Chapter 3.1: Corporate Business Architecture

Context

A key ongoing challenge of any statistical organization is to produce relevant high-quality statistical information and products in the most cost-efficient manner. An important consideration is the structure of the organization's business architecture. The term "business architecture" refers to business processes and rules, computer systems, and internal organizational architecture used to carry out the main business of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical information.

To avoid the proliferation of too many local business solutions and to ensure efficiency, national statistical offices (NSO) should aim to increase the use of consistent, standardized and centralized practices.

The main goal of a Corporate Business Architecture (CBA) initiative is to make corporate decisions that will result in greater organizational efficiency, increased robustness of systems and processes, and in accelerated execution of new projects and programs. Through an initiative of this kind, the statistical organization creates common project-management tools and practices to build a smoothly functioning system of governance and approval processes to respond rapidly to new requirements and tighter budgets. Box 3.1.1. presents the objectives of a CBA.

Box 3.1.1: Objectives of a Corporate Business Architecture

The continuing objectives of a Corporate Business Architecture initiative is to advance three objectives:

  1. Efficiency – savings in ongoing operating costs that can be reinvested to maintain the continuity and quality of statistical and analytical programs;
  2. Robustness – quality assurance through implementation of a reduced, unduplicated set of properly maintained and documented systems and processes; and
  3. Responsiveness – improved responsiveness in the delivery of new statistical programs through streamlining of core business processes.

The CBA is a long-term organization-wide review of the business architecture in place at Statistics Canada. By consolidating processes and standardizing systems where necessary, an organization can achieve cost savings and still maintain the highest standards of quality, relevance and timeliness in the delivery of its mission and mandate.

In 2009, Statistics Canada created the Corporate Business Architecture Task Force to consider what measures could be taken in the short term in order to advance the objectives of the Corporate Business Architecture initiative while generating efficiencies in the short to medium term.  The Task Force assessed the feasibility of achieving a 5% efficiency on the Agency's operating budget through an improved business architecture and identified measures that would significantly advance the objectives of the CBA initiative. These efficiencies fund corporate investments to maintain the quality and relevance of the statistical program, helping the Agency to deliver:

  • information that is relevant to the current, highest priority information needs;
  • information that is of a  quality that is sufficient for the uses to which it will be put; and
  • information that is produced at the lowest possible cost.

The CBA initiative introduced a number of internal projects designed to foster an environment of integration and efficiency. The projects have defined goals and objectives that advance the implementation of Statistics Canada's CBA principles and generate financial efficiencies to create a pool of corporate investment funding As a result, sufficient funds are available annually for the routine maintenance and periodic redesign of all corporate processes, systems, applications and infrastructure, as well as for the implementation of new classifications and standards and for survey redesigns. This ensures the continuity and quality—and, to some degree, the relevance—of the current statistical program.

Strategies and tools

This section describes the strategies and the tools used by Statistics Canada in the implementation of the CBA initiative: (1) adoption of key corporate business architectural principles, (2) implementation through an integrated approach and strategic planning, (3) alignment of organizational structure to modernization goals, and (4) strong leadership and effective governance.

1. Adoption of key Corporate Business Architecture principles

CBA starts with a clearly articulated vision based on well-defined principles (see box 3.1.2).

Box 3.1.2: Corporate Business Architecture Principles

  • A shift in culture and governance to emphasize optimal decision making (corporately rather than locally)
  • Creating metadata at the beginning of every process and using them throughout the project life cycle
  • Optimizing the use of corporate services, such as informatics, methodology support and frame infrastructure, collection, data capture and imaging, statistical processing, public inquiries, and dissemination
  • Utilizing the smallest-possible number of distinct business processes and computer systems
  • Minimizing the number of software programs and tools used to support business processes, and creating more generalized systems
  • Providing and encouraging widespread training on corporate business applications and tools
  • Creating a strong statistical information management framework to manage statistical information holdings in a more systematic way
  • Eliminating duplication of effort by examining and redefining business processes
  • Focusing on Statistics Canada's core business (developing, producing and disseminating statistical information and analysis)
  • Teams responsible for the development, or for the substantial redesign, of statistical programs are separated from those responsible for ongoing operations
  • Expanding the use of multimodal data collection and e-questionnaires, with a view to making electronic data reporting the initial mode of collection, as the first step of contact in a sequential multi-mode environment
  • Realigning the organizational structure to promote efficient operations

2. Implementation through an integrated approach, project management and strategic planning

The Integrated Strategic Planning Process (ISPP) (see details in Chapter 2.2: Integrated strategic planning) is used to decide which of the submitted transformational CBA projects should receive investment funding from the organization. Managers were asked to identify the multi-year funding requirements as well as specify exactly how and when the monetary savings (or any other efficiencies) would be generated. Once approved, the various areas throughout the organization responsible for the projects received the required investment funding, but were also accountable for providing the monetary savings back to the organization according to a specified timeline.

An important incentive for managers in bringing forward these types of projects has been that all of the efficiencies generated through this initiative are re-invested back into the organization to maintain and/or improve the continuity and quality of ongoing programs. The overall goal was to generate cumulative efficiencies representing 5% of the agency's ongoing operating budget. Investments in CBA projects are financed as the first priority in the annual ISPP.

The ISPP ensures that all CBA projects, continuity and quality maintenance initiatives, and new initiatives undergo a review to ensure they are compliant with CBA principles and aligned with corporate priorities. To facilitate prioritization and decision making, Statistics Canada assesses projects in the context of its strategic framework of management pillars: relevance, trust (including quality, confidentiality and objectivity), access, and stewardship. This strategic framework, which is supported by governance, risk management and human resources, is critical to the ongoing success of the organization and is an important communication tool to engage the public and stakeholders.

At Statistics Canada, the Information Technology (IT) Enterprise Architecture served to support the CBA modernization initiative (see Chapter 3.2: Information technology). Taking an "enterprise architecture" approach is most beneficial in creating an IT systems design overview for all business processes. In this way, the national statistical agency reuses proven solutions, promotes standards / technology trends, and maintains a clear understanding of how the IT systems link together. This architecture included the development of generalized systems to support processes in the Generic Statistical Business Process Model (see figure 3.1.1). The Generic Statistical Business Process Model (GSBPM), developed jointly by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, EUROSTAT, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, was used to guide the implementation of the CBA initiative.

Figure 3.1.1: Generic Statistical Business Process Model

Generic Statistical Business Process Model
Description for Figure 3.1.1

This graphic represents the Generic Statistical Business Process Model. There are six horizontal layers.

  1. Governance
  2. Metadata Driven
  3. Crore business process (which splits in seven different process: Specification of needs, develop and design, build, collect, process, analyse and dissemination)
  4. Generic Services
  5. Enabling Informatics Systems and Infrastructure
  6. Data Service Center.

This six-layer process is supported by two elements: quality management and change management.

3. Alignment of organizational structure with modernization goals

The organizational structure should be reviewed to ensure it is aligned to effectively and efficiently deliver on agreed-upon modernization goals. The emphasis must be based on corporately (rather than locally) optimal decision-making. Senior management should not be reluctant to change the organizational structure to deliver on its objectives. Business functions should be consolidated if necessary to promote efficient operations (e.g., centralized IT, methodology, collection, processing). The use of corporate services such as informatics, methodology support and frame infrastructure, collection services, data capture and imaging, statistical processing and dissemination should be optimized to create centres of expertise. Clear roles and responsibilities should be established and communicated.

The practice of having a chief IT and methodology architects to guide the modernization and governance of common tools / platforms is another key success factor. Statistics Canada has found that centralized informatics staff reporting to one overall branch manager reinforces the strategic direction, maximizes the potential for efficient IT development and operations, and enhances the ability to set and support modernization priorities (see Chapter 3.2: Modernization of information technology and informatics services).

Statistical methods were also reviewed and approved by the methodology service, which also plays a leadership role in promoting common methodologies.

4. Strong leadership and effective governance

A strong and visible senior-management governance model is essential to ensuring the success of modernization initiatives. Governance must centre on decision-making in support of corporate or horizontal (rather than local) modernization solutions / services. This approach supports efforts to align with the organization's priorities, efficient resource allocation, and management. The creation of a CBA Steering Committee, whose membership comprises senior-level managers from across the organization, is strongly recommended to provide ongoing support and direction to modernization initiatives.

A key role of this committee is to make recommendations to the highest governing body regarding modernization priorities and investments. To be most effective, the CBA Steering Committee should provide strategic direction, prioritize organizational investments, challenge proposals (especially to confirm the level of efficiencies), monitor progress, be consulted for advice, and propose recommendations to the overall governing body for approval. In addition, such a committee should represent all program areas within the organization. CBA champions (to be appointed) chair the steering committee. These champions should be senior officials representing different business lines (e.g., one representing a subject-matter sector and another representing a service area). The Steering Committee should meet on a regular basis (e.g., every two weeks). Experience shows that an organizational unit (secretariat), with assigned staff, can have a useful role in supporting the CBA Steering Committee. All new projects should be prioritized and aligned with modernization goals and a modernization vision, and should be approved by a business-line senior-management committee before proceeding to the CBA Steering Committee.

Statistics Canada created a senior-management committee co- chaired by two Assistant Chief Statisticians, reporting to the Executive Management Board (chaired by the Chief Statistician), with a mandate to drive the initiative forward, develop the general plan, review and approve specific initiatives, monitor progress, and assess and capture efficiencies. Key to the success of this modernization committee (the CBA Management Committee) were the following: that its membership comprised managers from all sectors within the organization, that it was co-chaired by two assistant chief statisticians, and that it held regular (bi-weekly) meetings. Having direct access to the Chief Statistician and the Executive Management Board ensured that barriers impeding progress were quickly discussed and acted upon. The CBA Management Committee, working in collaboration with the Information Technology Architecture Committee, had the following responsibilities:

  • explicitly identifies the processes and systems that constitute the corporate business architecture, of to reduce the number of processes and systems maintained by the agency
  • recommends to the Executive Management Board that additional corporate systems be developed or that existing corporate systems be extended—this is to permit further reductions in the total number of systems
  • oversees the development of business requirements for new corporate systems, challenges those requirements, and approves them—for the greatest possible standardization
  • develops, and recommends to the Executive Management Board, an approach to change management with respect to corporate processes and systems that aims to better control development and maintenance costs

The ISPP governance model for new business proposals was introduced at Statistics Canada in 2009 (see Chapter 2.2: Integrated strategic planning). The governance model included a high-level review of informatics, methodology, data collection and subject-matter requirements by appropriate internal committees, including field planning boards for each major sector of the organization. Recommendations were made to the CBA Management Committee, and the Senior Management Review Committee gave the final approval as part of the annual ISPP.

A small secretariat was also created to support the initiative and the ongoing work of the CBA Management Committee. The role of the Corporate Business Architecture Secretariat (CBAS) was to provide strategic analysis, coordination and secretariat functions to the Committee. In conjunction with the Information Technology Architecture Committee, the CBAS reviewed the development of business requirements for new corporate systems and challenged those requirements. The CBAS reviewed requests for new development projects and systems, and provided guidance to the CBA Management Committee regarding project review and decision making. The CBAS also provided training and support to help managers understand how the approved corporate business architecture pertained to their projects, and worked in partnership with all sectors of the organization. Another key role was to communicate CBA initiatives and best practices to managers and staff at all levels through presentations, the internal communications network, town hall meetings, emails to all staff, etc. In addition, the CBAS monitored the implementation of approved plans through project status reporting. It also identified risks to the overall initiative and risks with respect to achieving planned efficiency targets, and proposed mitigation strategies to the CBA Management Committee for resolution.

Key success factors

Overall, the CBA initiative drove change and modernization throughout the agency and provided incentives for innovation. The following recommendations are based on Statistics Canada's experience in implementing the Corporate Business Architecture initiative. They reflect five important key success factors: (1) consultation and stakeholder input, (2) implementation approach, (3) project monitoring, and (4) human resources and training, and (5) communications.

1. Consultation and stakeholder input

There should be multiple mechanisms across the organization to generate / discuss innovation leading to modernization project ideas. The modernization steering committee should be a source of idea generation at the senior-management level. Management should create internal mechanisms to generate ideas for modernization projects. Opportunities to participate should be widely publicized so that employees can propose project opportunities and/or business process improvements. The creation of internal advisory committees should be considered, when appropriate; these committees could also be tasked with supporting modernization efforts and delivering modernization results. Depending on the nature of the modernization activities, it might also be important to create a forum for external stakeholder consultation and guidance.

2. Implementation approach

It is important to document the modernization vision in terms of change from the "as-is" (current) state to the proposed "to-be" (desired) state, and explain why it is important that change take place, so that this information can be clearly communicated to all interested persons. It is also imperative to develop a strategy for securing the necessary investments required to implement a modernization initiative.  Converting the vision into a high-level plan that includes project / task descriptions, priorities, timelines, and resource requirements is critical. Responsibility must be assigned to project managers, so that they are accountable for the implementation of specific aspects of the vision.

Risks to the success of implementing modernization initiatives should be identified, and strategies to mitigate them should be assessed. The organization may want to consider introducing project risk registers and/or an organization-wide risk profile to document risks, mitigation strategies, and action plans, and to identify the managers responsible for implementing the mitigation strategies.

3. Project monitoring

It is recommended to develop a transition plan for migrating existing surveys into any new business process model or IT system. Spreading out the transition will distribute the workload and provide opportunities to learn from the transition of the first surveys or programs. Once all surveys and programs are migrated to common IT systems, planning the decommissioning of the old IT systems should also be part of IT plans. Decommissioning dates must be clearly communicated and agreed upon by the business-line owners. The decommissioning of systems will generate efficiencies that can be reinvested.

If an organization-wide project management framework is not already in place, guidelines and a project office are key tools for developing and implementing modernization projects successfully. As well, any project management framework should include a governance structure to approve projects as they move from stage to stage (idea generation, assessment, initiation, planning, execution, and implementation). The framework should also include processes to formally approve any changes to the initial baseline project parameters (scope, timeline, costs (including investments and efficiencies)—see Chapter 2.4: Project Management Framework).

Statistics Canada's experience has shown that structured, standard and rigorous project management processes and templates are necessary to ensure greater efficiency in carrying out individual modernization projects. Cost, time and scope of each modernization project should be regularly monitored to validate the continued viability of the project. Project status reporting should be communicated on a regular basis through the senior-management governance structure. Baseline project parameters (scope, timeline, costs, issues, risks) should be established at the beginning of each project. This creates a reference for measuring progress and success.

The development and implementation of the Departmental Project Management Framework (DPMF) was a key tool for success (see Chapter 2.4: Project Management Framework). At Statistics Canada, a departmental project management office was created to strengthen the project management skills of the agency's managers and to provide technical advice and support to project leaders. Standard, structured and rigorous project management processes and tools were necessary to support successful completion of each individual modernization project and of the CBA initiative overall. Monthly status reporting to the CBA Management Committee for each project and the combined status of the portfolio of CBA projects was also a quick indicator of the current situation at any given time. Another key element is project gating —ensuring that senior-level approval is received before projects move to the next project management stage. This gating process takes into account whether the project is on time, within approved scope and cost. Changes, issues and risks are reviewed to ensure the project is on track. A change management process for individual CBA projects, and for all CBA projects as a whole, was implemented and aligned with the principles being followed and the tools provided by the project management office.

Risk analysis and risk management were also key success factors. Risks identified monthly by project managers were monitored through project dashboards and tracked through the use of a mandatory corporate-change, issues and risk-management tool. The CBA Secretariat conducted a risk analysis of CBA projects overall, and an overview of the risk analysis was presented to the CBA Management Committee quarterly. This information was also linked to Statistics Canada's overall corporate risk profile.

4. Human resources and training

In the context of modernization, existing training programs should be reviewed. Training materials should be updated to reflect any new business processes, changes to the governance model, and other relevant information. Programs for training on new skills (for example: project management skills; common tools; and technical, methodological or IT expertise) should be developed if necessary (see Chapter 2.5: Planning and Management of Human Resources).

Management should be aware that the organizational culture may need to be changed in order to realize modernization outcomes. To demonstrate the importance of specific initiatives, the organization could consider designating a senior manager as the modernization champion. The champion's role would be to promote the modernization vision and goals and the benefits of modernization while communicating new developments or project achievements. Making senior managers accountable for the successful implementation of modernization projects can be reinforced through their performance agreements. This type of accountability results in the expectation that senior managers will demonstrate greater leadership in guiding their team throughout the execution of modernization.

5. Communications

A critical element in implementing this major change within Statistics Canada was to clearly articulate and state the vision, objectives, and key principles at the beginning of the CBA initiative. From the outset, the CBA initiative was clearly endorsed and supported by the Chief Statistician and Statistics Canada's highest governing body, the Executive Management Board. The board conveyed a high level of commitment and determination to succeed, and strongly encouraged staff to embrace the initiative and work to move the agenda forward. One key to success was the provision of the five-year corporate vision to all staff from the beginning. Other important senior-management communication mechanisms included the Chief Statistician's annual address to all staff, the Corporate Business Plan, regular updates to all managers, and presentations to stakeholders.

Communication to all employees about modernization goals, objectives and successes increases their awareness of the corporate direction and priorities. By being more aware of the long-term goals of the organization, employees will recognize the importance of their contribution to the achievement of these goals, and will feel a stronger sense of ownership in their daily work. It is particularly important to establish an ongoing communication strategy to share the impact and the progress of modernization activities.

The content of the messages communicated to staff should be appropriate to the level of audience. For example, messages for senior managers may differ in content and in tone from those of grass-roots employees. Various communication mechanisms should be used to reach a larger audience. Modernization projects and objectives can be described in emails to all staff, mentioned in speeches by senior management, and presented by means of articles in an internal newsletter. It is important that all staff be aware that modernization will lead to improved statistical products and a more efficient work environment, even though the transition period may be difficult and stressful in some areas of the organization.

Key messages need to be developed and continuously communicated by senior managers. In some cases, messages may need to be repeated in order to ensure that they are clearly understood and to help sustain the momentum of the modernization. It is important to communicate and reward early successes during a modernization exercise. Doing so provides proof that modernization is feasible and may help convert those who are still reluctant to support the initiative. An award program could be considered to both reward and acknowledge employees who successfully complete modernizations initiatives.

Challenges and next steps

The Corporate Business Architecture is an ongoing agency-wide review of Statistics Canada's business architecture. By consolidating processes and standardizing systems where appropriate, Statistics Canada achieved cost savings while still maintaining the highest standards of quality and timeliness in the delivery of its mission and mandate.

The creation of an environment where the corporate interest prevails and touches all segments of the organization cannot be underestimated. At Statistics Canada, the most significant aspect was the initial culture shift from making decisions at a local level to accepting generalized solutions that are optimal at the corporate level. Communications about the reasons behind the change, how it may impact individuals or units, and how it can improve activities in the future must be continual.

Since most of the major projects were launched at the same time, with multi-year project plans, the use of common project management tools for the monthly monitoring and reporting of changes, issues and risks was key. It was also essential to review and approve these projects in the context of the ISPP and a ten-year view of the agency's financial situation, since CBA projects generated the financial efficiencies required to maintain the continuity and quality of the statistical program. Major risk factors to the success of the initiative included interdependencies between the largest CBA projects, ensuring an adequate workforce with the appropriate skill sets for the modernization projects, and a heavier than usual workload during the modernization activities.

Implementing modernization of corporate business architecture successfully requires an organization-wide approach and senior management endorsement. Change creates stress for both employees who support change and employees who are uncertain of change. As described previously, building an awareness for the need for change, and making the case for change convincingly through repeated communication about the vision, end state and guiding principles helped smooth the way. It was also recognized that the implementation of change is a learning process—not everything proceeds as planned. Consequently, management must be willing to adapt and revise plans as circumstances change.

Significant change creates uncertainty as employees seek to come to terms with new processes and the learning of new skills. It was also vital to continually remind everyone to focus on the people element during the process of change. During this period of significant change, Statistics Canada relied on the flexibility and mobility of staff within the organization. It is very important throughout all stages of such a major transformation to encourage innovation in all aspects of the work, involve staff at all levels of the organization as much as possible, and listen to the concerns raised by staff.

That being said, culture change and the need to consult employees cannot be underestimated. People react differently to change: some naturally align while others passively resist. Change needs to be understood and managed in a way that allows people to cope effectively. Employees must come to understand the need for change, voice their concerns, be heard, and have a chance to be involved in the planning and implementation of change.

Box 3.1.3: High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics

Statistical organizations worldwide are restructuring and modernizing the statistical production process in response to technological advances and the growth of digital information. These developments have significant implications for the structure and efficiency of statistical organizations, and play an important role in strategic decisions related to budget, human resources and corporate strategy.

In 2010, the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) established a high-level group to achieve strategic oversight and better coordination of developments among different groups and countries. Statistics Canada is a member of the High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics (HLG-MOS), whose objectives are the following:

  1. to promote common standards, models, tools and methods to support the modernization of official statistics
  2. to drive new developments in the production and organization of official statistics and official-statistics products, while ensuring effective coordination and information sharing within official statistics and with relevant external bodies
  3. to advise the Bureau of the CES on the direction of strategic developments in the modernization of official statistics, and to ensure that there is maximum convergence and coordination within the statistical "industry"Endnote 1

After developing the Generic Statistical Business Process Model (GSBPM), the Generic Statistical Information Model (GSIM) and the Common Statistical Production Architecture (CSPA)—for details on these generic models, refer to Chapter 1.3: Following international standards and Chapter 3.2: Modernization of information technology and informatics services — the HLG-MOS is currently focusing on the big-data trend.

In fact, the HLG-MOS has commissioned a number of activities to better understand the importance and impact of big data. A major international collaboration project, carried out in 2014, resulted in guidelines on privacy and partnership issues, a big-data quality framework, and the documented outcomes of a series of experiments to test big-data methods and tools. To support these experiments, a shared computing environment containing big-data sets and software tools—the "sandbox"—has been created in partnership with the Irish Central Statistics Office and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing.

Endnotes:

Endnote 1

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Return to endnote 1 referrer

Bibliography

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics – wiki site.  Consulted on the 11th of March 2016 and retrieved from http://www1.unece.org/stat/platform/display/hlgbas/High-Level+Group+for+the+Modernisation+of+Official+Statistics

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