Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

November 22, 2018

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES HELD ON NOVEMBRE 22, 2018

PARTICIPANTS

Management  Union
Gillian Pranke
Gordon Majcher for Tammy Branch
Dawn Lawson for Silvano Tocchi  
Michael Honcoop 
Tessie Jokinen 
Roger Houde 
Nancy Lavalle 
Caroline Lemieux-Theoret  
Brian Oldford
Kimberley Koch
Greg Krokosh
Idriss Goundiam
Mathieu Juneau

OPENING REMARKS

The Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch (DAC, ABSB) welcomed the participants and commented on the mandate of the sub-committee and the valuable role played by sub-committee members. She also stated that she intends to continue the positive, respectful and productive interactions that exists between the co-chairs and sub-committee members as she assumes the role of Co-Chair. 

The Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region and Union Co-Chair, mentioned that he was concerned about employee access to the ESS system. He noted that the issue was originally raised in 2017 and that it remains outstanding. His concern was that  employees who are at home on leave are unable to check their pay or credit balance and he asked for an update. It was agreed that the item would be addressed at the end of the meeting. The DAC, ABSB also stated that an update on the Robotic Processing Project was not placed on the agenda as the results from the proof of concept were not available. She stated that results would be shared at the next meeting.

Action Item:

  • The DG, HID will provide an update about the results of the Robotic Processing Pilot at the next meeting.

COLLECTION VERIFICATION WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

The Director General, Technology and Business Intelligence Directorate (DG, TABI) stated that the Collections and Verification Workload Management System (CVWMS) successfully launched, on October 22 2018, due to the strong collaboration between Collections and Verification Branch (CVB), the regions and several supporting partners such as Human Resources Branch and Public Affairs Branch. Leading up to the launch, management prepared a comprehensive change management strategy that included communication, training and stakeholder engagement. The goal was to ensure a shared understanding of the upcoming changes and a smooth transition to the new system.

As part of the formal communication strategy, a Canada-wide roadshow was conducted from August to October 2018 to introduce the new system, discuss benefits and answer questions from field employees. This included an e-presentation with screen shots of CVWMS which were shared with all attendees. In addition, a dedicated CVWMS Infozone page and the CVWMS wiki were updated regularly with new information on the project with a status page for outstanding issues. Training activities were completed for field users including updated manuals and the launch of interactive e-Guides on October 15, 2018. The Regional Champion Committee and creation of a super user network and liaison officer helped address questions in support of the project leading up to launch day on October 22, 2018 and post launch.

Following the first release of CVWMS, Headquarters continues to seek input and feedback on the new platform about upcoming fixes and enhancements. The newly launched CVWMS includes enhancements for the Non-Filer Program, including the routine tasks that are currently being performed manually. The new desktop contains a case summary which provides all necessary details for a user to manage their work and reducing the need to access multiple applications to gather the same information. Overall, the Non-Filer Program employees will see repetitive tasks eliminated and allow more time to focus on core compliance work. The DG, TABI confirmed that work is currently underway on the second release of the project which is a smaller workload and the foundation piece to the third project. He will provide another project update at the next meeting in 2019.

The Regional Vice-President, Pacific Region stated that employees in the Pacific Region found the systems more repetitive with more clicks and less short cut keys. The DG, TABI responded that employees were used to mainframe screens using fast pathing but this new interface displays more data that save accessing many screens.

Action Item:

  • DG, TABI will provide an update at the next meeting.

Contact Centre Transformation Initiative

The Director General, Call Centre Services Directorate (DG, CCSD) stated that the migration to the Hosted Contact Centre Service (HCCS) had begun. The Business Enquiries (BE) call centres sites in Edmonton, Toronto East and Saint John were migrated to the new platform and the system is operating as expected. CRA continues to work collaboratively with Shared Services Canada (SSC) and IBM on the new HCCS technology. The migration was split into three phases: the Business Enquiries lines started taking calls on the new telephone platform November 13th. The Benefit enquiries line is scheduled to migrate November 24-25, with the Income Tax Enquiries (ITE) lines to follow December 8-9, 2018. If the system continues operating as expected, all 1-800 enquiries lines will be moved to the new telephone platform as scheduled. The DG, CCSD explained that the system allows ABSB to better manage the telephone queues. The client’s experience is better as they are provided with the estimated wait time that allows the caller to decide to either wait on the phone for the next available agent, or hang up and call back. The new telephone platform allows a smoother transition between the Interactive Voice Response and the agent queues as the client will be directed to the next available appropriate agent via skills based routing. Calibrating and fine tuning of the system is still underway but the Business Enquiries call centre agents were pleased with the results of the new system during the testing periods.

The Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region and Union Co-Chair asked if the Team Leaders are able to monitor agents by whispering in their ear. The DAC, ABSB said that while Team Leaders will be using the Remote Quality Listening feature they have been asked not to use the feature that would allow them to whisper in the ear of an agent at this time. Resource queues will allow agents to consult senior agents for technical assistance without having to leave their desk or transfer the call. However if it is determined during a consult that the resource agent should take the call, it can be transferred. The DG, CCSD said that call and screen recording is used for quality assurance purposes to identify gaps to improve agent training and to develop tool enhancements that will help agents provide better responses to callers. In terms of performance management, Team Leaders will also use the new call monitoring technology along with the Call Centre Agent Assessment Tool (CCAAT) to assess the knowledge, behaviour and skills that agents are expected to demonstrate during their telephone interactions with callers and to ensure consistency and common standards across all sites. The union asked how it would be measured. Management responded that there are two pieces; the quality assurance piece and the CCAAT Performance management for local call listening. The union asked if the system would impede individuals under a telework arrangement from doing what they do today. The DAC, ABSB responded that there is no impact on existing telework arrangements and explained that the concept of skills based routing would be much better for both the employee and the client in that it helps to direct the call to the agent with the right skill set related to the option chosen by the client in the IVR.  

The DG, TABI said that they have separated the project between the Call Centre Modernization and the Call Centre Transformation Initiative (CCTI). CRA continues to successfully migrate other call centres to Virtual Office Calls Allocation System (VOCALLS). The Charities call centres migrated in September 2018. Surrey’s National Verification and Collections Centres (NVCC) call centres (T1 Processing, PD4R/PIER) were successfully migrated on November 19, 2018, while T1/T2 Non-Filer is scheduled to migrate on December 3, 2018. CRA continues to work collaboratively with SSC and IBM partners on the testing and defect resolution for the new HCCS technology. Readiness activities continue to be executed in order to ensure a seamless transition once HCCS is implemented in the CRA ITE and Debt Management Call Centres (DMCC). User Acceptance Testing, Production Verification and Volume Testing and Combined Volume Testing activities were conducted and helped identify gaps between the build and CRA requirements. The testing continues to be executed by CRA agents over the DMCC and ITE call sites. The testing activities are being conducted to ensure that the HCCS technology will satisfy both call centre users and taxpayers’ needs.

SSC requested a third party assessment to be able to provide recommendations moving forward. Due to delays, it was recommended that the project be extended for two years resulting in an end date on 2022. CVB is also currently working on determining which contact centres will migrate to HCCS, VOCALLS or another solution based on capacity and requirements. This recommendation was suggested to satisfy the needs of all CRA contact centres. To ensure that HCCS will function as expected and as required for users, CRA has performed extensive testing. The three DMCC sites are scheduled to cutover to HCCS by February 1, 2019, and are currently on the critical path for IBM infrastructure upgrades scheduled for January 15, 2019.

Action Item:

  • DG, TABI will provide an update at the next meeting.

DIGITAL MAILROOM PROJECT

The Director General, Administration Directorate (DG, AD) said that the project had received approval by the Resource Management Committee (RMC) in May 2018 to proceed to the Detailed Planning stage with a hybrid model which would leverage both the services of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) as well as internal solutions. In September 2018, both unions were informed on the posting of an Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) on the Government Electronic Tendering Service procurement site. The ITQ has been posted and is expected to close in December 2018. The project team anticipates establishing a list of pre-qualified vendors that meet the high level requirements of the project and they will be engaged in the second step of the procurement process early 2019 when the project requirements will be refined. This step will enable a clear understanding of what the industry can offer to mitigate potential risks while ensuring that the final Statement of Work (SOW) is technically sound to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP).

In parallel to the procurement process, the work to onboard the initial 3 programs onto the Digital Mailroom Program (DMP) solution is continuing; Charities program in Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs, the Service Complaints Problem Resolution Program in the Service, Innovation and Integration Branch and a third program to be identified. As part of the work to onboard these programs, an onboarding strategy to leverage future programs will be developed. In alignment with the procurement and onboarding processes, the importance of Change Management is being recognized. Project updates will be available on Infozone. A contract is not expected before June 2019 and the pilot will begin once the contract is awarded. We expect no impact or measurements until much later in 2019 or early 2020.

The union asked how many employees would be impacted by these changes. The DG, AD explained that at this time the impact to CRA’s workforce profile was not known. It will take three to four years before the impacts to CRA employees currently involved in manual correspondence processing are fully identified. The union asked why the project had to be outsourced and not kept in-house. The DG, AD said that all internal, external and Matane, Quebec options were considered and that the options analysis included an evaluation of costs, organizational risk and time to develop and implement the solution. As a result of the options analysis a managed service solution was identified as the best option providing these capabilities on a integrated basis to the Agency. The union asked if any other area would be affected. The DG, AD said that for now, only the 3 programs will be “on-boarded” but the idea is to make these capabilities available to all CRA programs. All paper input processes could potentially use this process. The union asked if all CRA mail would go to one place. The DG, AD said that the technicalities have not been finalized. This is part of the next step. Adjustments are needed before onboarding other programs. The union mentioned the Recall delays. The DG, AD will follow up on the delays of record management to make sure the service level agreement is respected.

Action Item:

  • DG, AD will look into the Recall delays and provide an update at the next committee meeting.  

DIGITAL SERVICES strategy

The Director, Strategic Service Initiatives and Partnerships Directorate (Director, SSIPD) explained that the Digital Service Strategy was launched in 2015 and that good progress has been made. One of the biggest projects currently underway is the Secure Portals Re-Engineering. This will allow all 3 portals (My Account, My Business Account and Represent a Client) to be merged into one user centric portal. Changes will include the redesign of all webpages as well as an update to underlying infrastructure. The unification of these three existing secure portals into a single portal with a single point of entry will focus on redesigning the user experience and is anticipated to improve navigation and usability for users of the service. In October 2018, My Account underwent the first set of enhancements, with many more to follow in the upcoming years. Another update is the online mail. To date, the service has seen 7.9 million individual registrations and 768,000 business registrations, representing over 42 million pieces of correspondence sent. We continue to mature the service and in October 2018, 12 new letters were added.

The Account Alerts and Online Mail services are being merged to provide a single registration point and allow taxpayers to receive notifications from a variety of CRA programs and services. The Business merger was completed in May 2018 and the Individuals merger is scheduled for February 2019. Optional Account Alerts for businesses were introduced in October 2018 and they include notifying businesses of a Change of authorized representative, GST/HST payment reminder, and Payroll payment reminder. The upcoming changes to the individual Account Alerts include notifications for change of marital status, payment and returns reminders. Changes were also made to the submit documents service in October 2018.  Business owners and representatives can now submit supporting documents for Excise duty programs and My Account screens have been modified to remove the drop down list and replaced with a question-based, radio button format.

In October 2017, the CRA Bizz App. was introduced as a mobile web application designed for use on mobile devices and is intended for small businesses.  With this app they are able to monitor and track corporate income tax, GST/HST, payroll and excise duties. It was developed with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses and in response to the Service You Better consultations.

The e-Interactions Strategy was launched in 2015 and the CRA is currently rebooting the strategy to build on partnerships across the federal family and with trusted third parties; to focus on improving the client experience (to deliver digital services that meet client needs and preferences); and to adjust to new and emerging technologies. An in depth client assessment has been completed and the new strategy will ensure alignment with the GC direction. A new roadmap will be delivered in this fiscal year.

The union asked if there are any effects in the workplace. The Director, SSIPD responded that there would be no major changes in the number of employees as a result of the work noted in her update. The intention of the Digital Services Strategy is to offer a better service to Canadians. The digital stream offers an alternative option to waiting on phone or sending a paper mail. The union asked if communication abouts audits could be done inside the portal. The Director, SSIPD said that the audit process is initiated with a paper letter that includes a case number and thereafter communication between the taxpayer and the auditor can be done inside the portal in a secure way.

Action Item:

  • DG, DSD will continue to provide updates on this item.

Departmental Accounts Receivable System (DARS) Replacement Project

The DG, TABI shared that representatives from CVB are currently working with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to define business requirements and support the design of the Departmental Accounts Receivable System (DARS) Replacement solution. “Visualization Sessions” where held with subject matter experts (SME) from Government Programs (GP) locations (Surrey, Belleville/Kingston, Shawinigan, Moncton and London) to view mock-ups and provide feedback on the solution. The DARS Replacement Organizational Change Management Committee (comprised of HQ and field representatives) is engaging regional management and SME’s at each of the affected locations in support of training, communications and change management to prepare for the implementation of the replacement solution. The DG, TABI explained that the DARS replacement project was working towards an April 1, 2019, implementation date. Contingency plans are being made to cover until April 1, 2020.

Through monthly and ad-hoc stakeholder engagement, coordination and logistics are being handled to develop updated business procedures, as well as training content, change management, organizational alignment, and communication. Regional SME’s are responsible for three key components: Building training content to develop the course outline and the training course; Train the Trainers; and, Super Users. A combination of on-site training and information sessions for both groups prior to delivery to end users and End User Training with a collaboration on training logistics will be completed for the Pre-Go Live delivery and Post-Go Live delivery. The project is expected to result in a collaborative relationship with our partners.

The union asked when all employees will be trained on the new system. The DG, TABI said that all employees will be trained and the transition to the new system should not be a problem.

Action Item:

  • DG, TABI will continue to provide updates on this item.

T3 MODERNIZATION

The Director General, Individual Returns Directorate (DG, IRD) explained that the 2018 federal budget introduced two significant changes for T3 returns; filing and identification information involved with trusts. Both of these seek to improve the quality and availability of identification information to help determine tax liabilities and effectively counter aggressive tax avoidance as well as tax evasion, money laundering, and other criminal activities. The CRA will have better information about the ownership of complex structures that will assist in conducting risk assessments. This information will be shared, where appropriate and as permitted, with our domestic and international partners. The current T3 assessing process is a manual, paper-based workload that collects only a small portion of the identification information when processing the approximately 280,000 returns from trusts that are currently required to file. The new filing and reporting requirements will increase the volume of T3 Returns to an estimated 2 million annually. CRA must modernize the T3 program and systems to be able to process the expected increase in T3 filing and to collect, verify, and maintain the new identification information.

In addition, modernizing the T3 program will equip CRA with the infrastructure needed to begin providing long awaited electronic services that are currently unavailable to the T3 filing population. Specifically, a platform for electronic processing will be developed, which will be essential to the updated T3 pipeline. Approximately $131 million will be invested in the platform over a five-year period. To deliver an electronic platform for the T3 program, the current identification, assessment, and accounting systems will need to be modernized and existing solutions from other business lines will be leveraged. Since trusts are considered individuals under the Income Tax Act, the processing of T3 returns will be moved to the newly redesigned T1 platform. In the absence of this capability, new technological solutions will be built. The new T3 pipeline and automation of the assessing and accounting work involved in processing T3 returns today will result in changes in the work performed in the Tax Centres. As the project progresses, more will be known about the exact impacts of these changes. Releases are not planned before 2022.

Action Item:

  • DG, IRD will provide an update at the next meeting.

PIN AUTHENTICATION

The DG, CCSD shared that the purpose of the Personal Identification Number (PIN) Authentication project is to simplify the confidentiality process for callers on the Individual and Benefit lines in order to make it easier for them to access the CRA’s telephone service. Taxpayers will enter their PIN to authenticate themselves though the call centres and the portal. This change will also reduce call length for agent assisted calls and improve the success rates for callers who are attempting to self-serve in our automated telephone services. These factors will result in improved call access.

The union asked how many digits would be included in the PIN. The DG, CCSD answered that it would be 4 to 6 digits. He explained that a few other enhancements are being considered such as scheduled call backs to allow the taxpayers to pick a day and time for a call back and also virtual hold where the taxpayer can opt to leave the line and receive an automatic dial back. These improvements if implemented are expected to improve long wait times.

Action Item:

  • The DG, CCSD will provide an update at the next meeting.

CLOSING REMARKS

The DAC, ABSB addressed the unions’ challenge about employees on leave having access to their leave credits and accessing their pay stub from home.

The Regional Vice-President Pacific Region provided clarification on this issue in saying that management is pushing back on time being provided to employees to contact the Compensation Client Service Centre (CCSC) to resolve their pay issues. For this reason, members have to call CCSC from home and do it on their own time. The challenge is that employees do not have access to their pay stubs at home. The DAC, ABSB advised that she did not believe that the issue falls under the mandate of the sub-committee but that she would raise it with the Human Resources Branch.  She committed to closing the loop with the union co-chair within the next few weeks. 

The DAC, ABSB confirmed the items for the next meeting include CVWMS, CCTI, DMP, Digital Services, DARS, T3 Modernization, PIN, Robotics Processing and Refile.

The union co-chair asked about the creation of a spreadsheet to maintain and track of all technological changes tabled at the sub-committee meetings. The union  agreed to share a template that they have used for this purpose.  The DAC, ABSB agreed to explore the feasibility with Union-Management Relations and the union. 

The union also asked about the T1 system redesign feedback that was submitted to management. The DG, IRD has agreed to follow up.

The DAC, ABSB commented that the dialogue was productive and thanked everyone for their contribution.

Action Item:

  • The DAC, ABSB committed to include the following items on the next agenda; CVWMS, CCTI, DMP, Digital Services, DARS, T3 Modernization, PIN, Robotics Processing and Refile.
  • The DAC, ABSB agreed to explore the feasibility with Union-Management Relations and the union regarding the creation of a commitment template.
  • The DG, IRD will follow up about the outcome of the T1 redesign feedback provided by the union

Gillian Pranke
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency

 

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees
 

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