Delivering open and transparent public consultation tools, overcoming internal skepticism, and building client credibility… on a fast-tracked schedule

In a perfect world, enterprise technology solutions connect people seamlessly, enabling robust public participation in government. Unfortunately, the world is seldom perfect. Overcoming internal skepticism and conflicting agendas around high-stakes government projects requires consensus-building and empowerment skills, on top of tech systems expertise.


Public Sector Client – Ministry of Environment

The Problem

The Ministry of Environment (MOE) needed to upgrade a legacy system that stored, tracked and shared environmental assessments. Communication needed to be closer to real time and transparent - making it easier for the public and applicants to see the status of assessments and participate in the process.

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The Complication

There was no doubt MOE's environmental assessment legacy system needed to be upgraded. But conflicting agendas put the project at risk.

The Ministry didn't have the budget to undertake a massive overhaul on its own. As such, it was part of a large resource management project whose sponsors insisted this project come under their portfolio.

Our clients at Environmental Assessment (EA) felt this would stall their project indefinitely. Their concerns weren't unfounded: the vendors engaged in the large resource management project could offer no clear estimates of time or effort required - only astronomical budget proposals. The sponsors of the large project had already spent many millions of dollars, without showing meaningful results.

Second, EA was feeling pressure to join the larger project. The sponsors of the larger project believed that implementing a single solution for all was the only way to ensure compatibility - even if that meant moving slowly and spending exponentially more.

Finally, there was a struggling movement within government - partly brought about by our successful work at the Justice Department - to move into cloud based, single page applications. To some, this was a bridge too far.

The Solution

We joined the team a few months into the project, after the initial vendor failed to produce a prototype. Within 6 weeks, we produced a working prototype with limited functionality.

To help build confidence in our cloud-based, single page applications, we hosted the prototype ourselves on a public cloud. The Associate Deputy Minister (ADM) gave us the go-ahead to put the code onto a public git repository. This supported our client's forward-looking leadership team, offering them a measure of protection from opposition.

We saw the strategic necessity of respecting the larger resource management project and attended meetings with the stakeholders and vendors. Further, we offered up solutions for future integration that satisfied the stakeholders, effectively removing the political obstacles EA had faced.

At month three of our engagement, we were faced with a significant challenge: a public consultation was required around the proposal for a new mine.

New mine projects are always highly contentious, and require extensive consultation with the public, First Nations and stakeholders. The process is painstakingly exact, detailed, and requires that each public inquiry be addressed in detail by the proponent.

We created and launched this nimble, highly transparent system within 5 weeks. Our system was fully operational, fielding tens of thousands of public comments and inquiries, assigning them to the proponents, ensuring the proponents responded, and correlating all the responses into major issues and mitigations.

This highly public success gave EA breathing room from its parent Ministry in terms of integrations. It also provided EA the credibility to become a front row player in Ministry projects. Finally, it quelled the concerns of many internal detractors.

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Thinking Beyond Technology

The success of a project like this hinges on business and HR strategy, as much as technological prowess.

To win support we held many sessions with various client teams. Our goal was not to explain, but to closely listen and understand their roles, organizing structures, workflow, roles and responsibilities.

At a deeper psychological level, we wanted to capture how each team understood their contributions to the overall process and outcomes. And learning their language and thought processes, we were able to present solutions in ways they understood and appreciated, winning their buy-in for integrations and automations that were previously not possible.

Our job was to show them that we were on the same team, working toward the same outcome.

With this support, we were able to deliver the entire project, and the sub-project of public engagement around the new mine, on time and on budget. This project became a template on which all subsequent single page cloud-based applications were based. We're proud to report the movement to the cloud has grown tremendously in government, and continues to gather momentum today.

The Learnings

The most significant learnings on this project were not technological, but psychological.

We specialize in large, complex solutions. In any such solution, the buy-in of many diverse teams is critical to success.

On this particular project, we addressed these particular sensitivities:

  • How to diplomatically address the suboptimal progress of a vendor previously commissioned by key team members,
  • How to reduce fear around greater transparency and public visibility around contentious new government projects,
  • How to win team buy-in for a process that would deliver faster handoffs and less back-and-forth, but come with unfamiliar steps,
  • How to recognize and honour the passion and dedication of hundreds of employees who genuinely wanted to do a better job but felt let down by previous promises of 'progress'.

We specialize in large, complex solutions. In any such solution, the buy-in of many diverse teams is critical to success.

Featured Project 1

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