The pressure is always on to make government services to the public and to the business community faster, more efficient, better and as inexpensive as possible. Patrice Dutil, the editor of CGE, connected with Nancy MacLellan, the President of the Institute for Citizen Centred Service (ICCS) to discuss what is on the innovation horizon. The ICCS is a non-profit organization funded by the federal government and provinces and territories. By day, Nancy MacLellan is the Associate Deputy Minister of Community Services in the Government of Nova Scotia since 2013. Before that, Ms. MacLellan served as executive director of service delivery at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. She joined the Nova Scotia public service in 1997, earned an MBA from St. Mary’s University in 2002, and has worked at the Nova Scotia Treasury and Policy Board, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, and Service Nova Scotia before joining the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services.

Q: What do you think of this new “deliverology” talk in Ottawa?

I’ve been around long enough to have had experience in the development of mission statements, ISO 9000, Total Quality Management, Balanced Scorecard, Six Sigma, and now “deliverology”. All of these structured approaches to improved effectiveness and efficiency have benefits – mostly because they “force” a focus on return on investment – whether the investment is money or people and whether the return is monetary or more qualitative and outcome based. I’m a champion of structured and planned approached and measured impact and results – or stop doing the thing!

Q: Where do you see things developing in terms of P3s in service delivery?

I think the best opportunity for P3 investment is in mobile and other technology. Some of the small technology companies can create apps and new electronic offerings quite quickly – I think this is our best hope for quick to market on-line service delivery.

Q: The latest Citizens First report published by ICCS made an eloquent case that Canadians are ready to consume a lot more services on-line. What are the challenges?

The public sector faces so many fiscal challenges and is required to balance one investment against another – an investment in electronic service delivery or an MRI machine? I worked with a smart person who used to say “the first transaction costs $5M, the second one costs $.50”, and that’s really true. There is a large up-front investment and the return on that investment can take time. Another challenging aspect is that there isn’t always appetite for the policy decisions that “push” or “pull” clients to the on-line channel. Government has positioned on-line service as an “option” – and government can usually expect around 10-20% take up. However, when “pull” incentives are introduced (discounts, expedited service) or “push” incentives (fewer store front locations, services only available electronically) some public sector organizations have seen take up in the 60%-70% range.

Q: Has the integration of services hit a plateau?

I think in many areas we’ve exhausted the “low hanging fruit” – but I don’t at all think we’ve reached a plateau. Our clients in common still have to go multiple places to tell their story and obtain services. In Nova Scotia, the focus on “life events” – whether individual or business life – has incredible potential across all levels of government. Organizing programs and services in ways that make sense to clients – “I got married”, “I had a baby”, “I had a death in my family” can really make it easier for clients to interact with government. I don’t think we’ve really scratched the surface on the social services side. Since joining the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services in 2013, we’ve been on a path of modernized and transformed social services. We’ve had great support from government and are now starting to implement some of the opportunities to reduce administrative burden, share information across programs, and really start to look at what can be done electronically with our clients: income verification, better use of the telephone as a channel, and more broadly with our colleagues in the Department of Finance, Department of Health and Wellness, and Labour and Advanced Education to better serve the “whole” client. There is so much opportunity.

I also think that this next generation of consumers will demand on-line options and will be willing to forgo a physical (“bricks and mortar”) office to get it. Governments will be challenged to maintain both over the next decade and may have to make some decisions about the relative priority of one over the other

Q: Should government be doing more to advertise the services it provides to the public?

I recall a specific experience where we had about 18% on-line service take up and during months where we advertised, our take up went up over 30%. However, it’s only meaningful if I need the service being advertised. For example, you can advertise on-line vehicle permit renewal, but if my permit doesn’t expire for 8 months, the advertising won’t mean much to me. It’s also not a sustained “bump” like discounts or service guarantees have proven to be. Instead of advertising dollars, I think a smarter investment is in our web development and understanding user experiences. If our web and on-line presences were effective, it’s the first place people would go to see if a service is offered on-line.

Q: Let’s talk about the ICCS. How are its priorities set?

I have been in and around the ICCS, for the most part, since its inception in 2001. I would say the last two years have been absolutely critical for us as we went through a full review of our lines of business: what investment have we made, what result have we achieved, and what is the future potential. This has been clarifying for both the staff and leadership of the ICCS, for the Board, and for the members and partners with whom we interact. We are fully focused on: providing secretariat support and value add to Joint Councils; providing a neutral platform for inter-jurisdictional collaboration and shared learning; undertaking research into expectations and priorities for service improvement; providing tools for client satisfaction measurement and benchmarking; supporting service culture and learning; and maintaining our position as a global authority and centre of excellence in citizen centred service delivery.

Q: The ICCS has had great successes in terms of creating citizen-focused service training. Do you think this will continue? What is on the frontier?

I’m really pleased with how this training programs have rolled out within Canada and beyond. I’m particularly energized to say that we are currently undergoing a re-fresh of the content and delivery to make sure that it’s meeting needs of 2016 and beyond. This unique offering allows public sector organizations to set the bar for their culture and for employees.

A: What is the relationship between ICCS and the Public Sector Service Delivery Council (PSSDC) and Public Sector Chief Information Officer Council (PSCIOC)?

The Public Sector Service Delivery Council (PSSDC) and Public Sector Chief Information Officer Council (PSCIOC), both of which are unique innovations on the world stage, are critical constructs of Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal government representatives who focus on service delivery and technology in the public sector in Canada. The ICCS provides critical secretariat support and enabling services to the Councils, and equally importantly provides training programs, research, and collaboration platforms for the purpose of ensuring excellence in public sector service delivery in Canada.

Q: You’re a consumer and a citizen also. As such, have you had a particularly galling or delightful experience in government service lately?

Generally, I think the public sector is held to a much higher standard of privacy, security, and identity management and those high expectations make it much more challenging for all of us to quickly introduce new offerings in the on-line and mobile world. Recently I renewed both my vehicle permit (on-line) and my passport (mail) – both of which were so easy to do – one provincial and one federal. I think these are shining examples of where an “in person” interaction is not required or desired.