There is a pan-Canadian movement underway to restructure e-channel services that are being delivered to citizens, according to industry experts at the Shifting Sands service transformation conference in Halifax last week.
The conference was presented on behalf of Dalhousie University’s School of Public Administration and the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).
One of the panellists who spoke about the restructuring and realigning of services across multiple channels was Darlene Joyce, director of e-service for Service Nova Scotia.
“Part of our five-year plan that we have established includes ‘One Client, One Vision’ as part of achieving client-centric service delivery,” said Joyce.
The One Client, One Vision essentially provides citizens a one-stop-shopping experience for accessing government services, as opposed to having to go to different departments or branches for different services.
Joyce stressed the importance for government service providers to understand the services they’re providing as well as the services that clients expect, as part of a more integrated service delivery vision.
“Performance measurement is key to ensure that we’re giving citizens what they need,” said Joyce.
Service Nova Scotia is currently providing 50 programs, and has 39 offices across the province with over 1.5 million citizen-based services.
“With our online channel we have over 600,000 information requests with 90,000 transactions, and 10 access centres,” said Joyce.
She also outlined the channel strategy guiding principles, which include the consideration of authentication, privacy, security and program compliance requirements, customer needs and preferences, and alignment with government policy.
She added that the online channel will be established as a basis for other channels.
“We want to leverage existing systems that we have (i.e. business registration) to enhance service delivery.”
Lois Fraser, assistant deputy minister for Service B.C. also echoed the importance of having a citizen-centred service delivery approach.
Service B.C. has outlined four goals for its service strategy, said Fraser, which includes easy access to services, making government services more efficient, and promoting public confidence in government’s e-service channels.
Fraser said this restructuring requires a transformation of the workforce at Service B.C., including skills and culture.
“We have 43 projects across government that will take us to that citizen-centred approach,” said Fraser. “We will focus on a more coordinated approach which will include increasing online access.”
Fraser said the service transformation falls in line with Service B.C.’s restructuring and a theme of innovation which includes wanting to attract and retain the “right staff”, and to reinvigorate and re-brand.
“We are looking to provide a single, seamless approach for both ministry clients, as well as citizens of B.C.,” she said.
Service Ontario is also aiming to provide a seamless approach for citizens, according to its assistant deputy minister, Richard Steele, who noted that the volume of transactions online has been increasing rapidly.
“There is a variation in the channel mix,” Steele said. “Overall, our in-person channel remains our most highly-used channel, but that ratio varies enormously for business-focused services with higher online use.”
Steele said there has also been a consistent ratio of online uptake regardless of geographic factors.
“Service Ontario has seen the greatest success with online service integration, and has found it easier to integrate services online versus other channels,” he said.
Surprisingly, the GTA has had the lowest uptake for online services, according to Steele. There are also areas in Ontario where broadband access and the comfort level with the online channel are still an issue.
The biggest challenge for e-channel services, however, is legacy systems, Steele said. “There is extreme fragmentation in terms of technology and related infrastructure that’s being used.”
Key priorities for Service Ontario with respect to its e-channel initiative include increasing marketing and awareness, improving customer experience and a major redesign of its Web site, ServiceOntario.ca.
Service B.C. is also looking to provide faster and easier access for citizens, according to Fraser, and the agency is looking to outsource technology infrastructure, contact centre services and online services to accomplish this objective.
“One of the major agreements we have is with IBM on transformation initiatives to upgrade our contact centre and Web portal technology in order to produce faster and easier access,” said Fraser.
She said Service B.C.’s multi-channel strategy will enable it to build and package common government services that meet the complex needs of citizens through each channel, with increased points of access through multi-media and partners.
“Citizens will know where to go and how to get there,” Fraser said.
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