Service Transformation Branch — Kelsey’s year-end reflections 2022
In the spirit of transparency and candour, Kevin and Kelsey publish weeknotes reflecting on the what and why for their team — here’s Kelsey’s reflections on 2022 and musings on what’s to come.
Mid-way through 2022, I had the opportunity to join the Service Transformation Branch at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. This was the change I was looking for — a chance to go from problem definition to design to delivery of government services, including all the sticky layers of policy, new/legacy technology and organizational design. It’s been a blast. I know why my predecessor, Jillian Carruthers, says it’s the best job she’s ever had. I miss the fantastic Service Design team at Government Digital Experience, but have appreciated this new opportunity and challenge.
Off the top — my 2022 retro below will not measure up to Kevin’s 2022 reflection. Work and life have been a ride this year and now it’s time to wind down and close the laptop sooner than later. My notes will be shorter and will omit some very noteworthy things — apologies. I’ll keep it high-level and more structural/team-focused.
Some key things that happened and what’s ahead in 2023:
New leadership for the Service Transformation Branch and home within the new Strategic Services Division — same change agenda
Jill, Kevin and Harry got the momentum going with the branch through 2021. In 2022, the team expanded to welcome two service designers, Jackie and Laura (designers lent to us from the central sector IM/IT shop, with focus on ENV services). This year the team was embedded in service, design and delivery conversations in every division — an impressive feat after the branch’s short existence.
There’s never a good time for a hand-off, but Jill set things up to be fairly smooth when she stepped away from the team in June and I joined at the end of that month. Amy also joined ENV as the lead of STB’s new home, the Strategic Services Division. Her leadership and the bringing together of strategic policy, indigenous engagement and service transformation is exciting. I think we’re still aligning on the promise of this group yet, but it feels like 2023 will be the year for the division to tighten up our services to support the ministry.
Acting in the Executive Director role for the branch has given me a renewed appreciation for TA (temporary assignment) roles. TAs are at once an incredible opportunity to gain experience in a new role and can also feel like an extended job interview (slightly stressful). Imposter syndrome has been a struggle for me these last six months — a big thanks to Kevin for his vocal support in this space! Note: cheer on your colleagues whenever you can.
I am a different leader than Jill. It took me a while to be okay with this. Stepping into big shoes is never easy. This year taught me to both lean into who I already am as a leader — and to borrow from leaders I admire to bring new perspectives to my practice. For those that know me, they know I love seeing the ‘bigger picture.’ Amy has been incredibly helpful in sharing the bigger picture of the natural resource sector and helping me align our work with key priorities. Both Jill and Amy have influenced my approach to working in historically male-led natural resource sector. Lessons learned this year on being stronger, clearer and more direct when communicating ideas and approaches.
For the branch, this year highlighted the two sides of our coin (delivery and conditions to scale). Delivery is the strategy, yes. AND — we need to build the conditions to scale delivery so that teams don’t need to jump through the same hoops again and again across the organization.
A perfect example is the hard work put in by the Environmental Protection Digital Services team for its agile vendor procurement Request for Proposals. Their novel approach was then re-used by two other Product Teams across the ministry. If STB can continue to support building out resources like these, we will accelerate the pace of service transformation and delivery of new, digital products across the ministry.
Capital projects as accelerators for change
Two large capital IM/IT projects came on board for ENV this year within Environmental Protection Division and the new Compliance and Enforcement Division. The momentum from these two new teams (and budget) is palpable in the organization. These are dedicated teams working in new (agile) ways building new, sustainable digital applications, with wrap-around supports to help transform the policy, organization and legacy technology to ensure value in the long-term. It’s a great set-up for improved service delivery.
In 2023 we’ll need to start delivering on these investments. It will require us to ensure the teams are continuing to revisit the needs of the users. And that the organization is aligned to sustain new and existing digital applications for the long-term. 2022 was the set-up. 2023 will be the year for digital service delivery.
We’ve also seen these capital projects and teams position themselves as Digital Services teams. This is an important shift from a single product or portfolio focus, to one that encompasses existing technology, web content, policy and service design and digital application development for a division.
In 2023, we’re looking at how best to equip these teams with the roles and support they need for sustained impact. What’s a sustainable operating model for teams when the capital funding runs out?
Growing the (distributed) team across the organization
Part of the set-up for service transformation is embedded digital leadership across the organization. In 2022, we introduced two new roles into ENV — a Director, Digital Services in both the Environmental Protection Division and Climate Action Secretariat. This organizational investment and orientation towards digital service delivery is significant. It will help provide oversight, coordination and strategic direction to divisions as they work to modernize their existing IM/IT applications and chart a path for new digital service design and delivery. These roles expand the STB model — they become part of our extended team within divisions.
In 2023, the Climate Action Secretariat role will be fully established and firming up its priorities. The Environmental Protection Director will continue to bring together the team they need and oversee delivery on the division’s capital project. Together, these roles start to build a strong backbone with STB, support for Product Owners and service transformation bench strength across the ministry.
Connecting services and finding common opportunities across the natural resource sector
When I first joined ENV, I was looking forward to focusing on a line of services within a ministry or topic area. While this is true for the role, it’s essential we see ourselves as part of a sector suite of services. ENV services are just one step in a connected service journey for people and organizations engaging with B.C.’s environmental and natural resources.
Across the sector, ministries share some key traits:
- Our services are often similar: permitting, monitoring, compliance and enforcement etc.
- We focus on the land mass and work from a similar context grounded in reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
- In part because we all engage with a central IM/IT shop (Natural Resource Information Digital Services), our delivery teams have a fairly common structure and approach.
From my (fairly new) perspective, the sector’s digital services are maturing and our teams are self-organizing to identify common challenges and opportunities. There is a real opportunity to weave digital service teams together to ensure we’re designing for the full user journey (such as the lifecycle of a mining application, assessment, permitting and monitoring). We need to approach our data as a sector and define digital career paths across ministries to help retain and grow staff.
2023 will see the increased need for the sector to collectively identify its service priorities, and then fund, organize and support teams around them.
Quick note on delivery
- CleanBC was a highlight in this space — the strength of the team that delivered it, and the lessons we learned along the way (not to mention, where to next).
- The BC Parks team launched multiple services, with the release of the new camping reservation system and day use passes earlier this year. While I wasn’t around for it, fantastic to see STB’s early support for this work helping push things live.
- Congrats to the Clean Growth Digital Service team’s launch of Clean Industry Fund application this summer (no STB support on this one, just the strength of the mature Product Team).
Onwards to 2023 and the opportunities and potential it brings with it!
Cheers to the STB team and all those we’ve collaborated with in 2022.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and do not represent those of the Province of British Columbia or any other parties.