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What we’ve learned on our digital journey…so far

We often hear “let’s get digital” but what does it really mean? How does a large department like Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) – with over 17,000 employees – make this happen? First off, let’s just say it’s not an overnight process but well worth the effort when we see the positive impacts on employees and the people using our services.

“Let’s get digital” is more than simply digitizing or automating processes. It’s about transforming the user experience in the services we deliver. It’s about putting the user front and centre in the work we do  and adopting new behaviours and ways of working.

'Let’s Get Digital' is about transforming the user experience.

To inspire employees and help them imagine our digital future, we created “Julie’s Future Story.”

Julie’s Future Story

Our lessons learned…and counting

I’d like to share how we’re tackling getting digital at PSPC and what we’ve learned along the way with the caveat that digital transformation is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. Our approach is ever-evolving as we try new things and learn what works and doesn’t. And, most importantly, we continue to learn from others.

These are some of our lessons learned in the hope it can save you valuable time:

  • Digital transformation is not a side-of-the-desk process – it requires resources and commitment from the top.
  • Identify sponsors – senior management “cheerleaders” – who can help remove roadblocks and facilitate change.
  • One size does not fit all. Flexibility is where it’s at.
  • Users first. Users first. Users first.
  • Don’t jump to solutions too quickly, but do a deep dive into the problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Be agile. Make small changes. Iterate. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – collaborate with other branches, government departments and external experts. Chances are the perfect “wheel” is already out there.
  • Multi-disciplinary teams are the way to go and speed up the process.

Designing with users every step of the way

Just because pension issues can be complex, doesn’t mean our pension portal needs to be.

Right now, for example, we’re helping the Government of Canada’s pension program  redesign its pension portal – a compensation web application used by current employees of the public service, the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces. Pension issues can be complex but this doesn’t mean our pension portal needs to be.

The first thing our Human-Centred Design Office and the Pension team did was put together a multidisciplinary team including experts in pension, user experience, design, accessibility, technology and more.

Next, we talked to the users – about 50 of them from across government. And we didn’t just talk, we watched and listened during hour-long sessions where each user interacted with the pension portal. They told us what they were experiencing, the good, and the not so good.

The information we gathered was illuminating and invaluable. It allowed us to create “personas” – different types of users of the pension portal – and “journey maps ” capturing their experiences and pain points along the way.

The personas – 3 typical users of the pension portal

Three personas, or typical users, of the pension portal.

Meet François, who is getting closer to retirement

Long Description:  This is the persona profile for François, the Pension Planner. François is in the late stages of his career and has started thinking about life after retirement. •	François is nearing 50 years old. He has about 30 years of experience and has visited the pension portal about 80%. •	François states: “I am preparing to retire. I want to make sure that I know everything about my benefits”.  From the pension portal François needs: •	Clear and simple presentation of the benefit information for his current situation at a glance. •	Accurate information on how long he needs to work to get the full benefit. •	Comparison of the different scenarios and estimates. •	An expert advice feature for making financial decisions. •	Personalized user interface based on pre-populated data.  François is having these frustrations with the current pension portfolio: •	No way to forecast pension based on different salary options and years of service. •	Not understanding the options provided by the calculator (options summary are not presented side by side). •	Making manual calculations and validating the amount with the Pension Centre or financial advisor. •	No clear indication and explanation if the amount is gross or net and which deductions are applied to get the net amount. •	Not understanding the terminology used in the calculator such as Termination Date and Bridge Benefit. •	Inability to understand information about penalty due to complex terminology (e.g. Deferred Annuity and Immediate Annuity). •	Inability to find information on personal contributions and plan contribution rates. •	No information about the benefits after retirement (eligible health and dental care expenses). •	Confusing and unclear survivor benefit estimator (child allowance support). •	Not understanding how to change or edit average salary. •	Overwhelming to read long paragraphs.  Opportunities for improving the pension portal to meet François’ needs include: •	Clear and personalized user interface showing up-to-date information such as years of service, average salary, estimated amount and remaining time to retire. •	Forecast of pension information at a glance. •	Easy to use calculator that provides clear information (estimates) and helps users make smart financial decisions. •	A feature that compares different scenarios (for different years and salaries) with one click.
The pension planner, who is getting closer to retirement. This chart captures his age, years of service and visits to the pension portal. It also looks at his needs, frustrations and opportunities.

See François’s journey map as he uses the pension portal to plan for retirement

Long Description:  This is the journey map for François, the pension planner, as he uses the pension portal. The journey map captures François’ actions, his pain points, what he is feeling and thinking, and opportunities for each stage of his journey: discovery, authentication, first contact, operations and exit.  In the discovery phase of François’ journey: •	Action: François creates a bookmark.  •	Pain points: François wants to be able to: o	Calculate or find out his pension benefit at retirement o	Review his survivor benefits o	Make decisions about life after retirement •	Feeling and thinking: François is happy •	Opportunities: None  In the authentication phase of François’ journey: •	Action: François logs in •	Pain points: None •	Feeling and thinking: François is happy and thinks, “I love this consistent and secure login!” •	Opportunities: None  In the first contact phase of François’ journey: •	Action: François goes to the landing page. •	Pain points:  o	Too many clicks to the landing page. o	No information about how many more years he needs to serve. o	No information about current benefit amount. •	Feeling and thinking: François is neutral and thinks, “There is no information relevant to me!” •	Opportunities:  o	Presentation of François’ current benefit o	Information on how long he needs to work o	Information about upcoming courses  In the operations phase of François’ journey: •	Action: François uses the pension tools. He uses the Pensions Benefits Calculator and the Survivor Benefits Estimator. He receives an Options Summary. He possibly exits the pension portal before looking at the Option Details. •	Pain Points: o	Not believing the information provided in the portal. o	Manually calculating his benefits. o	No information about the benefits after retirement (eligible health and dental care expenses). o	Not understanding the difference between the options. o	Not understanding words such as: Termination Date, Bridge Benefit. o	The information about penalty is not understandable. •	Feeling and thinking: François starts out neutral but becomes increasingly unhappy. François thinks, “Why do I have three options? What is the difference?” and “I just want to see a number!” •	Opportunities: o	Option to run different scenarios with one click. o	Simple explanation between different options. o	Clear and understandable breakdown of the benefit.  In the final exit phase of François’s journey: •	Action: François either logs out of the pension portal or contacts the Pension Centre. •	Pain Points: Having to call the Pension Centre to validate the amount. •	Feeling and thinking: François is unhappy, thinking, “I need to talk with the Pension Centre again!”  •	Opportunities: None.
This journey map captures François’ experience using the pension portal – his actions, pain points, feeling and thinking, and opportunities for 5 phases: discovery, authentication, first contact, operations and exit.

Once our multi-disciplinary team of experts understood our users’ needs and challenges, we moved to the design phase and kept it agile. We created prototypes and involved our users, and accessibility experts, every step of the way. We tested new designs with them, iterated based on their feedback and tested again.

Our latest prototype provides a highly personalized experience for users. The system recognizes who they are when they log in, and brings up their key information in an interface that is intuitive, uses plain language and is easy to use. The team designed it to meet user needs and help them make important life decisions about their pensions and retirement.

Next up, is expanding the pension portal with a section for retirees from the Government of Canada, where they can easily access their pension information.

We are looking forward to the final phase of this journey when an end product is developed, tested and retested, and launched by the Pension team. Stay tuned!

What else are we doing to get digital?

We’ve launched new innovation services to help encourage digital transformation across the department and make it stick. We’re showing by doing, refining as we go and celebrating each win.

To support this transformative work, we launched the “Digital Innovation Network,” a virtual network of experts, labs and tools from across PSPC. This network provides a safe space for teams to come together to work with our user experience and digital experts. They are able to innovate, experiment, create prototypes, test new solutions with users, fail fast and learn fast and do it all over again.

We realized, for example, that when a team at PSPC wants to test out new software or technology to improve a service to clients, it can take months to procure these essential items and the digital landscape has already changed. We’ve shut down the waiting game with our Exploration Lab  – a virtual sandbox where teams can access the latest software and equipment to rapidly test and prototype in an unclassified computing environment, including cloud services.

We’ve also learned that poor services can result from poorly defined business problems. Teams often come to us with a solution in mind already and we get them to take a few steps back to do a deep dive into the real problem they’re trying to solve. Our Idea Exploration Hub facilitates workshops to help teams reframe the problem by putting themselves in the users’ shoes, and then quickly explore ideas and innovative solutions together.

These are just some of our new services. I invite you to visit PSPC’s Digital Transformation Collaboration site (internal to GC) to learn more about PSPC’s digital transformation journey and the enablers we’ve put in place to help us along the way.

We’d love to hear what you think, to collaborate together and to learn from your experiences in “getting digital”. You can contact us by email or through PSPC’s Digital Transformation Collaboration site (internal to GC).

Learn more about PSPC’s digital innovation journey

Job Aid

Digital Academy Courses

Experience Mapping: Learning through experience
Experience mapping projects can seem overwhelming at first, followed by a lot of questioning and re-evaluating how work progresses. However, the final product and results are extremely rewarding.
Natalie Martel

Natalie Martel

Natalie is PSPC’s Digital Champion and DG in the Digital Services Branch | Natalie est la championne numérique de SPAC et DG dans la direction générale des services numériques

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