Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

November 23, 2017

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

PARTICIPANTS

Management

Union

Cynthia Leblanc
Terry Brown
Kerry Colpitts
Andre Elvas
Roger Houde
Tessie Jokinen
Gordon Majcher
Gillian Pranke
Jonathan Roebuck
Silvano Tocchi
Jean Stewart
Brian Oldford
Kimberley Koch
Greg Krokosh
Idriss Goundiam
Lyson Paquette

OPENING REMARKS

Cynthia Leblanc, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch, and Management Co-Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting. She said that she was looking forward to working with the new Union Co-Chair and the union representatives joining the sub-committee. Brian Oldford, Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region and Union Co-Chair, also welcomed the participants and said that the union appreciated the opportunity to discuss the ideas of their members with the committee.

TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE PROTOCOL/ COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR WRITTEN NOTICE

The union described their expectations of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with respect to protocol and the requirement to provide written notice on issues that met the definition of technological change as described in Article 24 of the collective agreement. The union made several suggestions that would assist them to understand and stay abreast of the changes within the CRA, such as providing updates in laypersons' terminology, defining acronyms, and noting any changes in the name of a project.

Management said that this was part of their regular review process, and they would respect this request when preparing information for the committee in future. Management noted that technological changes could involve a project, with specific technological impacts; however, this could also lead to a series of programs changes that may be described with different terminology. Management provided the example of Call Centre Modernization, Call Centre Transformation Initiative, or Hosted Contact Centre Service and said that they would endeavour to provide greater clarity.

The union asked that any written notice of technological change be issued to the Union Co-Chair of the subcommittee, technical advisor and the National President. Management acknowledged the request. Union-Management Relations said this would be discussed with HRB management to ensure that impacts beyond the committee were considered and would respond to the union.

INTEGRAS

The union acknowledged that their members had noted improvements in the lntegras system; however, employees remained concerned with the system's performance.

Management reviewed the internal and external factors that could impact performance and the steps that were being taken to address these issues. These included:

  • Delays caused by external partners being triggered upon or after login, such as the Security sub-system (SiteMinder) or connectivity to other systems (FileNet, GAS, AIMS, T1, BN, etc.);
  • Hardware I equipment being used - End user renewal strategy will upgrade or replace computers as needed;
  • Type and quality of internet connection (network connected vs. wireless, network latency, connection speed); and,
  • Infrastructure issues (e.g., server-related outages) - These seemed to be addressed by the solutions implemented.

Management explained that they continued to discuss connectivity at several levels with their counterparts at Shared Services Canada (SSC). They also said that application performance monitoring would be implemented in future and would enable them to identify the cause of a system issue. This was several years away and would be implemented for all systems managed by the Information Technology Branch (1TB). At present, ITB monitored the system's performance through a survey of field users. Management reviewed the data collected from over 16 users representing 15 different cities, resulting in a total of 680 execution times for a variety of system processes. The results indicated that the start process could be long; however, subsequent logins were generally quicker as there were fewer security checks. Outages were monitored carefully, with one outage since July 2017, caused by an e-Business Computing Infrastructure (eBCI) outage. The eBCI platform supports web-based applications in the CRA, so an outage impacted all web-based applications, not only lntegras.

Management said they had increased communication with the regions. They asked that users submit tickets and raise issues to their regional coordinators so issues could be identified and addressed.

DIGITAL MAILROOM PROJECT

Management said this item was presented at the January 19, 2017, Technological Change Sub-Committee meeting, under the title "Electronic Mail Management initiative". As projects were presented to the committee in the early stages sometimes a working title would change as the project evolved.

Management had posted a request for information (RFI) to analyze the options available for digitizing incoming correspondence. They would present their findings to Agency management in March 2018.

There were five key capabilities that were essential to process incoming paper documents as electronic records. These included:

  • receiving a paper document;
  • digitizing: creating a digital image of the material;
  • extraction: taking out the key information for the Agency;
  • notification: informing the sender and Agency program areas of receipt; and,
  • storage: determining where the information will be kept, and how it will be disposed of at the end of its retention period.

These capabilities could be provided by an internal build, managed service solutions from an external third party provider, or a combination of the two.

In response to the RFI, management received responses from 12 vendors and 9 vendors offered to present to the project team. The project team visited on-site facilities with 5 vendors in the Greater Toronto Area and completed additional research internally with other Government Departments and peer organizations.

The analysis and research to date indicates that there could be benefit to the CRA to pursue this idea. The technology has matured in the private sector, addressing some of the early issues. The CRA is positioned well to take advantage of this technology.

To gain a better understanding of internal programs and their requirements in a digital mailroom solution, the project team completed over 30 process mapping sessions, representing roughly 14.5M pieces of CRA correspondence. These sessions uncovered a common theme within the Agency. Individual program areas have recognized the potential efficiencies in digitization and have implemented localized scanning operations. These operations highlighted the need to ensure that best practices in security, privacy and information management are applied on a consistent basis, particularly when shifting from manual to digital processes.

Through research, common challenges were identified as risks to implementing a Digital Mailroom solution. Industry clientele identified organizational change management as the most prevalent challenge. Vendors and clients placed equal importance on the change management and technology aspects of a project of this nature.

The union asked for clarification about the options analysis and the next steps. Management explained that this project followed the Resource Management Committee (RMC) governance protocol. First, the project team would develop the business problem/ opportunity definition (BPOD) to provide RMC members with the information required to evaluate the necessity to resolve a problem or to pursue an opportunity. Second, the options analysis (OA) stage would identify and evaluate options to address the problem or opportunity described. Third, the detailed planning stage would allow project teams and stakeholders sufficient funding and time to develop a comprehensive plan to implement the solution that was approved at the end of the OA stage. Once the detailed planning report had been approved, projects entered the execution stage. Management emphasized that projects may need to present several times to the RMC at each stage in order to secure funding and approval to pursue their project. As this project was at the second of four stages, management will return to keep the committee informed.

HOSTED CONTACT CENTRE SERVICE

Management explained that the Collections and Verification Branch (CVB) began coordinating the Contact Centre Transformation Initiative (CCTI) on behalf of CRA in April 2014. In the spring of 2017, CVB and Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch (ABSB) management presented to the RMC and separated this project into two parts. The CVB portion of the project was known as CCTI, and the ABSB portion of the project was Call Centre Modernization. The Hosted Contact Centre Service (HCCS) was the actual service, or technology, being procured by SSC. Both projects are expected to use the same technology.

When CVB presented at the January 19, 2017, Technological Change Sub-Committee meeting, the update focused on the CVB elements of the project. These included issues and challenges related to the contract awarded in October 2015, infrastructure problems affecting call centre implementation in Shawinigan, and CRA's decision to leverage existing government contracts with Bell and Rogers as an interim solution.

SSC signed an amended contract in May 2017, and discovery sessions were held with the vendor to explore and analyse the operational needs of the three program areas. The planned implementation schedule was:

  • Business Enquiries: April 2018;
  • Debt Management Call Centres (DMCCs): May 2018; and,
  • Individual Income Tax Enquiries: June 2018.

Management highlighted some of the HCCS core features, including:

  • Skills Based Routing: incoming calls will be routed to resources with the corresponding skill-set to provide better service;
  • Automatic Call Distribution: incoming calls will be centrally routed to allow for equitable call distribution across multiple sites;
  • Interactive Voice Response: presently site specific, will be hosted in the cloud through the IBM data centre;
  • Agent Desktop: a centralized tool that will provide employees access to client information and applications needed to perform their jobs more efficiently; and,
  • Real-time and Historical Reporting: reporting capabilities will provide the ability to measure and monitor calls to ensure contact centre operations are optimized.

There were other elements included in the contract; however, management was not certain if these would be used. These decisions would be made by the program areas responsible for the call centre operations.

Telephony enhancements include:

  • Workforce Management: a centralized tool to reduce the amount of manual work required to forecast and schedule telephone agents based on their skills and call demand;
  • Third Party Integration: ability to validate, collect and retrieve data from CRA databases;
  • Computer Telephony Integration: ability to retrieve client records in real-time from the Interactive Voice Response for the agent to process the call;
  • Outbound Calling: for the DMCCs, this expands the capability beyond the Ottawa DMCC into Surrey and Shawinigan. It is an automated system to dial a list of telephone numbers to connect to an available agent or recorded message; and,
  • Quality ManagemenUCall Recording: ability to measure and monitor call quality, accuracy and ability to record voice/screen interactions between taxpayers and phone agents. This would allow contact centres to improve quality assurance and monitoring processes to better identify training requirements and increase the quality of calls.

The CRA required a Government of Canada pilot before implementing. The SSC End User Service Desk was scheduled to start a pilot on January 19, 2018, and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) would transition one of their national service desks to HCCS in March.

To support this operational change, the CRA was procuring vendor training for employees. This would ensure that agents have the tools and knowledge base to operate the new HCCS platform.

The union asked if employees would be aware that their calls were being monitored. Management responded that there would not be any advance warning to the employee.

The union asked if it would be possible for a team leader to monitor a personal call. Management said that calls that did not come through the HCCS platform could not be monitored. An agent's personal calls would not be recorded and management would ensure that this was noted in their communications to employees.

The union expressed concern that the messages shared about HCCS across the regions on November 6, 2017, had not been consistent. Management noted that they would have preferred to communicate with employees when more details had been finalized; however, they needed to respond to the Office of the Auditor General's (AG) report on call centres.

The changes to be implemented with HCCS figured prominently in management's response to the AG report. Management felt it was important for employees to know about the technological improvements that would help them be more effective in their role.

The union said that the information shared on November 6th had varied greatly between different regions and locals. The union had received reports from some areas saying that recorded calls would not be used in performance management, while other areas reported the exact opposite. The union recognized that it was difficult to make sure that messages were consistent when only high level information was available. Individuals had a tendency to speculate and fill in the blanks. Management said that they had gathered questions from the field and they would continue to work through those. They noted that it may not be affordable to implement the full suite of features at the outset. Additional features could be added as the project progressed.

DIGITAL SERVICES STRATEGY

Management clarified that updates on this topic were presented under several titles including: Secure Online Services, E-interactions strategy, and Service Modernization. The Digital Services Strategy covered a significant number of projects with the goal of responding to the increasing digital expectations of Canadians.

Management highlighted their progress to date on several key initiatives, such as:

  • Telephone authentication: as of February 2017, when registering through the existing online process, clients could choose to validate their identity by contacting a CRA call center agent and receiving the CRA security code by email, rather than mail. This allowed clients authenticated during a phone call to receive the CRA security code by email and register for My Account, My Business Account, and Represent a Client secure portals without further validation.
  • Account Balance and Activities: In October 2017, the existing "View account balance" and "View account transactions" links in the Payroll section of My Business Account would be replaced by "Account balance and activities". This link would be consistent with GST/HST program accounts.
  • Auto-fill T2 return: In October 2017, the latest version of a T2 return on record would be available with Auto-fill my return for authorized individuals to import, review, and accept into tax preparation software.
  • Link between My Account and My Service Canada Account: Canadians could now access these two accounts through a single secure session. The link provided individuals with a convenient connection between the CRA's My Account and ESDC's My Service Canada Account. Since the link was established between My Account and My Service Canada Account in October 2016, there were over 3 million transactions between the two services, and currently averaged over 10,000 transfers per day between both departments
  • The CRA and ESDC would be exchanging address and banking information between the two organizations with the Direct Deposit and Address Information Sharing Initiative. In phase one, implemented in October 2017, direct deposit information could be shared for CPP purposes with an individual's consent. Other programs and information types would be added in future phases.
  • Account Alerts: added in February 2017, as a fraud prevention measure, individuals and legal representatives could receive real-time notifications when certain changes were made on their account. When there was an account change to mailing or home address, direct deposit, or mail was returned to the CRA, an email notification would be sent in real-time to the email address provided upon registration. In February 2018, notifications would also be sent when a representative was added, deleted, or modified on an individual's account. In the spring, this service would be expanded to business clients.
  • Express Notice of Assessment (NOA): Access a near real-time message with assessment details after filing a return. In February 2017, a new service was launched in participating EFILE and NETFILE tax preparation software. Since June 2016, the CRA was processing tax returns in near real-time, and as of February 2017, the NOA was delivered directly into tax preparation software for those who were eligible. The new Express NOA would be delivered through a web service similar to Auto-fill my return and would use the same authentication. Express NOA would be available for request the next day into the tax preparation software for individuals registered for My Account and online mail.
  • Online mail - In October 2017, Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) letters would be eligible for Online mail.
  • File my Return is a new service that would enable the CRA to deliver on its mandate to offer to complete returns for some taxpayers, particularly lower-income Canadians and those on fixed incomes, whose financial situation was unchanged year-to-year. Through a small pilot project, certain Canadians would be invited by mail to complete their taxes by telephone. The service would use the information provided by Government slips to assist Canadians who wish to file taxes using no paper forms for 2017 and subsequent tax years.

Management also noted the updates made in the mobile device space, which expanded the services available primarily for use on smartphones. In October 2017, the CRA launched the CRA BizApp, a web-based mobile app for small business owners and sole proprietors that provided access to the following functionality:

  • Access GST/HST, payroll, corporation income taxes, and excise duties accounts;
  • Check balances owing;
  • Make payments by pre-authorized debit;
  • View account transactions;
  • See expected GST/HST returns; and,
  • View status of filed GST/HST and corporation income tax returns.

With the Business Tax Reminders app business users could create custom reminders and alerts for key CRA due dates related to instalment payments, returns, and remittances.

The established mobile apps, MyCRA and MyBenefits, had both been recently enhanced. Both apps were updated to include breakdowns of provincial program payments, and for users that receive Ontario Senior Homeowners' Property Tax Grant, an annual payment calculator and scheduler.

The union asked if they could get additional information on the number of employees that could be affected by these changes. Management explained that they also grappled with the challenge of quantifying the impact that these changes could have on the workforce. Certain changes, such as account alerts, would have no workforce impacts. Other changes had minimal impacts as the interest in certain services was very low in the initial years of implementation.

The union asked what group and level of employees would be impacted by the File my Return service. Management said that no employees would be impacted by this change as there were no employees involved in offering this service to taxpayers aside from the project team. Similar to TELEFILE, a taxpayer would interact with a digital system. If they had previous e-filed their return, they could now file through a series of prompts on the Interactive Voice Response. Small take-up was expected in the early stages.

The Management Co-Chair noted the union's interest in ensuring that information was shared regarding overall workforce impacts and training to be provided. She agreed that as take up rates increase over the years, we will have a better idea of what, if any, HR impacts there will be and that this information will continue to be shared.

WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT PROJECT

Management stated that the Collections Verification Workload Management System (CVWMS) would go to the RMC in December 2017 to seek funding approval for the execution stage of sub-project 1, Non Filer and Non-Registrant (NF/NR) and the detailed planning funding for sub-project 2. An Independent Third Party Review was conducted and the overall results indicated that the project was well positioned to move to execution.

Sub-project 2 content had shifted since management provided the update at the January 2017 meeting. ESDC had another large system project underway and was not able to support the changes needed for sub-project 2. As such, Sub-projects 2 and 4 would become:

  • Sub-project 2 - Collections Verification Inventory Solution and Business Rules Engine; and,
  • Sub-project 4 - Employment and Social Development Canada and manual workloads.

Management recognized the need for organizational change management activities and developed various communications to inform users of the upcoming changes with the October 2018 release of the CVWMS. Management created a Regional Champions Committee with two representatives from each region and the project team connected with them monthly. CVWMS roadshows were offered to regional management teams in fall 2017, and the same presentation would be recorded for viewing by employees in December and January. Management presented similar information, showing sample screens and giving an overview of the functionality of the system.

In addition to the project wiki, management soft-launched the CVWMS lnfozone page with a formal communication to the regions on November 7, 2017. A training working group was created to prepare the training package. The group included members from each directorate, Human Resources Branch (HRB) Technical Learning, CVB Learning, Public Affairs Branch and CVB's Workload Management Project Section (WMPS).

The union asked how the 152(7) thresholds would be established and if the amounts would be consistent across the country. Management said that the thresholds would be established by the program where they established delegated authorities. These thresholds would be consistent across the country.

T1 SYSTEMS REDESIGN

Management explained that the T1 Systems Redesign project was a nine year project, presently in its seventh year. The project focused on IT Sustainability and the modernization of our T1 systems and databases.

In February 2018, all initial assessing workloads involved in the processing of returns would be migrated to the T1SR platform - paper returns and exceptions processing would flow through the new unified assessing system. Pre and post-assessment compliance related workloads would also be migrated to the T1SR platform. The main workloads were: Data Capture, Error Inspection, Special Assessments, Refund Exam, Confidence Validities, Processing Review, Matching, and Special Projects. The work related to the Mailroom, Revenue Processing and Selection workloads would not change. There would be simplified procedures for sorting and labelling returns, and the accounting system enhancements would continue.

The training tools that were developed had been updated to account for onboarding workloads. In January 2017, tax centre (TC) employees were allotted 4 to 5 hours (depending on the area) of online training and Tax Services Office {TSO) employees were allotted 3 hours. Over 10,000 users had taken the training. For 2018, another 4,000 users would be provided time to take the training and funding would be provided.

As additional preparation for the 2018 release, management planned:

  • Roadshow presentations in November 2017 to all processing centres with pipeline and pre/post assessment walk-throughs and screens hand-outs;
  • Updated eGuides to navigate the new system;
  • Job Aids from the program areas with hints, tips, and tricks for commonly used practices; and,
  • Headquarters support would be available in TCs during the week following the February release.

The system changes being implemented in February 2018 would not have a major impact on the workloads from an HR perspective. Most work would remain the same; however, new tools would be used to complete the work. Minimal procedural changes to T1 paper returns processing will be necessary.

Management would continue to update the committee on future T1SR releases, including the February 2019 release.

REFILE

Management indicated that the ReFILE service had launched successfully in February 2017 to allow electronic filers to submit T1 adjustments. During the period, 54,000 submissions were received, with 53% requiring human intervention. Approximately 1.9 million adjustment requests are processed each year. In February 2018, the initiative would be expanded to allow taxpayers to submit their own adjustment requests through their NETFILE software. Management anticipated that only 28% of the market share would offer ReFILE in 2018, and that there would be a modest take-up rate of this service in the first year.

The union asked what impact this change would have on employees. Management responded that they did not anticipate human resources impacts in the coming year. As take up rates increase over the years, this primarily paper based workload will see a shift to receiving its work electronically, which will entail HR impacts. Management will continue to update this committee on this initiative.

T3 E-NILS

Management explained that 260,000 T3 trust income tax and information returns are received per year and this is a paper-based workload. In January 2018, an electronic method of filing for "NIL" T3 returns would be introduced using Internet File Transfer, the same method that was used for filing the T3 summary and slips. Management anticipated that approximately 80,000 will be eligible to file electronically. It is also expected that the human resources impacts of this change would be minimal with staff turnover.

NON-RESIDENT SOURCE DEDUCTION IDENTIFICATION

Management stated that the Non-Resident Source Deduction (NRSD) system was created to administer Non-Resident accounts and enforce tax obligations under Part XIII of the Act, as well as managing the Part XIII program workloads.

The NRSD project comprised six deliverables over four system releases, as follows.

  1. Account Type Determination reviewed active NR accounts to match with a CRA Primary Identifier such as a Business Number, Social Insurance Number, Temporary Tax Number or T3 to migrate these accounts into the new NRSD Identification framework.
  2. Identification Framework enhances the NR account registration functionality, linking these with other CRA identification systems.
  3. Rental Property & Authorized Representatives will capture non-resident rental property information, authorized representative, and introduce a new authorized representative form specific for the Part XIII program.
  4. ACSES Interoperability will add NR accounts to the ACSES client view screen to provide a holistic view of taxpayer liability and new notification to ACSES when NR accounts are impacted by an insolvency event.
  5. NR Account Online Registration will permit online NR account registration through the Agency secure portals (My Account, My Business Account, and Represent a Client).
  6. Refund Offsetting will automate the refund offset processes between NRSD and CRA accounting systems.

The new Identification Framework was implemented on October 23, 2017. Account Type Determination completed a review of over 90,000 NR accounts, resulting in 85% of existing active accounts being matched to a CRA Primary Identifier (CPI). Data captured, including matched CPls, was migrated into the NRSD database with the October 2017 release.

Construction for the May 2018 release items is in progress. Deliverables include the Rental Property, Authorized Representatives and ACSES Interoperability.

Activity is also underway for the Online Registration and Refund Offsetting deliverables, scheduled for release in October 2018 and February 2019.

This project will have minimal HR impact as the change will impact existing systems and automated processes only. Training will be developed for employees that will work with the new solution.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Union Co-Chair thanked management for the information and discussions at the meeting. He asked if there were plans to provide employees with Employee Self-Service (ESS) access from home or non-CRA devices. Union-Management Relations (UMR) said that she would follow-up with management with respect to this question. The union asked if other government departments had this type of access. UMR responded that she would share this question with the responsible management representative. The union also asked if employees could access their pay stub through their home computer or the Integrated Staffing System (ISS). UMR said that she would also share this question with the responsible management representative.

The Management Co-Chair thanked everyone for their participation and recognized that open dialogue between management and the union was beneficial for both parties.

Management appreciated the union's assistance in raising the concerns of their members so these could be investigated and addressed promptly. Management and the union shared the same objective with respect to technological change, ensuring that all parties were informed of upcoming changes and that employees received training, as required.

Both parties looked forward to the next meeting.


Cynthia Leblanc
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees
Date:  June 14, 2018 Date: June 27, 2018