Author: Systemscope

Identifying IRBVs

As per the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) Directive on Recordkeeping, Government of Canada (GC) departments are required to identify information resources of business value (IRBVs) which enable or support their mandates. But what does this really mean?

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8 Public Sector Transformation Predictions for 2013

First, the Systemscope crew extends a warm Happy New Year to our friends, clients and associates. May the year ahead bring many successes to you personally and in your various endeavours.

Ahead of the maelstrom that is the fourth quarter for the federal government, we took a moment to mark down some of our insights about transformation in the public sector. These predictions come from interactions with our clients, research of emerging business process and information technology trends and our own exploration of new ideas and approaches. And, frankly, our own gut feelings.

Let’s just say it won’t be a quiet year.

The Fog Starts to Clear

      1. Service delivery models will be architected while being engineered.  The gauntlet has dropped.  Transformational priorities have been thrust upon the community, from GC Web Renewal to regulatory service transformation, through to centralized IT and clustered service delivery.  The GC does not have the luxury of time, nor of resources to demonstrate results.  As a result, gone are the days of infinite strategizing, planning, requirements collection, procurement, design, build, implement, operate… all of which are fraught with risk.  This year we expect to see the GC adopt more agile approaches writ large. The successful ones will embrace the innovative mojo the GC once had in order to enter into an effective cycle of plan-do-measure-learn-improve.  By blending business, information and applications architecture into engineering design, through an agile and iterative approach, we will see lower risk, faster time-to-value, and accelerated benefits realization for clients, stakeholders and the GC.
      2. Lead departments, in the execution of IM strategies that focus on maximizing the use of valuable digital information assets, will radically transform the way digital information is stored, accessed and managed in enterprise information management systems. For too long now in information management the focus has been on designing systems and processes that enable information creation and information retention and disposition but do not enable or facilitate information use. Lead departments, taking cues from successful information rich web and e-commerce sites, will develop systems in which leveraging the value of information for the benefit of the organization will dominate the design paradigm, achieving the necessary, but more mundane, records management requirements in the background.
      3. There will be a surge of true enterprise wide transformation management. Although many people believe we have lived through these types of massive changes before, we’re not sure we agree. It seems like today’s large scale transformations are different, and in many ways are presenting us with the perfect storm.  They involve organizational restructuring, client needs and client service redefinition, and a total reinvention of existing service delivery channels.  And within each of these major initiatives, there are people, process, technology, and system changes.  And if that all wasn’t enough, we are continually being asked to work collaboratively with new ‘partners’ and/or people whom we may have never worked with before.
        We believe that 2013 will be the year that we all stop thinking of transformations from exclusively the project management (PM) perspective.   We are fast learning that they must be approached as enterprise-wide programs that impact each and every individual within an organization.  A PM approach is simply not created for that purpose.  So 2013 (and beyond) will focus on the creation of new enterprise-wide program tools and techniques that will provide the ‘umbrella  approach’ necessary to better weather that perfect storm!

Deadline Schmeadline

      1. ROT will be removed in 2013 whether you like it or not. Some think that ROT is done and gone, but the reality is that the initial thrust has passed with dismal results. I’m seeing 2-3% of content identified as redundant, outdated or trivial which is a far cry from the 40-60% being targeted. That’s not a prediction, just a fact. So where will go from here? I think we will see two different paths followed this year. First, communications branches will start to take the bull by the horns, and rather than trying to get program areas to identify the ROT, Communications is going to do it for them. Comms will start owning the problem, making the decisions, and removing the content as needed. The second path will be for those who continue with inertia. Rather than the department being able to identify their ROT and dissect their pages tactfully with a scalpel, someone is going to come along with a machete and do it for them. While it may end up being efficient, I’m not convinced this will be optimal for departments or users.
      2. GC Web consolidation efforts will initially meet a wall, and then overcome it. The pressure to start implementing “something” in 2013 will produce some initial strategies for information architecture and governance. But with the challenges of handling this huge effort by committee and not by a dedicated team, odds are that progress will be minimal by Q2 and anything visible will not feel like a transformation, but more of the same. Rather than let the momentum falter, there will be a rethink at the drawing board and a better plan that looks more keenly at an enterprise model and sustainable, iterative development. Governance will be framed around the role of content owner and the supporting, centralized mechanisms that must deal with the issues of user experience design, interoperability and performance.

What’s in a Name? That Which We Call…

    1. Intranets will be reborn as digital workspace. Intranets will gain prominence this year, but under the guise of a new “digital workspace”.  Intranets, as we have known them in the past, are outdated, dull and in many departments, a useless junk drawer. I think we’re going to see a new push to turn this around and create useful, effective and efficient digital workspaces for staff, of which the intranets are a component. Why now? There are a few GC priorities and cultural influences that are all now converging, leaving us in a position where we can’t help but look to our digital workspace as a new priority. These include:
      1. The evolving internet renewal driven by TBS priorities: a lot of the good ideas from these are also going to be viewed as good ideas for internal web presences).
      2. Workplace 2.0: with an eye to working differently the collaboration and communication spaces used by staff will need to evolve if there’s to be any success with “working smarter”.
      3. Enterprise Information Management, TBS RK compliance and GC Docs are all going to require some sort of interface and document collaboration space and the internal web space will have a critical role here.
      4. Departments will start to evolve to developing “digital workspace” strategies, rather than IM/IT strategies, to keep pace with public and employee expectations for the delivery of open, efficient and effective government.
      5. A cultural shift in departments where the DRAP ideals of efficiency are now not just being applied to the web sphere, but a driving force behind the scoping and management decisions for our web spaces.
    2. We start caring less about social media but more about mobile. As mobile device ownership overtakes desktop and laptop computers, anywhere anytime access to web content via a smartphone or tablet will be expected by both citizens and government employees. Social media will simply be a component of a basic communications strategy instead of a separate stand-alone channel. Mobile media, however, and the features untethered web access allows for such as location-based services or augmented reality, as well as the mobile wallet, will require clear understanding of user contexts and close alignment of GC-wide enterprise needs to prevent duplicate mobile services and multiple similar-use apps.
    3. Task-based design starts to turn towards transaction-based design. The new TBS standards for the Web have put the concept of “task-based design” in the lime light. Departments are cutting huge swaths out of their websites (in theory) based on defining what tasks users are trying to complete, and what they are not. This isn’t going to go away in 2013 and nor do I think it should. However, I think some of the struggles we have in delivering on this task completion due to internal capacity and alignment of mandates with user needs will give way to a new focus on “transaction-based design”.  As departments get increasingly serious about streamlining their websites this year, I think we will see transactional concepts emerging as the definition for not just “what’s really important to users”, but more so the intersection between important to users and useful content or services that can actually be provided.

GTEC 2012: Presentations Available

Systemscope returned to GTEC this year on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Thanks to all who joined us for our two informative sessions focusing on collaboration and innovation in an environment of constant change.


Session 1: Innovations from the Systemscope Lounge

During a single session, through a set of fast-paced presentations, Systemscope consultants presented a series of provocative principles that challenged assumptions while providing practical gems to spark your imagination, stir your curiosity and inspire the innovator within.  Download individual presentations by title, or download all presentations in one pdf.

The treasure trove of Systemscope gems covered the following topics:

Session 2: Preparing for GCDOCS

Systemscope’s Enterprise Information Management professionals gave a rousing presentation to a packed audience on preparing for GCDOCS. Owing to the Directive on Recordkeeping and its 2015 compliance date, departments are hurtling towards EDRMS adoption at a rapid rate without a coherent plan, without being adequately prepared and without knowing what adequate preparation would involve.  Is EDRMS a technical tool? An RM tool? or is it the new electronic working environment for the entire enterprise?

The “Info-Lins” of Systemscope explored various EDRMS visions and strategies, what organizations need to know before beginning an EDRMS implementation, common challenges of EDRMS implementation and more. Download Preparing for GCDOCS.


Thank You Ottawa Web Usability Community for a Great Event!

At the end of September, Systemscope and Neo-Insight co-hosted usability expert and Optimal Workshop co-founder Trent Mankelow from New Zealand.  Trent, Neo-Insight’s Lisa Fast and Systemscope’s Denise Eisner shared their expert insights about web usability as it pertains to the Government of Canada’s (GC) Usability Standard.  A more in-depth summary of usability and key takeaways are coming in Denise’s next blog post.

It was exciting to have such a great turnout at our first-ever Innovations from the Systemscope Lounge event.  The passion and dedication all the attendees have for usability is inspiring and motivating.  We were happy to receive such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of people in the Systemscope Lounge and appreciate that they took time out of their busy schedules to attend.

The entire Systemscope team would also like to extend a huge thank you to our speaker Trent Mankelow for taking the time out of his North American speaking schedule to come to Ottawa and to our co-host NeoInsight for providing examples of their expertise to our audience.

We look forward to holding more events in the Systemscope Lounge and seeing you there!

If you are interested in attending future Systemscope Lounge talks about the Government of Canada web presence, please contact Denise Eisner ( to be included on the mailing list. We appreciate all inquiries, but preference is given to Government of Canada professionals.


As one of the newest consultants to join the Systemscope team, I can honestly say that I feel as though I am up to my eyeballs in new terminology and acronyms.  Mastering this lingo is like learning a new language, and as a consultant one of my roles is to translate, clarifying areas of confusion to ensure that everyone is talking about the same thing.  As I have come to understand, one client’s “framework” is another’s “strategy,” “action plan,” etc.  One of the key things I have learned in my time at Systemscope is that discussion and setting expectations at the outset of a project – including defining the terminology that will be used in order to ensure we are all “singing from the same hymnal” – is so important.

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Information Architecture – which one?

Are you looking for one for discovery, knowledge sharing, records classification, collaboration, case management, SharePoint, GCDOCS or all of the above?? It’s becoming very confusing and different Information Architects are offering up an array of seemingly different approaches to choose from.

I’m one of those Information Architects. My focus is on digital information. I’m interested in “foundational” enterprise information architectures; and I’m also interested in specific goal-oriented and/or system-based “implementation” information architectures. My strong belief is that they are not mutually exclusive approaches; but you have to start by understanding how you are going to approach the foundational piece to ensure the integrity and interoperability of potentially multiple implementation architectures.

Now you’re probably even more confused. So I’m going to start by stating some basic truths about digital information (in a government department) that I think we can all agree on:

  • we have a lot of it, in many forms, created internally or gathered from external sources
  • an information asset, like any other asset, has more value the more it is used, now and over time
  • we don’t know what we have unless we can find it
    • we can’t find it unless it is organized in some way or we have a really great, intelligent search tool
  • we have to manage it (as an asset)
    • we can’t manage it if we can’t understand what it’s for and what it’s value is
  • we need to share it
    • we can’t share it if we don’t understand its value to others and what can be used in what circumstances
  • we have to classify it in order to ensure we are retaining it for the appropriate amount of time
    • we can’t classify it if we don’t know what it’s for and its business value

Moving on, in the workplace . . .

  • when we collaborate we create and use information . . . we have to manage it etc. etc. . . .
  • case management is essentially about managing sets of related information along a defined process or stages . . . we have to share (at least some of) it . . . we have to classify it etc.

Then there’s the technology . . .

  • SharePoint provides a collaboration environment for creating, managing, sharing and classifying information – its technical environment is proprietary and has its own set of features and limitations
  • GCDOCS enterprise content management suite provides an environment for creating, managing, sharing and classifying information – ¬its technical environment is proprietary to OpenText and has its own set of features and limitations

Recently, at Systemscope, we have been involved with information architecture projects involving all of the above considerations.

We have learned that you have to start with a technology agnostic, enterprise information architecture to address that first, most important batch of considerations – how to organize, manage, share, and classify all information resources. We have learned that these architectures are most stable and relevant when based on core business functions stemming from the department’s mandate, Program Activity Architecture and, if one exists, its Function-based Classification System.

This activity-based enterprise information architecture identifies an organization’s high-level activities, the business groups that conduct them, and the “subjects” or “business objects” (such as programs, clients, industry sectors, organizations) that are acted upon, used or referenced in the execution of the business activity. It also identifies the specific “types” of information resources associated with the activity. In other words, the enterprise Information architecture determines the Business Context for the information resources, as shown below.

Enterprise IA diagram

The important Life-cycle Context (to demonstrate the integrity and reliability) of an information resource is represented by the other facets shown, while additional information about the resource may be captured for specific goals such as records management (or project management, for example) and for specific systems.

These facets are captured as information metadata and can be implemented in different ways in different systems to achieve a variety of goals.

For those of you who know about SharePoint architectures, in SharePoint document management and collaboration implementations, we have applied this technology agnostic architecture by using the SharePoint Content Type feature to associate information resources to business functions. In other words, we have associated each core high-level activity with a Content Type that is assigned the right “Managed Metadata Term Sets” for the related sub-activities and subjects. The Managed Metadata associated with each Content Type are then used to accurately determines what an information resource (using the Content Type) is for, why it is of value and how it should be classified. This ensures consistent architectures across site collections and sub-sites where the Content Types are used, while still allowing for:

  • different solution/site “implementation” architectures to account for system capacity and performance factors
  • “implementation” collaboration and case management site architectures, using single purpose sub-sites or libraries etc. for more finely grained metadata inheritance at the lower architectural levels
  • use of Content Types (as children of the activity-based Content Types) for specific document type templates
  • different metadata-based navigation and search solutions for enterprise and lower-level team knowledge sharing requirements
  • site or library-based IM rules to automatically identify and capture active “authoritative” information of business value
  • a virtual Knowledge Centre across all sites
  • back-end repositories for managing long-term retention of inactive information resources of business value

The technology agnostic, enterprise information architecture can also be applied to GCDOCS folder-based architecture (with metadata inheritance and capture) for use of GCDOCS as a records repository back-end or as a standalone solution.

So the bottom line is while information architectures may come in different forms to achieve different “implementation” goals, the enterprise information architecture provides the foundation and should be thoroughly described and thought through before single-purpose implementations are designed. It would be a mistake to start the other way around and find you are trying to maintain the integrity of an enterprise architecture based on system constraints, document templates, particular case management and workflow requirements, or a business group’s particular way of sharing information amongst themselves.

Which architecture should you have? Have all the ones you need.