e.g. consensus, quorum).

In reviewing the governance structure, it will nevertheless be important to preserve aspects of the governance that have made the partnership successful, such as the collaborative spirit, as well as the principles established to guide the implementation of the BizPaL Service.


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4.3 What are some of the barriers to success (including to the engagement of all provinces and territories)? What are some of the factors that have facilitated its success?

Interviewees identified a wide range of factors that have contributed to the success of the initiative. These include:

  • Collaboration among three levels of government;
  • Goodwill among partners;
  • A strong desire to make the initiative work;
  • NBO role: expertise / IT support from IC, as well as the skills and leadership of the NBO staff;
  • High political visibility from multiple levels of government;
  • Recognition by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business;
  • Recognition awards from various private and public sector organizations, instilling a sense of pride in people working on the initiative;
  • The fact that the program took on the bulk of the work for municipalities; and
  • The linkage to federal and provincial priorities related to red tape reduction.

Some of the P/T interviewees identified the following best practices:

  • The identification of early champions at the local level encouraged other municipalities to sign on to BizPaL; and
  • Setting targets for expanding BizPaL to municipalities elevated the priority of implementing BizPaL within P/T jurisdictions.

Based on feedback from the interviews, the key barriers to success are:

  • Awareness of the BizPaL Service by SMEs is thought to be low and to date there has not been any means of measuring the level of awareness with target users;
  • Ensuring municipalities are aware of the benefits of BizPaL has also been a challenge for P/Ts and selling the benefits requires staff time and effort;
  • A comprehensive needs analysis was not done at the outset resulting in a lack of data to really understand the needs of target users;
  • Information on client satisfaction with BizPaL is lacking;
  • Partners have varying needs, expectations and capacity;
  • BizPaL is not a consistent user experience, which creates challenges in branding the product and assessing client satisfaction;
  • Uncertainty surrounding future federal and provincial funding of BizPaL has delayed progress; and
  • Usage statistics show a low conversion rate (the percentage of visits that reached the results page), and the reasons for this are not well understood.

Recommendation 2: The National BizPaL Office should work with the BizPaL Steering Committee to improve performance monitoring practices. This will help ensure that customer needs and satisfaction is measured and that operational data on the performance of BizPaL is reported.


Recommendation 3: The National BizPaL Office should work with the BizPaL Steering Committee to raise awareness of the benefits of the BizPaL Service to key target groups and stakeholders. The program would benefit from leveraging successes achieved to date. Implementation strategies should include consideration for:

  1. Increasing awareness and interest among potential users of BizPaL (i.e. SMEs and providers of support services to business);
  2. Increasing awareness of the benefits of the Service among local governments; and
  3. Increasing awareness of the Service in federal departments and agencies that could benefit from the Service (e.g. enhanced information on business regulations to help inform regulatory reform).

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4.4 Have there been any unintended impacts (positive or negative) resulting from the BizPaL Service?

Positive unintended impacts have included the following:

  • The initiative has helped strengthen relations between the different levels of government. In some cases, relationships with business organizations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce) have also been enhanced;
  • In one case, BizPaL was implemented by three neighbouring communities as a joint effort because it was identified as a key service to support a regional economic development plan;
  • BizPaL improves the productivity of economic development staff who work with business clients by reducing the time spent developing business plans;
  • Comprehensive information on government requirements through one source helps new businesses make strategic business decisions by flagging potentially onerous requirements early in the process;
  • P/Ts are now more aware of municipal rules and regulations; and
  • The initiative has helped some municipalities identify problems with their rules and regulations, leading to changes in permits and licences.

Interviewees identified no negative unintended impacts. However, IC management identified a few lessons learned. It was suggested that a better environmental scan and research on client needs should have been done at the outset to determine if BizPaL should be linked more directly to other online tools targeted to SMEs. It was also suggested that the way BizPaL was envisioned at the outset may have been overly ambitious and may have created the impression that the Service is more than it really is.


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4.5 To what extent have the recommendations and Action Plan of the second review been implemented? How effective has this been in enhancing the overall effectiveness of the BizPaL Service?

The following table highlights how the recommendations of the last review were implemented.

Assessment of the Implementation of the Recommendations of the second review
Recommendation Assessment
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. Progress has been made with the implementation of BizPaL as indicated in Section 4.2.1.
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.

Progress has been made in this area. Since the last review, the client form has been modified and standardized so all partners are now using the same tool, allowing for improved comparative data. Web metrics have also been improved to allow tracking of conversion rates on a step by step basis. This provides accurate information on how many users get to the actual results page and if not, at what step they are leaving the system. Quarterly reports on web metrics now go to all partners and are presented at PMC calls. These improvements are significant and help guide decisions on system enhancements.
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. The TAWG has been established to address technology strategies. Refer to Section 4.2.2 for more detail on specific initiatives that have been undertaken.
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. As indicated in Section 4.2.2, the NBO and TAWG have developed an Information Quality Management Framework.
5. Review the reporting relationship between and among the partnership committees and adjust the structure to facilitate appropriate strategic oversight. The Governance Task Force led the way in clarifying the roles and responsibilities of committees within the BizPaL governance structure. Although positive adjustments were made in this area since the last review, the findings presented in Sections 4.1 and 4.2.2 indicate further streamlining is required.
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. This recommendation has been addressed. The MOU and ILAs set out the responsibilities of IC and P/T partners. NBO has strengthened project management, developed more self-service tools, and created a partner support help desk with defined service standards. A process is in place to rank and prioritize system enhancements. A partner satisfaction survey has also been conducted.

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4.6 How could the BizPaL Service be improved to enhance its efficiency and economy?

The BizPaL estimated project costs were outlined in the Project Overview.31 Between 2007–08 and 2010–11, estimated and actual federal expenditures were as follows:

BizPaL estimated and actual Federal expenditures (2007–2008 — 2010–2011)
  $ Estimate $ Actual32 $ Difference
Operational
Salaries and Benefits 3,436,000 3,260,176 -175,824
Expenditures 5,052,000 2,537,611 -2,514,389
Total Operational 8,488,000 5,797,787 -2,690,213
Capital
Salaries and Benefits 728,000 795,125 +67,125
Capital Expenditures 2,332,000 1,532,807 -799,193
Total Capital 3,060,000 2,327,932 -732,068
PWGSC Accommodation (13%) 452,000 439,324 -12,676
Total Costs 12,000,000 8,565,043 -3,434,957

Because BizPaL is a multi-jurisdictional collaboration, project activities depend on engagement and cooperation. Some of the differences between estimated and actual expenditures were the result of reduced costs because the number of partners was smaller than anticipated; others resulted from decisions made through collaboration.

Nevertheless, as evident from the findings reported in Section 4.2, the BizPaL Service has effectively achieved or made progress towards its objectives, despite lower than anticipated spending. In addition, the following efficiency and economy findings are worth noting:

  • Industry Canada took on the responsibility for federal BizPaL content – As a result, other federal departments have not had to directly invest resources in BizPaL.
  • Agreements with P/T partners include partner contributions to the Special Purpose Account (SPA) – The Intergovernmental Letter of Agreement sets out financial considerations, a cost-sharing model and cost allocations. This has resulted in $1,848,666 in partner contributions to the SPA. Industry Canada has contributed $530,593 to the SPA. Partner contributions to the SPA therefore represent almost 3.5 times Industry Canada's contribution (i.e. for every IC dollar contribution to the SPA, P/Ts are contributing $3.48). Overall, considering total IC BizPaL expenditures ($8.6 million), direct financial leveraging from partners totals $0.22 for every IC $1.00 (i.e. $1.8 million from partners to IC's $8.6 million).
  • Partners are making other contributions to BizPaL not captured in the SPA contributions – In addition to their SPA contributions, as per the agreement, P/Ts are investing their own financial and human resources in the BizPaL Service. The level of investment varies by size of jurisdiction. Smaller P/Ts reported dedicating 0.5 to 1 FTE of staff time for implementing BizPaL; some of the larger P/Ts indicated they had invested between 3 and 5 FTEs. As implementation has proceeded, the level of resources required has decreased substantially.
  • Minimal costs to participating municipalities – The cost for municipalities to participate in BizPaL has been low because many of the P/T partners have taken on a larger role, with NBO support, in inputting and maintaining municipal content. Some municipalities play a more active role in BizPaL and are therefore incurring more costs; overall, however, interviewees noted that municipal costs were minimal.
  • Low cost per reach – As reported earlier, there have been 565,866 visits to the BizPaL site over a three-year period. IC expenditures over the same period have totalled a little over $8.6 million. The average cost per reach (defined as visits) is therefore about $15.33
  • Few interviewees could identify potential improvements for enhanced efficiency – Suggestions for enhanced efficiency were limited because most interviewees believed BizPaL to be cost-effective. Two key suggestions were:
    • Reduce the current high service standard for system recovery in the event that the BizPaL Service becomes unavailable, particularly since BizPaL is not considered an essential service34; and
    • Streamline the governance structure by reducing the number of committees and perhaps reducing meeting frequency (see Section 4.2.4).

25 This is the subject of ongoing discussions among the partners. (Return to reference 25)

26 At the time of report writing the SC meeting was underway. The evaluation team is not aware of any decisions taken with respect to technology issues. A presentation deck entitled Technology Evolution Path was given to the Evaluation Team in early September. This document was to be discussed as part of the SC meetings held September 28-29, 2010. (Return to reference 26)

27 Information Quality Management (IQM) Framework. (p. 2). (Return to reference 27)

28 BizPaL Draft Community of Practice Charter. (p. 2). (Return to reference 28)

29 BizPaL Online Business Permit and Licence Project, Project Overview, Annex B. (Return to reference 29)

30 Note: although some of these observations were also made in the last review of BizPaL, some of the expressed concerns have been exacerbated by the addition of several new jurisdictions since then. (Return to reference 30)

31 Annex B, BizPaL Online Business Permit and Licence Project, Project Overview. (Return to reference 31)

32 Includes actuals for 2007–08 to 2009–10 and forecasts for 2010–11. (Return to reference 32)

33 Although it is difficult to obtain comparable cost-per-reach data for other services, information available to the consulting team shows that the cost per reach for the Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre was $11.83 in 1998. (Return to reference 33)

34 The ILA sets technology service levels that must be maintained by a third-party provider. The basic service standards include (The BizPaL Initiative Intergovernmental Letter of Agreement, p. 20):

  • The service must be available 99% of the time;
  • The Network must be available 99% of the time;
  • All of the BizPaL services must have a response time of no more than 2 seconds from the time that the user or requesting application makes a request;
  • The BizPaL database and supporting files are backed up nightly Monday to Friday; and
  • The recovery time for the BizPaL application is 24 hours from the declaration of a severe service interruption. (Return to reference 34)

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Description of Diagram 1

The Steering Committee (SC) sets the strategic vision of the BizPaL initiative and is the decision-making body. The Project Managers' Committee (PMC), in conjunction with the National BizPaL Office (NBO), supports the day-to-day operations and delivery of the BizPaL initiative. The PMC is tasked by the SC and is responsible for providing recommendations and informed input to support SC decision-making.

There are two tasks forces that provide support to the SC, namely the BizPaL Government Task Force (GTF) and the Sustainability Task Force (STF).

Similarly, two working groups provide support to the PMC, namely the Technology Architecture Working Group (TAWG) and the Marketing and Communications Working Group.

Return to Diagram 1


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Management Response and Action Plan

Recommendations Management Response and Planned Action Management Accountability Action Completion Date

Recommendation 1:

The governance structure needs to be adapted to the rapid growth, increased complexity and multi-layered stakeholders. The National BizPaL Office should encourage the BizPaL Steering Committee to consider:

  1. Reviewing the number of committees;
  2. Reviewing the size of committees;
  3. Reviewing membership of each committee; and
  4. Examining the decision making process (e.g. consensus, quorum).

In reviewing the governance structure, it will nevertheless be important to preserve aspects of the governance that have made the partnership successful, such as the collaborative spirit, as well as the principles established to guide the implementation of the BizPaL Service.

Agreed. If BizPaL is renewed beyond March 31st, 2011, the National BizPaL Office (NBO) in collaboration with the Steering Committee (SC) would review the current governance structure and identify methods in which it can be modified to adapt to rapid growth, increased complexity and multi-layered stakeholders.

NBO Manager in collaboration with the BizPaL SC.

April, 2012

Action Plan: The current governance structure including the number, size and membership of each committee along with the decision making process (consensus, quorum), are detailed in the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will expire March 31, 2012.

A preliminary discussion regarding renewing the MOU and the governance structure took place at the Steering Committee (SC) partnership meeting in September 2010. SC members concluded that the governance structure should be streamlined; however, partners felt that further discussion and decisions should be deferred until an announcement regarding any future federal funding for BizPaL has been made. Discussions on the topic will resume, if appropriate, at the next SC partnership meeting anticipated to take place in June 2011.

Preserving the aspects of the governance structure that have made the partnership successful, such as the collaborative spirit, as well as the principles established to guide the implementation of the BizPaL service would continue to be the foundation of the adapted governance structure chosen to move forward.

 

 

Recommendation 2:

The National BizPaL Office should work with the BizPaL Steering Committee to improve performance monitoring practices. This will help ensure that customer needs and satisfaction is measured and that operational data on the performance of BizPaL is reported.

Agree. If BizPaL is renewed beyond March 31st, 2011, the NBO in collaboration with the SC would explore options to ensure that an ongoing approach to collecting information on client needs and operational performance is established.

NBO Manager

March, 2012

Action Plan: Client needs and operational performance has been and will continue being collected and measured in the following fashion:

 

 

Client Feedback: Presently, feedback collected on the BizPaL service is done on a voluntary basis through an anonymous feedback form which is made available on the BizPaL website in addition to the websites of various partners. Feedback is reported on quarterly.

NBO Manager

Quarterly reports throughout the fiscal year.

Client Needs Research: The NBO conducted a literature review on client needs. This research included; understanding the main characteristics of business owners, their priorities, the environment in which they grow their business, their Internet usage trends, and their expectations of government services.

 

 

Should BizPaL receive funding beyond March 31, 2011, the NBO and SC will explore the possibility of conducting more thorough client needs research and analysis.

NBO Manager

March, 2012

Metrics: The NBO analyses BizPaL website metrics in order to identify client trends and possible needs. Through the use of Google analytics, the NBO is able to track metrics which among other information, provides insight on what clients are searching for. These metrics have allowed the NBO to expand BizPaL information holdings and to make appropriate partnerships with those who can best fill information gaps. Website findings are reported on a quarterly basis.

NBO Manager

Quarterly reports throughout the fiscal year.

Usability Testing: Usability testing was conducted to benchmark the performance of the current BizPaL service and assess it against the new/improved BizPaL service.

NBO Manager

March, 2012

Recommendation 3:

The National BizPaL Office should work with the BizPaL Steering Committee to raise awareness of the benefits of the BizPaL Service to key target groups and stakeholders. The program would benefit from leveraging successes achieved to date. Implementation strategies should include consideration for:

  1. increasing awareness and interest among potential users of BizPaL (i.e. SMEs and providers of support services to business);
  2. increasing awareness of the benefits of the Service among local governments; and
  3. increasing awareness of the Service in federal departments and agencies that could benefit from the Service (e.g. enhanced information on business regulations to help inform regulatory reform).

Agreed. If BizPaL is renewed beyond March 31st, 2011, the National BizPaL Office (NBO) in collaboration with the Steering Committee (SC) would review the current governance structure and identify methods in which it can be modified to adapt to rapid growth, increased complexity and multi-layered stakeholders.

NBO Manager in collaboration with the BizPaL SC.

March, 2012

Action Plan: Industry Canada (IC) is currently engaged in a contract for a national marketing campaign targeting increasing awareness and interest among potential users of BizPaL. The marketing campaign's specific objectives are to: increase the overall usage of the BizPaL service by improving client awareness and to increase BizPaL recognition through cohesive and consistent marketing communication, activities and messaging.

The NBO manager in collaboration with Industry Canada's Communication Branch.

March, 2011

The marketing campaign includes adwords and banner ads which will be made available on various search engines.

 

 

The BizPaL Intergovernmental Letter of Agreement (ILA) clearly stipulates that liaising and coordinating ongoing BizPaL activities with Local Governments, such as marketing and communications, is the responsibility of the provinces and territories. The NBO will continue to support the provinces and territories in their efforts to increase awareness among and/or within their local governments. BizPaL intelligence in the form of documentation, consultation and BizPaL promotional items will continue to be readily available to partners, however, the NBO will not be taking the lead in this activity.

 

 

The NBO is currently developing a federal outreach strategy to increase awareness of BizPaL among federal departments. The focus of this strategy is to identify possible synergies for service fulfillment (transactional services, on-line forms), service integration (the integration of BizPaL into other service to business offerings), and marketing opportunities.

NBO Manager

March, 2012

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