Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

May 31, 2018

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

PARTICIPANTS

Management

Union

Cynthia Leblanc

Gillian Pranke

Brian Oldford

Tammy Branch

Charles Saikaly for Gordon Majcher

Kimberley Koch

Marco Cadorette

Silvano Tocchi

Greg Krokosh

Michael Honcoop

Nancy Lavalle

Idriss Goundiam

Roger Houde

Jean Stewart

Mathieu Juneau

Tessie Jokinen

OPENING REMARKS

Brian Oldford, Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region and Union Co-Chair, opened the meeting and welcomed the participants. He recognized the work of the committee and the importance of the information received to their members in field offices. He asked that the minutes be provided in a timely fashion so that the union could share the information with their members. Union-Management Relations (UMR) responded that Human Resources Branch (HRB) would respect the timeline set out in the terms of reference, which said that HRB would endeavour to prepare the minutes in 60 days. Cynthia Leblanc, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch (ABSB), and Management Co-Chair, said that she would support HRB with this undertaking. The Union Co-Chair appreciated this commitment and reminded committee members to use plain language and avoid acronyms when providing their updates. He suggested that the union could discuss committee protocol with UMR following the meeting. UMR agreed.

Action Items:

  • HRB management will respect the timeline set out in the terms of reference that said HRB would endeavour to prepare the minutes in 60 days.
  • The union and UMR will discuss committee protocol following the meeting.

NON-RESIDENT SOURCE DEDUCTION IDENTIFICATION

The Director, Debt Management Systems Division (Director, DMSD) updated the union on the Non-resident Source Deduction (NRSD) Identification project. The capture of Rental Property information and Authorized Representatives and the Automated Collections and Source Deductions Enforcement System (ACSES) Interoperability deliverables, deliverables three and four of six, were successfully released.

Construction started for the Business Suite, and Credit and Debit Offsetting for T1 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. The union asked if there were any issues with the most recent release. The Director, DMSD confirmed that there were no issues.

Collections Verification WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT PROJECT

In preparations for the launch of the Collections Verification Workload Management System (CVWMS), management prepared a comprehensive change management strategy including communication, training, and stakeholder engagement. From October to December 2017, management did a cross-Canada roadshow to introduce the new system, discuss its benefits and answer questions in the field. This was followed by an e‑presentation, including screen prints of CVWMS, that was shared with all employees. A dedicated CVWMS InfoZone page is updated regularly with new information on the project. Lastly, updated manuals, “how to” guides and job aids will provide additional training tools. A Regional Champions Committee was established to support the project and address questions about the CVWMS in the regions.

The Non Filer and Non-Registrant sub-project of the CVWMS will be released to the field on October 22, 2018. It will coincide with the decommissioning of the Système Universal Delpac System (SUDS), currently used by the Non-Filer Program. The CVWMS will bring many enhancements for the Non-Filer Program, including the automation of routine tasks that are currently performed manually. For example, the new desktop contains a case summary which provides all necessary details for a user to manage their work – this will reduce the need for the officer to access multiple applications to gather the same information. Another example is a new calculator that replaces macros and has the ability to automatically bundle assessments and send them through the various levels of review.

As certain tasks would be automated, such as the assignment of files, management estimated that they may require approximately eight fewer FTEs nationally. The increase in workload development’s underground economy files would more than compensate for that reduction, particularly when combined with normal attrition and staff movement.

The union asked for additional information on the employee impacts of CVWMS. Management said that employees would remain on the same work description, performing similar tasks.

The Director, DMSD said that testing would begin at the end of June. The union asked for additional information about the testing. The Management Co-Chair said that pilots were typically used to test work processes. For system testing, there was the project team in the functional branch, and it worked with the Information Technology Branch (ITB) to begin testing the system. Then the system would be sent to the Acceptance Testing Division, in the ABSB. CVB Management will provide ongoing updates to the committee on this project.

Action Item:

  • CVB Management will provide ongoing updates to the committee on this project.

Contact Centre Transformation Initiative

The Director General, Call Centre Services Directorate (DG, CCSD) stated that the project teams in Collections and Verification Branch (CVB) and ABSB continued to work closely with Shared Services Canada (SSC) and IBM on the renewal of the call centres. Over the past several weeks, SSC identified new dependencies, related to technology, such as bandwidth and queue capacity, that put pressure on the current migration schedule. As a result, CRA, along with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and SSC will experience further delays in the migration of their respective call centres on the new Hosted Contact Centre Service (HCCS). SSC is working on a plan to address the dependencies and CRA management believed that the revised timelines were reasonable.

The testing for ABSB’s business enquiries call centres was completed and CRA was waiting for SSC and IBM to address a number of outstanding defects. The defects revolved primarily around accessibility and language issues and must be addressed before CRA’s call centres migrate to the HCCS platform.

The A/DG, Technology and Business Intelligence Directorate (A/DG,TABI) advised that CVB’s Debt Management Call Centre (DMCC) began its user acceptance testing at the end of April. Management would monitor the outcome of the test cases closely.

Both ABSB and CVB continue to work with the field and have field representatives from call centres across the country contributing to this project.

The DG, CCSD reiterated that they would only migrate to the new HCCS platform if two Government of Canada (GoC) internal call centres migrated successfully to HCCS. Based on the latest schedule, the business enquiries call centres are expected to migrate to HCCS in the fall 2018 (October/ November), followed by the Individual Tax Enquiries call centres in late fall (December) and then, DMCC in the winter (January/ February). Management felt that HCCS would address the needs of Canadians and provide call centre agents with better tools.

The union said that they had received comments from employees about the rollout. They were pleased that more specific timeframes were identified for the migration and asked if these could be adjusted. Management said that the timelines could be adjusted further as there were many dependencies related to technology associated with this project. This project was considered high risk and management would not proceed if there were doubts about the functionality of HCCS. Management said they would know if they were on track to migrate for the business enquiries call centres in June.

The Management co-chair clarified that this project was being led by SSC on behalf of the GoC. As CRA was a client, they did not have control of the timeframes as they would for a CRA-owned project.

The union asked if the two systems could operate in parallel. Management said that there would be a staged approach. The business enquiries call centres would migrate completely over a weekend, but there was the possibility of reverting back to the legacy system if necessary. In the Individual Tax Enquiries lines, there would be two separate implementation dates based on line of business rather than by site. This would mean that some agents in an office could be using HCCS, while other program lines would remain on the previous system until a later date.  Management viewed this approach as being favourable from both a change management and workload transition perspective.

The union asked if the deficiencies identified were nationwide or site specific. The DG, CCSD responded that bandwidth was a challenge in 11 of 16 sites, so SSC was determining a schedule to ensure those upgrades could take place prior to implementation.

ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION PILOT

The Director General, Horizontal Integration Directorate (DG, HID) explained that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) could be described as a “macro on steroids”, a series of pre-programed, automated actions. RPA software can replicate high volume, repetitive tasks from business processes while improving process accuracy and speed.

The Revenue Ledger (RL) is responsible for reconciling about 43 million financial transactions from 70 source systems representing an estimated value of $2.3 quadrillion per week. A small team in Headquarters (HQ) verifies that the 70+ system interfaces have updated successfully and identifies any unsuccessful or problematic updates for further investigation and resolution. Trying to find an error in that volume of transactions takes a great deal of time and can be a source of frustration.

CRA worked with a consultant to plan and engineer an RPA “bot” to mimic human actions in completing steps of the Revenue Ledger (RL) production monitoring process through a proof of concept in a test environment. The “bot” identified any unsuccessful or problematic updates, and set these aside for further review by staff. The results demonstrated the use of RPA for this process was feasible. The next step will be further assessment via a production pilot. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will be developed to secure the software licence and consulting services for the pilot.

The pilot will take place within the Revenue Ledger Section, ABSB - HQ for a business process currently worked on in a team of six. The task to be done by RPA technology represents approximately 0.75 FTE of a Junior Programs Officer (SP-05) workload. The initial use of this new technology within RL is solely focused on time savings and increased productivity, not decreasing FTEs. Management said that they would report back to the committee on the results of this pilot.

Action Item:

  • ABSB Management will report back to the committee on the results of this pilot.

DIGITAL MAILROOM PROJECT

The Director General, Administration Directorate (DG, AD) said that they continued their research, meeting with approximately 30 CRA program areas, other government entities, industry, and industry clientele to gain a better understanding of the solution and develop the Options Analysis report. The project scope includes five standardized business capabilities:

  • Receive – Paper and electronic correspondence is received and opened, electronic mail is received and virus scanned;
  • Digitize – Paper or electronic documents are converted to digital images;
  • Extract – Data from the image is extracted through automation and/or manual keying and is made available in a format that can be imported by a CRA system;
  • Store – Images are stored so that authorized individuals from various program areas can be accessed or disposed of according to the appropriate disposition requirements; and
  • Notify – Existing internal systems are notified when data is available and an acknowledgement of receipt is sent to clients.

The project presented its Options Analysis report to the Resource and Management Committee (RMC) on May 17, 2018 and received approval to proceed with the Detailed Planning phase of the project with a hybrid model. RMC also approved the transfer of the project’s ownership from ABSB to Finance and Administration Branch, who will now become the Project Sponsor. As part of Detailed Planning, the project plans to test the five business capabilities mentioned, piloting with three early onboarders.

The first three programs selected for initial pilots are the T1 Benefits Correspondence program in the ABSB, the Charities program in Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch, and the Benefits Verification Program in Collections and Verification Branch. These pilots will allow the project team to evaluate how the model will work for the Agency and how the solution can be implemented on an enterprise-wide level in the future. Management noted that the pilots would allow them to see how the solution would enable information sharing between programs. They planned to develop contracts that would allow the Agency to make key decisions, such as stopping if the solution was not working, or adding other programs as they were ready.

The union asked how mailroom clerks would be impacted by these changes. The DG, AD responded that mailroom employees handled three types of mail: incoming, outgoing, and internal mail (within the Agency). This solution would only affect incoming mail and any potential impacts would be managed over multiple years. This solution would address the remaining 10% of incoming paper T1 returns. They were also careful with the ratio of permanent to temporary employees in the mailroom, given the pattern of changes in taxpayer behaviour. They would continue updating the committee as Detailed Planning progressed.

Action Item:

  • FAB Management will continue to update the committee on this project.

OFFICE PRINT MANAGEMENT

The Director General, Administration Directorate (DG, AD) explained that they had been working to reduce the number of printers in CRA’s office print environment since 2005. The CRA moved away from personal desktop printers to Local Area Network (LAN) technology, with multifunction printers replacing older, single-function devices. As CRA presently leased photocopiers, these devices were being replaced with multifunction printers as the lease contract expired.

Management actively managed the fleet of office print devices by tracking and understanding the devices, collecting information about their use to make better business decisions about where and how many need to be deployed. This reduced the cost of maintaining devices as most devices were previously used at 5 to 10% of their capacity. The Office Print team met with the respective program areas to ensure that they understood the workload and impact on program, and had the right number of devices in the right place. The Office Print team worked closely with the ITB and SSC’s Workplace Technology Device Initiative for the GoC.

Since 2016, 773 devices had been removed and replaced by 420 multifunction devices. This was a 46% reduction, allowing the CRA to avoid the additional costs associated with additional devices. This work would continue at more sites.

NEW DIRECT DEPOSIT INITIATIVE

The Director General, Horizontal Integration Directorate (DG, HID) described a new direct deposit initiative that offered direct deposit enrolment to clients of participating financial institutions via online banking or bank representatives. Desjardins offered this service on their online banking portal and TD Canada Trust offered this service in branches to clients that deposited a GoC cheque. Clients of both financial institutions selected the desired bank account for their CRA payment(s) to be direct deposited to, and agreed to share their selected bank account information with the CRA through a secure electronic file.

This new initiative addressed several challenges identified with the current enrolment method.

  • It was primarily paper-based;
  • Specific banking information or a blank cheque was required; and,
  • As the information was manually keyed, by an individual or GoC agent, there was the risk of errors.

The DG, HID anticipated that this change would appeal to the demographic who have not yet enrolled for direct deposit payments from the CRA or wish to update their banking information due to a change in financial institutions.

The DG, HID recognized that this could reduce the need for paper direct deposit enrolment forms and keying by CRA employees. The forms were presently entered by the T1 Specialty Services team in Sudbury; however, this was a portion of the workload for these employees. HR impacts were unknown at this time. These would be gradual and directly linked to onboarding additional financial institutions.

The union asked if there were plans to offer this service though additional financial institutions. The DG, HID responded that the CRA worked through Public Services and Procurement Canada (on behalf of the Receiver General) to advise financial institutions that this service was available if they were interested. Discussions were presently underway with two other banks.

DIGITAL SERVICES strategy

The Digital Services Strategy covered a significant number of projects with the goal of responding to the increasing digital expectations of Canadians. In refining service offerings, the CRA’s approach was to address any friction in existing services. As this encouraged more Canadians to avail themselves of digital services, or self-service options, this reshaped the CRA’s service architecture and enabled the CRA to reinvest funds in areas where some populations required higher touch services.

The Director General, Digital Services Directorate (DG, DSD) gave an update on the progress to date on several key initiatives.

  • The response to telephone authentication has been positive with more than 1.8 million codes issued by email since February 2017. This service allowed clients authenticated during a phone call to receive the CRA security code by email and register for CRA’s secure portals without further validation.
  • With Auto-fill T2 return, Business owners and authorized representatives could download information on file with the CRA directly to their tax preparation software.
  • Since the link was established between My Account and My Service Canada Account in October 2016, there were approximately 6 million transfers between departments. In future, the GoC may look to providing services from a single window or GoC account.
  • There have been more than 136,000 exchanges of direct deposit information between CRA and ESDC (Canada Pension Plan) since November 2017 through the direct deposit and address information sharing initiative. Approximately 1000 updates were shared per day and this number will increase as the initiative is expanded. In future, direct deposit and address information will be shared between additional programs, including the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance and CRA programs. This initiative is part of the larger GoC “Tell Us Once” priority that emphasizes minimizing duplicate client interactions across government organizations.
  • Account alerts for individuals were added in February 2017, and were introduced for businesses on May 14, 2018. Email notification triggers for businesses include changes to direct deposit, mailing address, physical address, books and records address, and returned mail indicator activation. This service increases the trust that taxpayers have in the Agency by catching potential fraud and ensures the integrity of our system data with taxpayer verification. Since February 2017, just under 1 million users have registered for Account alerts.
  • There were over 400,000 Notices of Assessment (NOA) issued through Express NOA for this year.
  • New correspondence was added to the e-Delivery service of online mail, including:
    • Benefit slips, payroll letters and TFSA letters were added in 2017.
    • Confidence Validity (CV) and T1 Processing Review (T1PR) letters were added in 2018 and Appeals, BASICS-Filing and Balance Confirmation, Cannabis and Carbon Tax letters will be added.
    • To encourage registration and accelerate the achievement of these savings, there is an automatic “pop-up box” at My Account and My Business Account sign-in.
    • More than 31,000,000 pieces of correspondence have been sent electronically since the service went live in April 2013 for businesses and February 2015 for individuals.
    • Just under 8 million Canadians have registered for online mail since its inception.
  • Just under 1 million Canadians were invited to use the File my Return service by answering a few yes or no questions through an automated phone service, 47,000 took advantage of this new offering.
  • In the mobile device space, MyCRA, mobile web app for individual was updated to present a return mail indicator to the user and prompt them to update their address in order to ensure their contact information is current.

The union asked if management would continue to provide updates on this item. The DG, DSD confirmed that they would.

The union asked if employees could be affected by these changes. The DG, DSD said that these changes did not necessarily result in impacts for employees. The CRA had adopted the strategy of making continuous small changes, rather than larger changes, to enable the Agency to track its success. Each change should create efficiencies; however, the intent was to shape citizen behaviour to avail themselves of self-service options. This gave the CRA the capacity to provide high-touch, high-need services for the populations that needed that level of service. As an example, management explained that they had provided taxpayers with the ability to print a Statement of income from My Account. They thought that they would see a reduced number of calls to request a Statement of income; however the number of calls had remained stable. The service footprint had doubled for that item, without requiring other compromises.

Action Item:

  • ABSB Management will continue to provide updates on this item.

Departmental Accounts Receivable System (DARS)Replacement Project

The Director General, Collections Directorate (DG, CD) explained that the Departmental Accounts Receivable System (DARS) replacement project was working towards an April 1, 2019, implementation date. The DARS is ESDC’s national client service delivery system that provides a single, cross-program client record for debts owed to ESDC and recovered by the CRA on their behalf, such as EI overpayments and Canada Student Loans.

Representatives from CVB are currently working with ESDC to define business requirements and to support the design of the DARS Replacement solution. “Visualization Sessions” were held with subject matter experts (SMEs) from Government Programs locations to view mock-ups and provide feedback on the solution

The DARS Replacement Organizational Change Management Committee, which includes Headquarters and field representatives, is engaging regional management and SMEs at each of the affected locations. This committee will support training, communications and change management activities to prepare to implement the replacement solution.

This change will impact approximately 400 DARS users at CRA in 8 locations across Canada. Training and documented procedures will be developed for all employees that will use the new solution. The DG, CD said that they would provide another update to the committee when they were closer to implementation.

Action Item:

  • CVB Management will continue to provide updates on this item.

T1 SYSTEMS REDESIGN

The Director General, Individual Returns Directorate (DG, IRD) explained that the T1 Systems Redesign project was a nine year project, presently in its eighth year. Management had successfully implemented a number of system releases and only two releases remained.

The February 2018 release was the last release that would have an impact on field users. All initial assessing workloads involved in the processing of returns had migrated to the T1SR platform. All paper returns and exceptions processing would now flow through the new unified assessing system. As well, pre and post-assessment compliance related workloads were migrated to the T1SR platform. A total of 18 T1 workloads were transitioned to the new common suite of tools and phase II of the accounting enhancements had been implemented.

The training tools developed had been updated to account for the onboarded workloads and over 15,000 users had received training since 2016. Additional steps were also taken to help employees prepare for the 2018 release.

  • Roadshow presentations were given to all processing centres in November 2017;
  • Job Aids and a website were created including: hints, tips, and tricks on commonly used practices;
  • Updated eGuides were prepared to assist workers to navigate the new system; and,
  • HQ staff were onsite in the tax centres and National Verification and Collections Centres (NVCCs) for support following the February release, and again when electronic filing opened, the week of February 26. HQ also conducted targeted visits to address specific issues raised, such as error inspection issues raised in Sudbury.

System changes that were implemented in February 2018 did not have a major impact on the workloads from an HR perspective. Most work remains the same; however, new tools are used to complete the work. Minimal procedural changes to T1 paper return processing were necessary.

The DG, IRD said that this would be the project’s last update to the committee as the remaining T1SR releases are primarily technical in nature, and will be mostly transparent to workers in field offices.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Union Co-Chair thanked management for the information and discussions. He appreciated the innovative ideas that were being discussed by the committee and the emphasis on simplifying interactions between taxpayers and the CRA. He recognized the positive rapport at the committee table.

The Management Co-Chair thanked everyone for their attention to the discussions on the agenda items. She noted that there could be concerns that a function could be diminished by a proposed change; however, these functions tended to be replaced by new, emerging priorities. She valued the frank conversations and said that T3 Modernization will be added as a new agenda item going forward. Budget 2018 had increased the reporting requirements for trusts so a new system would be developed and discussed at future meetings.

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

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees
 

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