Category: Business Operations
A public policy entrepreneur, open government activist, negotiation expert and loquacious blogger, David Eaves champions the cause of open data in government. Systemscope’s Denise Eisner spoke to David after his well-received appearance at the GTEC conference in Ottawa.
David, one of the open data issues that emerged during the GTEC conference was the public sector concern regarding risk. Clearly the issue hit home as you blogged about it immediately! How would you advise federal departments trying to balance openness/transparency and risk management?
The only acceptable risk is if you think people are going to do something illegal. The policy infrastructure for dealing with people who do bad things already exists. This is not to say you shouldn’t have a communications strategy about your data. People may find missing or incorrect data, but that’s OK, you can fix that.
At GTEC, you issued an open challenge to the public sector audience to open their data. Why do you think open data in government has yet to take root?
The technology for sharing is relatively new and people in government are not used to sharing. But there’s a huge appetite among a cohort of public servants and they’re trying to get their institutions interested in sharing.
So what “low hanging fruit” should government departments be thinking about when deciding which data sets to make available first?
I would find all the data sets we already share with the public and consolidate them to a single portal. It is going to cost money and it will require people, something like a swat team to make data sets ready. Sometimes you have data trapped in proprietary structures and you need to get that into a format that’s usable for the world. Edit your procurement so that any new system you buy has an open data component to it. You have to reshape the vendor market.
The return on investment for open data is not just transparency: it’s an efficiency ROI.
You started an open data Web site, ostensibly to fill a void for accessible government open data. What have you learned from that process?
The thing that surprised me the most was how far some government departments have come in sharing in their data, particularly Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada. As of today there are about 200 sets available.
Why not wait for government to finish their data portal project?
What makes the digital era so exciting is that we don’t have to wait for government to act: we can do it on our own. The datadotgc.ca site creates a safe place where we can model the behaviour we want government to display and then have them copy us. That would be the goal.
Did anything surprise you during your recent visit at GTEC?
In Canada, we’re late to the game. What makes the conversation around open data different in DC or Vancouver, is that in those places the conversation is around how we’ve come this far, and how do we keep going. In Ottawa it’s still a question of how we get past that first hump. I don’t know exactly what’s causing this, other than big projects across ministries are always incredibly difficult. A notable difference between the UK and Canada is political leadership. Open data and transparency is a real priority in England. On day one of the new conservative administration, the UK’s prime minister announced he would release more data than the previous administration.
You sound hopeful.
It’s not a huge onerous task. I think that other countries have been able to do it. They have been able to move forward. In most cases government has the data and it is extractable. There may a cost to making it ready. But it’s not a hard issue. What’s hard is shifting the culture.
There are a lot of great people doing this work and we need to support them. One group that I’ve been working with and is pushing forward is Parliament. They’re developing an XML feed to the Hansard with a launch planned for January. This is an important and huge step forward.
I’m hopeful that the incentives are in place to do open data here in Canada. There are potentially significant savings for government through efficiencies, better vendor agreements and more.
Denise Eisner is a Senior Consultant in the Government Service Excellence practice.
This year, Systemscope has played a stronger role in giving back to the community, sponsoring:
- The Government of Canada’s Charitable campaign
- Candlelighters annual golf tournament
- Chelsea School Nursery School auction
- The Blackburn Stingers Novice A Team hockey team
In addition, we supported two employees, Denise Eisner and Bryn Ferris, in taking paid volunteer days to participate, respectively, in a ride to support programs for kids with cancer and build a playground in an underprivileged neighbourhood in Ottawa.
Our latest instalment in giving back came last Friday, October 15, when Denise Eisner organized a high-calibre team of riders to raise funds and participate in the annual Junior Diabetes Ride to Cure Diabetes at Ottawa City Hall. The event seemed simple enough – 5 riders each taking 8 minute turns on a stationary bike, multiplied by 113 teams in total.
Out of our deep resource pool of 15 employees, Denise chose carefully and deliberately before naming her “dream team” in August. The cycling pedigree was impressive:
- Bryn Ferris, member of every recreational sporting league possible in Ottawa, had considered riding across Canada before he joined Systemscope and thought nothing of 150-175 km rides
- Phil Culhane, father of a figure skating champion and long-time cyclist himself
- Denise Eisner, participant in the Rideau Lakes tour and weekend recreationalist of 100-150 km per outing
- And me, Denis Barbeau, short-term interceptor type of guy (20-40 km) who prefers the hills of Wakefield to the flats of Manotick
My goal was threefold:
- Raise lots of money for a good cause (we did – over $ 600 and climbing)
- Look good (we were hot, adorned in spandex and Systemscope branding) (see photo)
- Beat Bryn, a guy little more than half my age and weight (I did, thank you)
After our spandex-clad troupe took the warm route through the Rideau Centre to City Hall, we arrived at the registration desk. We saw hordes of participants from RBC and TD, and other teams, and listened to the sounds of Bob FM. We were psyched, amped and ready to go. Like a good field general, Denise assigned us our positions and “coincidentally” put me head-to-head with her personal trainer from another team who “coincidentally” happened to be riding in the same race and timeslot and who’s bike was “coincidentally” located next to mine.
With music blaring, pompoms pumping and team mates cheering, Bryn led off at 12:00 PM sharp, followed by me, Phil, Denise and Rob. We pushed hard and did well, accumulating well over 30 km distance in under an hour. During brief intermissions, my colleagues remarked upon a number of bank representatives smoking outside our tent. “Well, at least we’re not riding to support lung cancer research” one them caustically observed.
Feeling proud of our individual and collective accomplishments, we headed back for a well-deserved celebration lunch of drinks, burgers and club sandwiches – accompanied by salads of course.
Great job team!
Denis Barbeau is Partner at Systemscope. He finished first at this year’s JDRF event.
The truth is out there. So why is it so hard to find? Performance measurement and management is often paid lip service in government, but rarely is it done well. Is it because we are afraid of what we’ll find? Will the truth affect our budget, our bonus, our credibility? Is it safer to mask the truth under a thin veil of rhetoric in saying that objectives have been met, supported by simple indicators and a lot of spin?
As accountability instruments (e.g. Fed AA, MAF, PAA, PMA) continue to grab hold, there’s nowhere to hide. Want to get credit for something – prove it! Need to avoid a crisis – manage it! Want to improve – learn and do it better! Performance management is more than just tracking and reporting. It’s critical in the upcoming climate of fiscal restraint, as well as strategic review and administrative review.
Gina Smith, A/Executive Director of the IT Project Review and Oversight Division, Treasury Board Secretariat, and Stephen Karam, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Government Service Excellence highlighted how performance management within the GC are fundamentally evolving as a result of several influences – from Administrative Review to recent OAG reports through to the need for more effective executive decision support.
Download the presentation: You Can’t Handle the Truth: Management of Performance
Back to GTEC 2010 Overview
One of the hottest tickets at this year’s GTEC! – rapid-fire innovative thinking on transformational topics from Systemscope experts and client partners.
Nine (9) Ignite presenters shared thought-provoking and challenging stories about various aspects of government transformation – giving a quick window into a variety of trends that are fueling government transformation. Using 20 slides that advanced every 15 seconds, this intense and unique format kept everyone glued to the topics.
- Goodbye Librarians… As the amount of digital data and information is growing at a dizzying pace, Linda Daniels-Lewis (Senior IM Consultant, Systemscope) notes it’s getting harder to pinpoint the best information sources. The traditional boundaries of collections management, electronic records management, data stewardship, digital preservation, and digital asset management are beginning to blur – what is the role for digital curators?
- Five Myths About Performance… Performance Dashboards That Is – Everyone thinks they want a big, beautiful dashboard, but not every organization can handle it. Denise Eisner (Senior Consultant, Systemscope) exposes the dirty myths and offers some salient truths about web performance management in large organizations.
- Clocks And Clouds: Process Analysis In the Post-Modern World – Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable. Kellen Greenberg (Director, Integrated Process Management, Systemscope) explains why knowing the difference makes a difference in effective process modeling.
- $#*! My Dad Says About Business Architecture is Steven Karam’s (Partner and Government Service Excellence Practice Lead, Systemscope) refreshing and provocative look at the trials and tribulations of Business Architecture in the Government of Canada. It also reveals an easy entry point for GC organizations looking to use Business Architecture as a means to linking strategic IM/IT investments to policy and organizational outcomes .
- RACIs – The Rosetta Stone For Your Organization – Denis Barbeau (Partner and Strategic Business Consulting Practice Lead, Systemscope) describes how RACI diagrams are used as a foundation in organizational transformation, all the while fostering high levels of engagement, a common understanding of roles and responsibilities, and a consistent vocabulary that mitigates organizational ambiguity.
Systemscope also welcomed two exciting guests to its Ignite session: public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert David Eaves to talk about Open Data: Release the Power Within! and Ron Surette (DG of Information Technology Branch, Library and Archives Canada) who expanded on his theme GC: We’re Going Paperless! … Write That Down.
Back to GTEC 2010 Overview
Systemscope returned to GTEC October 5, 2010 with three informative workshops from our consultants paired with innovative public servants. New this year was a fast-paced, provocative Ignite-style session as well as two other workshops showcasing how public sector leaders are using new approaches and methods to address the persistent challenges within Government Transformation and Performance.
Presentations Now Available!
Igniting Government Transformation: With Ignite-style presentations from Systemscope experts and client partners David Eaves and Ron Surette, DG of Information Technology Branch, Library and Archives Canada.
You Can’t Handle The Truth: Management of Performance: With Gina Smith, A/Executive Director of the IT Project Review and Oversight Division, TBS, and Stephen Karam, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Government Service Excellence.
Everything’s Different, But Has Anything Changed?: Realizing Efficiencies Through Organizational Transformation: With Victor Abele, DG of Citizen Service Strategy, Service Canada, Denis Barbeau, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Strategic Business Consulting and Stephen Karam, Systemscope Partner and Practice Lead – Government Service Excellence
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website supports the organization’s regulatory activities by providing timely access to public proceedings documents and general interest content particularly suited to consumers of broadcasting and telecommunications services. Its most frequent visitors are representatives of the two industries it regulates, who need the site content for research purposes and to participate in regulatory proceedings.
In the spring of 2009, Systemscope delivered a Performance Measurement Framework and an accompanying research program to support monitoring and reporting on the CRTC site’s performance. The Framework outlined performance indicators with respect to user experience, content and web operations.
Using the Framework as a guide, the Commission worked with a Systemscope analyst to benchmark its existing site performance to understand traffic patterns to the site among new and returning visitors, and then use analytics to improve the user experience.
Case Study – CRTC Performance Management
by Denise Eisner
Full disclosure: I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, so any hint of favourtism toward the U.S. approach to open data should be taken with a Memphis-rubbed rib in one hand and a Sam Adams lager in the other.
Open Data is the mantra within government, both here and abroad. In the U.S., government employees, non-profit organizations, developers and community activists are working together on a myriad of data mashups that take rich public data and put it into useful interfaces and onto the platforms people are using. Students with no budgets but seemingly endless spare time are publishing extremely practical applications, while tech start-ups are challenging the notion that data sitting in a dusty archive doesn’t have tremendous value: in fact it can have market value that then translates into new job creation, or what we now call “stimulus.”
The open data fervour reached fever pitch last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington D.C., where several hundred of the aforementioned groups both from the U.S. and abroad came together to talk about open data, citizen engagement and a slew of related topics. It kicked off with the clarion call by O’Reilly Media’s CEO Tim O’Reilly that “government should think of itself as a platform, to let others build on to deliver additional services to the public.”
With government as “the caretaker for vast stores of information in our national libraries, archives, research laboratories and museums” points out Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Service.Org, those in and outside that conference room should “finish the open gov revolution.” They need open data standards, and need to enforce them. Giving the government’s data to small groups, he says, can turn many small facts into one big truth.
The trouble is that the open data revolution to date has produced a lot of sexy looking government websites, but as Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation notes, not a lot of good data. Data errors and omissions have hobbled many of the U.S. government’s efforts to date. Bloated IT projects with no accountability have undermined efforts to give value to citizens, something that the U.S. government’s CIO is addressing with a deadly serious IT scorecard process that actually halted 30 projects that were in the works and cancelled 12 outright.
What’s the answer? Mr. O’Reilly has it right that government should be the platform, and I would add that the line stops there. Governments should not decide how citizens want their data, but give it freely in formats that can be used across devices and services. ESRI’s president, Jack Dangermond, encouraged government to publish maps as a shared service, one where the data sets are free for anyone to overlay with other data and gain new insights. Developer/blogger Kathy Sierra spoke passionately about creating the killer user, not the killer app. And June Cohen of the powerfully inspiring TED Conferences reached out to the audience to “harness the power and wisdom of crowds.”
David Eaves, the sole Canadian presenter at the Gov 2.0 Summit, stole the show with a fast-paced monologue describing open data successes, all built using available government data. We’ll see David soon at the GTEC conference here in Ottawa as our guest.
As the FCC’s Chairman Julius Genachowski stated, “it’s the public’s data, not ours.”
Denise Eisner is a senior consultant within the Government Service Excellence practice. Follow Denise on Twitter.
Innovation and Transformation.
Wow. Just saying those words conjures up images of wildly successful business models that disrupted industries, technological prowess that stole market shares, visionary products or services that relegated competing and highly capitalized companies into shells of their former self, and even the creation of mega-millionaire pop star phenoms overnight.
How can people tasked with transforming or innovating in their respective organizations perform under this kind of weighted expectation? Indeed, they probably don’t.
I just finished reading a book called “The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home” written by Dan Ariely. In it, Ariely, a professor of behavioural economics at Duke University, recounts a number of experiments he has crafted which lend insight into human behavior at work, and at home. One of these insights is particularly relevant when considering the often daunting task of transformation and innovation.
Ariely ran several social experiments to test an individual’s inclination to donate to a cause. He varied, however, the stimulus presented to individuals to elicit a behavioural response. One group of individuals were given a broad stimulus request such as “help the millions of people below the poverty line in Africa” (in our context this would be the dazzling innovator’s ambition) while others were given a specific, and personable, stimulus such as “help Andy, a young boy living in poverty, this is his story”). No surprise, that those in the latter experimental group donated more than those in the former.
What this tells us is interesting. In the face of a large scale problem, people can’t identify with the problem nor contemplate how their small actions contribute to a solution, so they balk under the expectation and don’t act. But, broken up into more personable, and less sizable problems, people will persevere and perform – they will react with a feeling that they can indeed make a difference. The transformation and innovation buzz – the discourse surrounding innovation’s criticality to organizations and the examples used to define what they mean – has done a disservice to the people who are tasked with doing the transformation and innovation. It has placed sizeable expectations on them, increased the distance between today and the goal, and placed the yardstick so high that taking the first step en route to improvement seems futile. The mumblings of “where do I start?” are audible.
The broad domains of service and product innovation, new product development, service transformation and service improvement – call them what you will – need a new image. In almost all cases, transformation or innovation represents “incrementalimprovements to ” or the introduction of something “different”. Indeed, when you look at the synonyms for transformation or innovation, words like “alteration”, “modification”, and “deviation” are supplied which provide a more palatable ambition to strive for. These ambitions are more practical, and more achievable. What is required to succeed is discipline in terms of business analysis rigour, strong leadership of people, direction underpinned by thoughtful road-maps, and the execution of plans. Individuals viewing their ambition in these small steps will look back on their efforts and realize that, from where they started, they have more than likely made significant transformation progress. The significant barrier of a huge expectation will have been removed.
For the Government context, this is a worthwhile thought exercise. Innovation in the public sector context is difficult, oftentimes due to the consequences of failure and the lower tolerance for risk. But this is likely a function of the ambition of innovation being akin to those dazzling examples which I referenced above. Well of course, when viewed in that light, failures can be big because the goal was commensurately large and virtually unattainable under the best of circumstances. When considered in a more more practical context, innovation and transformation efforts can become the byproducts of a disciplined approach to “tinkering”. Yes, tinkering.
So, this is a call to tinker. Tinker with your processes. Tinker with your assumptions. Tinker with your business model. Tinker away in a planned and disciplined way, and when you’re done tinkering, add the tinkerings up. And then tell me about your transformation success story.