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Advice informed by experience: Working with the consulting team at CDS

“I wish I’d known about CDS sooner!“ 

It’s been just over a year since I joined the Canadian Digital Service (CDS). As I reflect back on the work I’ve been a part of with teams across the federal government, I’ve noticed a common refrain. When we introduce ourselves and present an overview of what our consulting team can offer, we share how we understand (and sometimes have even experienced firsthand) the context and constraints departments face, and that we are here to help. It’s at this moment that our partners often exclaim that they wish they’d known about us sooner. 

At CDS, our partnerships team offers consulting services to Government of Canada (GC) teams who are looking to improve how they design and deliver public facing services. We provide tailored guidance and feedback, share resources and make connections to help teams better align with the Digital Standards. This could mean anything from restructuring web content, developing a better understanding of users, or streamlining processes to improve the service experience. In a previous post, we looked back on past partnerships with teams across the GC, and how we’ve adapted our approach over the past 5 years. In this post, I’ll share what my day-to-day work is like on the consulting team, and how we can help.

Advice informed by experience

When we describe ourselves as offering consulting services, it often evokes a very specific image of what consulting does in the private sector. While consulting at CDS uses some of the same terminology and approaches, we differ in a few ways from consulting services you might access externally.   

First, we have line of sight to government-wide operations and relationships with teams across the digital government portfolio. Second, our advice is informed by our experiences trying to affect change at scale inside government. We are always happy to share what we have learned. Lastly, there is the added benefit of speed of access since, as a centrally funded service, GC teams don’t have to go through a procurement process to work with us. 

Recognizing that every digital transformation project has its unique challenges, we’re here to help you in many different ways. We’re committed to understanding your needs and problem space, before we start proposing solutions.

It’s important for us to meet you and your team where you are as we support your journey. 

How can we help? 

One of the many advantages of being part of a multidisciplinary team is that we can bring together many areas of expertise from design, development, policy, product and strategy. This can include: helping you deepen your understanding of user needs, adopting agile ways of working in a government setting, using a product management mindset or service design techniques. 

With our team’s extensive and diverse backgrounds, our advisors can provide your team access to:

  • Reference materials built through our previous engagements and based on our experience at CDS
  • Peers across government who have faced similar challenges and found ways to circumvent them

The list above is just a small glimpse of the many ways we can help our partners grow their internal digital service delivery capacity. Throughout all our engagements with partners, we’ll work together to find ways we can best support your team and complement your efforts. 

Our team of advisors also bring a wide set of skills and experiences, which we draw on to provide guidance and feedback, share information and make connections with peers across government who are doing similar work. My range of skills include policy development and program delivery with an intersectional lens. I am particularly interested in exploring problem spaces and identifying root causes with a systemic design lens.

Whether you’re thinking about an initial concept, developing a deep understanding of your users and their needs, building prototypes or testing with the public, there are many ways we can provide support. 

Depending on the phase of your project, we can help you: 

  • make better use of funding and contracts
  • make the case for digital transformation
  • identify how you might build and sustain your service delivery 

Working together to deliver better services

Here are a couple of examples of what this work looks like in practice:

Natural Resources Canada- Flood mapping

Last winter, a partner at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) reached out to us for advice because they were concerned about duplicating content across different websites. There were two teams who were working on content about flood mapping and they were uncertain about how users would switch from one site to the other. After reviewing their drafts and learning more about their target audience, we were able to give them advice on how to ensure future content met user needs.

On one site, we had users who were seeking general information about flooding and related federal programs. On the other site, we had users who were interested in the geo-scientifc information and contributing to flood mapping data. These users had different needs and were looking to accomplish different tasks. Based on the user personas the NRCan team had already done, we were able to share recommendations on how to use that information to develop their content strategies in the future. In the end,we were able to help the NRCan team design more inclusive and consistent user experiences. 

Open Government – National Action Plan Tracker

We recently worked with another team at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) who were interested in improving the experience of people using the  Open Government National Action Plan Tracker (NAP). The National Action Plan on Open Government commits to making the Government of Canada more transparent and accountable. The tracker monitors progress on commitments made in the plan.  Working with the team at TBS, we helped identify and prioritise usability issues in order to improve the user experience of the tracker tool. We provided the Open Government team with a report prioritizing 29 issues that could impact the usability of the tool, supported with suggestions on how to improve the experience for the different users who access the tracker. 

We’re here to listen and ready to help

If you’re interested in learning more about how we can support your team’s public service delivery, get in touch with us.

Once we’ve received your request, we’ll set up some time for introductions to better understand your problem space and propose options for how we can help.   

Typically, this looks like: 

  • Meeting to understand what you’re working on
  • Discussing and confirming how we might partner
  • Agreeing on what we’ll deliver, our roles, responsibilities, expectations, and time commitment
  • Starting to work together
  • Connecting with you to evaluate the impact of our work 

Although we start an engagement by agreeing together on goals and deliverables, we are always open to adapting and pivoting our approach as needed, since there’s no fixed formula for working with us. We also iterate our service offerings based on what we learn from working with teams across the GC.

While there’s never a wrong time to reach out to us, there are definitely moments where we can provide timely advice. 

And the best way to get started? Have a conversation with us!