The 1980’s were back in full force at Optimus SBR on Thursday, November 15th as our team came together for the sixth annual Play it Forward event in support of two local charities. A joint collaboration between our employee-led Corporate Social Responsibility and Social committees, Play it Forward combines live action games with silent auctions and raffle prizes to raise money for our partner charities. This year the Optimus team was able to raise an outstanding $24,000, a 185% increase from funds raised last year!

Employees are encouraged to dress up according to the theme, and prizes are awarded for Best Costume. To help drive donations, participants in the live action games represent all areas and levels within the organization, and are placed into tiers based on seniority. Tiers are unlocked as funds are raised, often times far exceeding the published targets. Silent auction items and raffle prizes are generously donated by employees and local businesses, and include golf packages, signed jerseys and cooking lessons.

All proceeds from Play it Forward go to our two partner charities, the Fort York Food Bank and Engage and Change. Please take a few moments to visit their websites for more information on either or to donate.

Special thanks to GiftMagnet for creating our donation site.

Reaffirming priorities from the Ontario Government

At Optimus SBR, we regularly keep an eye on public sector developments for our clients. Our recent piece on Finding the Money: New Realities for Ontario’s Broader Public Sector discussed the new Ontario government’s priorities and what they mean for public sector leaders going forward. Now, the government’s fall economic statement, officially titled in writing as A Plan for the People – 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, Background Papers, provides a more comprehensive picture of its priorities and what they mean for spending and the fiscal health of the province. This briefing note only addresses selected highlights from the economic statement.

The Fall Economic Statement

The Honorable Vic Fideli, Minister of Finance, presented the government’s fall economic statement in the Legislature on November 15th.[1] The mantras throughout the accompanying document are “For the People” and “Every Dollar Counts”. Indeed, immediately after the cover page and copyright details in the front matter, there is a box entitled EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS describing how the government has saved taxpayers approximately $11,000 by “only printing one-third of the typical print run” and “not formally publishing a booklet with the Minister’s Statement.” It sets a tone.

“The Fiscal Hole is Deep”

As the fall economic statement’s official title suggests, it is not a budget but rather provides an outlook and fiscal review, taking as its starting point 2017-18 actual spending figures and a “Commission Revised Baseline” for revenues, expenses and deficit figures from the Report of the Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry. That report forecast revenues of $150.9 billion, expenses of $164.9 billion, and a $15 billion deficit once a $1.0 billion reserve had been added.

The government has updated this to a Current Outlook which projects $148.2 billion in revenue, $161.8 billion in expenses, and an overall deficit of $14.5 billion. This improvement in the deficit of $0.5 billion is the net result of:

  • a $2.7 billion drop in revenue, the main contributors to which are: $1.5 billion from cancelling cap-and-trade; “other changes” of $0.7 billion; and stopping planned tax increases from the previous budget of $0.3 billion; and
  • a $3.2 billion drop in expenses, the main contributors to which are:
    • “Savings from Expenditure Management Restrictions and Updated Forecasts” (restrictions on discretionary spending and updated program forecasts) of $1.1 billion;
    • a reduction in program spending (primarily cap-and-trade, OHIP+, infrastructure spending) of $1.8 billion;
    • an increase of $0.3 billion from spending on hospital and community spending, police tools, the Muskoka Watershed, and forest fire fighting; and
    • $0.5 billion in “other changes”.

Fedeli says of this that “The fiscal hole is deep.” Elsewhere, the document describes principles the government will adhere to in “restoring balance” but leaves details and projections of how that will happen to the 2019 Budget. While little is said on this front, statement is setting the stage for “restoring the balance” in the future.

Distribution of Spending

Where spending is concerned, sector shares are not substantially different from the previous budget given that the fall economic statement is an update and the government has not yet had a chance to put in place a longer term fiscal plan. The government’s expected spending of $161.8 billion includes:

  • $61.7 billion or 38% of the total in the health sector;
  • $30.7 billion or 19% in the education sector;
  • $11.4 billion or 7% in the post-secondary and training sector; and
  • $12.5 billion or 8% in interest on the debt.

Of course, this structure may change as the government plans for a balanced budget in the coming years.


There are some spending announcements and reiteration of recent ones. More importantly, the government is starting to signal directions and priorities in a variety of sectors. Below are some highlights.

Open For Business

The government includes a variety of initiatives under its Open for Business umbrella, including:

  • repealing the more onerous provisions of and proposing amendments to Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 and introducing Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act;
  • limiting the increase in the minimum wage to $14/hour
  • reducing Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums;
  • cancelling Ontario’s cap-and-trade program;
  • cutting red tape, with a target of reducing regulatory red tape by 25% by 2022; and
  • winding down the Ontario College of Trades.

Agency and Tribunal Reviews

The new government is:

  • establishing task force to review agencies and ensure they are relevant, efficient, effective and provide value for money, conspicuously mentioning the Ontario Geographic Names Board and the Rabies Advisory Committee; and
  • planning to review adjudicative tribunals and tribunal clusters under the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Financial Market Regulation

The government announced that it will:

  • play a leadership role in implementing the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System (CCMR);
  • respect the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in pursuing streamlined capital markets regulation;
  • propose to amend Ontario capital markets legislation to regulate benchmarks like the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR) and Canadian Overnight Repo Rate Average (CORRA) that underpin tens of thousands of financial contracts;
  • introduce legislative amendments that would provide for the amalgamation of the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO) and the Deposit Insurance Reserve Fund with FSRA, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario, to simplify the regulatory landscape.


The fall economic statement highlights that:

  • the government is cancelling 758 renewable energy contracts to help reduce electricity bills by 12 per cent;
  • it will be reviewing industrial electricity prices;
  • it is encouraging consolidation in the electricity distribution sector with private sector involvement;
  • it is closing the Thunder Bay Generating Station following announcements from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to save $45 million; and
  • the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is conducting a review of its customer service rules and exploring its mandate, role and structure through the OEB Modernization Review Panel.

Health Care

The statement reiterates the government’s commitment to health care transformation, integrated care, and ending hallway medicine with advice from the Premier’s Council led by Rueben Devlin. Other highlights include:


  • $90 million for 1,100 beds and spaces in hospitals and the community, including the creation of over 640 new beds and spaces as an immediate measure

Mental Health and Addictions

  • $1.9 billion over 10 years on mental health and addictions services;
  • spending to reduce wait times, faster access;
  • a new Consumption and Treatment Services model; and
  • funding to expand the scope and coverage of Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinics for people with substance abuse issues.

OHIP+ and Ontario Drug Benefit Program

  • Children and youth under 25 who are covered by private insurance will bill those plans starting in March 2019, while those who are not covered will continue to benefit from OHIP+, creating an estimated savings of $250 million; and
  • a commitment to examine the Ontario Drug Benefit Program to create an easier to understand, more consistent and more sustainable drug system.

Long-Term Care

  • 6,000 new beds and a commitment to invest $300 million to support them, as the first wave of over 15,000 new long-term beds over the next five years.


On the municipal front the government highlighted that it:

  • has signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO);
  • committed $40 million over two years to help municipalities with implementation of cannabis legalization, plus provide municipalities that have not opted out of retail stores by January 22, 2019 with 50% of the federal excise duty exceeding $100 million in the first two years;
  • will launch a Housing Supply Action Plan and undertake measures to increase the supply of housing across Ontario.

Transportation and Transit

The government announced it:

  • will be completing a review of all transportation and transit capital projects;
  • will develop a plan to upload responsibility for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway infrastructure from the City of Toronto to the Province;
  • undertaking planning work with respect to high-speed rail in the province, particularly Southwestern Ontario;
  • is working to resume the Environmental Assessment for the Greater Toronto Area West Highway Corridor, covering portions of York, Peel and Halton regions.
  • is planning to propose amendments to the Metrolinx Act, 2006 to modernize Metrolinx, consistent with its broader agency review.

Alcohol and Cannabis

On these two fronts, the government:

  • will undertake a comprehensive review of the beverage alcohol sector and expand the sale of beer and wine into corner stores, grocery stores, and big-box stores;
  • established the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) as the regulatory for private cannabis retail stores;
  • has aligned cannabis consumption rules with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 restrictions, so that smoking and vaping cannabis is prohibited near schools, children’s playgrounds, hospitals and child care facilities, among others; and
  • intends to introduce legislation to amend the Municipal Act, 2001, and the City of Toronto Act, 2006to clarify municipalities’ authority in the cannabis area.

Discussion: It’s About Priorities Right Now

There is of course more in this economic statement, and surely much more in the spring budget to come. As we said in Finding the Money: New Realities for Ontario’s Broader Public Sector, all indications are that the budget cuts the government has touted are to be taken seriously, and may be even greater in non-core areas.

But this update is less about revenue and spending announcements than about signalling broad directions and priorities. It will be important to be aware of going forward, as the hard work for everyone in the Ontario public sector is yet to come.

In the meantime, if you need help preparing for this hard work, give us a call, or send us a note.

Brad Ferguson, SVP, Industries and Government Practice

David Lynch, Principal

[1] Excerpts in bulleted form below preserve or paraphrase the Fall Economic Statement’s wording to ensure accuracy and clarity.

New Realities for Ontario’s Broader Public Sector

At Optimus SBR, we regularly keep an eye on public sector developments for our clients. With a new Ontario government, there has been no shortage of new developments, so we have put together this briefing for our Ontario Transfer Payment Agency (TPA) and Broader Public Sector (BPS) clients.

Ontario’s New Government, 100 Days In

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government was sworn in a little over one hundred days ago, and has moved quickly ever sinceWhile it is still early in the mandate, key messages and areas of focus are emerging:

  1. Finding the Money – During the campaign, the PCs promised to find $6 billion in savings from the provincial government, roughly 4% of the total stated budget at the time. While the fall economic statement set for November 15th will say more, indications to date are that, across government, efficiency targets in this range are not only real, but likely even greater in areas that are seen as outside of government’s core functions.
  2. Consolidating Transfer Payment Agencies –TPAs, of course, represent a wide variety of organizations – from regulatory agencies and hospitals to forestry authorities and community organizations, providing all kinds of programs and services. Much of the government’s early attention has been focused on the thousands of such organizations the government relies on to carry out policy and deliver services.
  3. Consolidation is coming – in all sectors. Senior civil servants and appointees are already picking up this messaging in public and private discussions.
  4. More Data! – Senior government officials want more data, particularly about outcomes for Ontarians and the bottom line, to clarify what value TPAs provide to government and more importantly the people of Ontario.

What can TPA and BPS leaders do as the government focuses on the finding the money, consolidation, and data? We provide some answers – mantras, really – below.

What Leaders Can Do to Prepare

1)    It’s Not About You, It’s About What You Do and Who You Do it For

Individual agencies, health and social service providers, service delivery organizations and other TPAs often play a niche role in a broader system. Leaders will need to ask themselves: 

  • Are we demonstrating unique value?  
  • Are we delivering programs, services or functions that are more valuable than what government could get from other agencies or the not-for-profit or private sector? 

Organizations must be able to answer these questions, because government will certainly be asking them. Imagine central agencies and ministries mapping, mixing, and matching various organizations’ mandates, core functions, programs, and services – yours included – to figure out what makes sense for the system. They will be stepping back and asking: 

  • What are people getting out of the system? 
  • What does government need to do here, if anything? Does it need to do things or just fund them? 
  • Do we need all of these organizations? Does the way these organizations are set up actually help us achieve our goals? 

In other words: consolidation discussions are not going to be about you and your organization – they are going to be about whether what you do needs to be done or funded by government, whether you are a high value provider, and if so, what capabilities you have to ensure government is only as big as it needs to be and minimizes its impact on taxpayers’ wallets.  

The question of whether you demonstrate unique value also applies to organizations in the regulatory space. In his book The Regulatory Craft, Harvard’s Malcolm Sparrow’s mantra for regulators is “…to pick important problems and fix them.”1 The corollary is that if you are doing things that do not fix real problems, then you likely need to stop doing them and get out of the way.  For organizations charged with fixing problems in a regulatory context, the corresponding questions will be: 

  • Are you focusing on real problems that are of significant public interest? 
  • Are you uniquely able to fix those problems on your own? Is that apparent in the outcomes you are mandated to monitor and improve? 
  • How are you and your partners striving to fix problems and hold yourself accountable for outcomes, rather than – as sometimes happens – diffusing accountability?

2)    Prioritize: What is Yours to Do?

Citizens and government are demanding a system of partners that demonstrate collective accountability in every sector. To prepare for this type of discussion, you need to ask what the priorities are, starting with the system’s and ending with yours. At OPTIMUS | SBR, we use our Accountability Framework® System (AFS) to help clients do strategic planning.  The AFS boils public sector organizations’ mandate and mission down to a single question: What is ours to do?  

Right now, organizations will need to ask themselves some serious questions that are less often asked: Should what we do be done by government? Could someone else do it better? Do we need to deliver things differently or with other partners? 

To answer these questions you will need to sort through system priorities and ask hard questions about whether you need to prune back programs and services that have accumulated over time: 

  • What system priorities can we play a high value role in advancing? What is ours to do for the system?  
  • Which priorities did we inherit, or were asked as an organization to take on because they “didn’t fit” anywhere else, even if they didn’t exactly match our mandate? 
  • Can we divest existing programs or services that no longer make sense? 
  • Which of our core programs and services simply must continue?  

Once you’ve asked and answered these questions, you should then step back and ask, “How has our role changed? What does that mean for how we are organized internally? Do we have the right people for the job? Are we working with our partners the right way?”

3)    Make Visible Changes and Have the Tough Conversations

This government has already made some tangible changes on matters large and small – getting rid of certain tax and license fee increases, for example – that signal its priorities to all Ontarians.  

You and your Board should also identify visible changes that signal your organization is making life easier (when it should be) for stakeholders and asking hard operational questions like: 

  • Do funding, stakeholder contributions or user fees need to increase this year, or can they be kept flat (or better yet, reduced) if some hard decisions are taken this year? 
  • Are there aspects of your processes that irritate stakeholders or get in the way of you doing your work most effectively? Can a few of them be changed quickly? 
  • What can you do for stakeholders that says: “We get it. We’ll fix it.”? 

These types of questions require tough conversations. And when fiscal constraints bite in a new environment, leadership must recognize that it is not immune from the pressures. 

These conversations must happen, and not just because there are tough decisions to be made – for many TPAs, there are existential decisions to be made. And if, in the pursuit of savings, an organization closes up shop because its functions have gone to another and citizens – as clients, patients, advocates, business people, or taxpayers – are better off as a result, isn’t that what public sector leaders are after anyway? 

An Optimistic Thought

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
– Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

To some leaders, these mantras will sound dire. They’re not. But they do reflect the speed at which Ontario’s new government is moving and the urgency with which public sector leaders need to act. Public sector leaders who get the big picture, and can have the tough conversations to prioritize, fix problems, and make visible changes will find savings more easily than others and still find themselves with much to do. Right now, you have an opportunity to design your future, rather than have it designed for you.

Optimus SBR’s Public Sector Practice

We can help design your future with you. We know these are big questions, because we ask them every day when we work with our clients to define their mandate, chart the next 3-5 years, find a partner, or find savings. Give us a call, or send us a note.

Brad Ferguson, SVP, Industries and Government Practice

David Lynch, Principal

[1] Sparrow, Malcolm (2000). The Regulatory Craft. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, p. 9. Italics in original.

TORONTO, Nov. 1,  2017 /CNW/ – As part of its continuing growth strategy, Optimus SBR has acquired fellow industry leader BottomLine Group. This exciting new venture will create new capabilities and expanded industry depth at one of Canada’s leading management consulting firms.

BottomLine Group (BLG) offers substantial industry expertise in strategic growth, learning and enablement, business transformation, sourcing and optimization, and risk management.

Optimus SBR is now positioned to offer BLG clients new, complementary services in strategic planning, process improvement, project management, research-based decision-making, and leadership growth.

This new arrangement marks the sixth acquisition for Optimus SBR since its inception, a testament to the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit and bold attitude. The award-winning management consulting firm is well-known and respected for its can-do culture and ability to help clients execute.

“We are excited to be joining Optimus SBR and are eager to offer enhanced services to our existing clients in the areas of process improvement, program management, and leadership development,” says Alexa Nick, former BLG Managing Director.  “The combination of BLG and Optimus SBR creates a force in the market that will generate greater value for our clients. Our teams share a passion and energy that points to an exciting path forward, together.”

“We welcome the opportunity to offer BottomLine Group’s clients a wider and deeper range of opportunities for improvement – this is exciting,” said Kevin Gauci, Optimus SBR Managing Director. “In addition, we can provide our clients with greater expertise in learning and enablement, procurement and sourcing, and risk management. Great things happen when you put two strong organizations together; great things for our clients, and great things for our people.”

The new company will operate nationally and throughout North America as Optimus SBR with headquarters in downtown Toronto. BLG consultants and management will operate as Optimus SBR effective immediately.

About Optimus SBR

Optimus SBR is a Toronto-based management consulting firm that provides advisory services customized to address strategy, process, and project management needs to leading firms across North America.

Since their inception, their consultants have provided professional advisory services custom-tailored to fit the needs of each firm and clients individually.

Optimus SBR is recognized as one of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Professional Services firms by the PROFIT 500, and an AON Hewitt Best Employer for the past 5 years.

For further information:

Optimus makes the Growth 500 for a Sixth Consecutive Year

Bold attitude and an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s what we keep coming back to as the reasons for our continued growth over the past eight years, and as evidenced by our inclusion in the Growth 500 for 2018. This is the sixth time Optimus SBR has been included on the annual list, and we have no plans of slowing down.

“As Canada’s largest independent consulting firm, Optimus SBR has created our own unique place in the market where we partner with our clients to tackle their toughest challenges and get things done. Our team of highly engaged and entrepreneurial people have made our vision to be a different kind of consulting firm become a reality. It’s a major driver behind our growth” shares Kevin Gauci, Managing Director.

Deborah Aarts, Growth 500 editor and program manager adds, “The companies on the 2018 Growth 500 are truly remarkable. Demonstrating foresight, innovation and smart management, their stories serve as a primer for how to build a successful entrepreneurial business today. As we celebrate 30 years of the Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies program, it’s encouraging to see that entrepreneurship is healthier than ever in this country.”

Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by five-year revenue growth, the Growth 500—formerly known as the PROFIT 500—profiles the country’s most successful entrepreneurial businesses. The Growth 500 is produced by Canadian Business. Winners are profiled in a special Growth 500 print issue of Canadian Business (packaged with the October issue of Maclean’s magazine) and online at and

For more information, you can contact us anytime through our contact form or by emailing us at

Looking for a place to happen: A bold plan, but will it be implemented?

Optimus SBR’s Public Sector, Health Care and Not-For-Profit group regularly monitors policy developments at the federal, provincial and municipal level to inform its work and support clients in government, the broader public sector, and certain parts of the private and not-for-profit sectors. This Briefing Note highlights key elements of interest to our clients from yesterday’s Ontario Budget announcement.

A Pre-Election Budget

With a provincial election set to occur on or before June 7th, Ontario’s government presented its 2018 Budget, A Plan for Care and Opportunity, in the Legislature on March 28 (excerpts in bulleted form below preserve or paraphrase Ontario Budget wording to ensure accuracy and clarity).

A Change in Fiscal Direction

Where past budgets had been concentrated on tracking towards a balanced budget, the Budget stresses the need to improve economic growth and ensure that the “benefits of growth are more widely shared”. This means large spending commitments and a move away from modest surpluses into deficits of over $6 billion from 2018-19 through 2020-21 (the “Medium-Term Plan”), followed by a “Recovery Plan” to once again get the Province back to a balanced budget seven years from now in 2024-25. While much has already been made of the headline numbers, the Budget provides additional detail on where and how the money will be spent.

How Much?

For fiscal year 2018-19, the government is planning to spend $158.5 billion, which includes:

  • $61.2 billion or 38.7% of the total in the health sector;
  • $29.1 billion or 18.3% in the education sector;
  • $11.1 billion or 7.4% in the postsecondary and training sector; and
  • $12.5 billion in Interest on the debt.

When the interest is removed to focus on program spending, the familiar patterns for health care and education persist: the health sector represents 42% of all program spending while the education, postsecondary and training sectors together constitute the next 28%; together, they represent 70% of all program spending. Below we highlight developments of interest in the Health Care, Children & Youth Services, Income Security, and Cannabis sectors.

Highlights by Sector

Health Care

New spending in the health sector more or less covers the entire continuum of care. The story here is the incremental – and in some cases much more than incremental – growth in each subsector.


  • $822 million in 2018-19 (a 4.6% increase) for hospitals, including $305 million “to support hospitals with service demands related to population growth and aging”, plus:
    • $187 million for more hospital beds including new medical and surgical beds, mental health beds and beds for long-term ventilated patients”; and
    • $54 million to increase access to specialized services such as bariatric surgeries, organ transplantations, neurosurgical services and critical care”, as well as $5 million for new adult critical care beds; and
  • $19 billion over 10 years in 40 major hospital projects, including SickKids’ Project Horizon and major redevelopment projects at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital and Lakeridge Health.

Primary Care

  • $102 million over three years to support the expansion of interprofessional primary care teams; and
  • $330 million over three years to support the recruitment and retention of health care professionals for primary care teams, including those working in Aboriginal Health Access Centres, community health centres, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics and family health teams.

Mental Health and Addictions

  • $2.1 billion over the next four years for a more integrated mental health and addictions system, including up to 100 acute care beds;
  • increased access to publicly funded psychotherapy (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT), including related training to primary care teams and community mental health and addictions agencies;
  • a needs-based funding allocation for community-based child and youth mental health services; and
  • more culturally appropriate and preventive mental health services for First Nation, Inuit and Métis children and youth.

Opioid Crisis

  • $222 million for the implementation of the province’s Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose;
  • $7 million for seven supervised injection sites; and
  • the approval of four Overdose Prevention Sites beyond the first one opened in London in February 2018.

Drug and Dental Benefits

  • OHIP+, which provides drug coverage at no cost to eligible children and youth under 25, will be expanded to include seniors receiving prescriptions through the Ontario Drug Benefit; and
  • Ontario will introduce a new Ontario Drug and Dental Program in summer 2019 for people without extended health plans.

Home, Community and Long-Term Care

In the home, community and long-term subsectors, the province is proposing to spend in several different areas, including:

  • $1 billion over three years that would provide households led by seniors 75 and older with up to $750 per year to assist with maintaining their homes, which could include things like snow shovelling, lawn cutting or house cleaning;
  • $300 million over three years, starting with $50 million in 2018-19, to provide for registered nurses in every long-term care home; and
  • $126 million to increase the number of PSWs in underserved communities and provide them with additional training.

Children and Youth Services

There are significant announcements here:

  • $2.2 billion over three years to introduce free preschool for children from age two-and-a-half through to kindergarten eligibility, which the government claims could save an average Ontario family over $17,000 during that period, or more if they live in Toronto;
  • additional operating funding of over $160 million over three years, beginning in January 2019;
  • $62 million in 2018-19 in the Ontario Autism Program to expand current system capacity; and
  • $30 million over two years to create an Early Years and Child Care Innovation Fund, which will support the development of new child care solutions.

Income Security Reform

Following from the Income Security Working Group’s Income Security: A Roadmap for Change report, the Budget commits the government to making social assistance programs simpler, less punitive, and less burdensome to comply with. In addition, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates are set to increase three percent per year, starting in fall 2018, while certain other benefits and allowances will increase by two percent per year.

Cannabis Legalization

The Budget includes estimates of two types of cannabis-related revenue, assuming the federal government will carry out its legalization plans:

  • the province’s portion of the federal excise duty, expected to grow from $35 million in 2018-19 to $115 million in 2020-21; and
  • earnings from the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), starting with an estimated net loss of $40 million in 2018-19 and growing to a net income of $100 million in 2020-21,

or, overall, revenue approaching a quarter billion dollars in 2020-21. The Budget also describes capacity building measures for law enforcement, justice, public health, to accompany the legalization of cannabis.

The Path Back to a Balanced Budget?

In years past, some citizens and more commonly bond rating agencies have voiced concerns about the sustainability of Ontario’s debt load, particularly as interest rates are widely expected to rise in the coming years. Steadily declining deficits have helped alleviate some of these concerns, while increasing infrastructure commitments have tended to exacerbate them.

Previous budget projections of the relevant measure, the Net Debt-to-GDP ratio, tended to show it coming down from its 2014-15 peak of 39% as budgets balanced or went into surplus for the foreseeable future. Now it shows a second peak approaching 39% in 2021-22, and then a descent from when the aforementioned Recovery Plan is expected to take hold. Given that this Recovery Plan would largely be executed after the next government’s mandate, this may not put bondholders at ease, while citizens will shortly have their say on whether and how much they share these concerns through the election.

Discussion: Policy & Implementation

There is of course much more in this Budget, as well as future budgets to come. In the meantime, our clients in the public, health care and not-for-profit sectors must continue to execute on their mandates and carry out business plans based on 2018-19 budgets that have for the most part already been set. Given the potential for a change in government, many in these sectors may find:

  • 2018-19 operations need to proceed as planned, recognizing that a mid-year course correction may be required; and
  • should the government change, there will be little runway left towards the end of the fiscal year to act on any course correction required.

If, however, this Budget does get implemented, organizations in the health, children and youth, and social sectors can expect to have significantly more policy and financial latitude to advance their goals than they have today. By necessity there will be strings attached for arms of government and organizations receiving these funds, but on the whole this Budget opens up policy and capacity on many new fronts.

Optimus SBR’s Public Sector Practice

Our Public Sector, Health Care and Not-For-Profit Practice has extensive expertise in policy, governance, strategy, stakeholder consultation and facilitation, organizational effectiveness, and a range of implementation services from planning and project management to process improvement. For more information, please contact:

Brad Ferguson, SVP, Industries and Government Practice

David Lynch, Principal

5 Drivers of Organizational Effectiveness

The goal of an effective organization is to maintain high performance and achieve desired results. It may sound straightforward but it’s not. Understanding what can enable the increased performance effectiveness of an organization is the key to achieving extraordinary results. Equally important is understanding what may be getting in the way of an organization reaching its goals. The question of what really drives organizational effectiveness often keeps leaders up at night.

There are four essential building blocks for a successful organization, which include a solid strategy, a good team, clear value to stakeholders, and efficient processes.

These essential building blocks for a successful organization are often addressed, but simply having these in place are not enough. What really enables maximum results are the critical organizational effectiveness drivers that make the building blocks work. Organizations that understand these drivers and spend time on developing them quickly move to the next level of performance.

Drivers of Organizational Effectiveness

1 | Effective Board Governance

What it is: Board Governance defines and guides the appropriate relationships between a Board and a Senior Team. Governance usually includes the roles of the Board members, committee structures, operating procedures, fiduciary responsibilities, and generative and strategic requirements.

Why it’s important: For a Board to provide maximum value to an organization it is critical that the Board understands what its accountabilities are and are not. To enable role clarity, effective governance mechanisms should be in place to allow the Board to appropriately fulfill its role. In order to have an effective organization, both the Board and the Senior Team need to understand their respective roles and accountabilities. An effective Board Governance plan/program should be in place that enables the Board to support the CEO and senior staff at the appropriate level.

What you can do: Review the Board governance model, policies, and procedures. Conduct an effectiveness review to look at philosophical underpinnings of the governance of the Board, as well as identify what is working well and what is an opportunity for development. Ideally a facilitated conversation between the Board and the Senior Team can address any misalignment between expectations, roles, and operations.

2 | Having the Right Structure, Roles, & Accountabilities

What it is: The right structure means having defined roles and accountabilities aligned to an organization’s strategy. When a stakeholder looks at your organizational chart, it should be clear to them what you are focused on. The right structure allows an organization to optimize resources from a capabilities and cost perspective that translate into maximizing results. Not having role clarity and strong accountability for each role are critical gaps that are found in almost all organizations. Often there is a gap between a job description and the expectations of what someone will achieve in their role. Roles and expectations evolve over time, and are based on the changing needs of an organization. Little time is usually spent on clarifying the expected outputs and accountabilities for each role.

Why it’s important: Many organizations grow organically and the structure is not aligned to support the strategy and achieve desired results. This is much more than moving boxes on an organization’s chart; without the right structure, there is often an imbalance of effort and resources in key areas. For example, some organizations have partnerships as a key strategic driver for increasing performance, but without senior accountability for this area or a proper support structure, it’s difficult to achieve strong results. Not having the right structure can also cause employee frustration and inefficiencies leading to turnover and wasted cost.

Another source of role clarity frustration occurs when there are overlaps between roles. A lack of role clarity can also lead to a lack of performance when there are gaps and no one is driving specific pieces of work. Simply put, a lack of accountability is a results killer. When there is no clear accountability and ownership for specific results, it becomes a matter of team members trying to pass the buck. When there is no one clear owner, it is easier to talk about why the initiative didn’t get implemented.

What you can do: Review your structure objectively; does it reflect your strategic priorities? Are resources being optimized? Are there imbalances based on history that are negatively impacting the business? Start by asking around. Staff members work in the organization day-today and usually have insights about what is not working well with its structure. Strive for single accountability on all key pieces of work even if there is a large team supporting the work. Make expectations clear about the desired outputs of each role and who is accountable for which results. A corporate scorecard is an effective tool that quantifies the strategic priorities and measurements that drive accountability. Next level performance is often achieved when the corporate scorecard is translated into department and individual scorecards. This is a powerful process where team members agree on the outputs of each role, how to measure them, and how best to build consensus that drives accountability.

3 | Aligning Operations to the Strategy

What it is: One of the seemingly most elusive but most powerful things an organization can do is align its structures, processes, and priorities in each department, and at each level with the overall strategy of the organization. This means all day-to-day activities are driving toward the overall results an organization wants to achieve.

Why it’s important: Aligning operations to the strategy not only greatly increases chances of successfully achieving the desired results, but also forces the optimization of time and resources. Organizations who succeed at this prevent non-value added work from happening. This also helps employees understand the importance of what they do and how it contributes to the bigger picture of what the organization is trying to achieve. This is very powerful because it identifies misalignment of resources, efforts, processes, and structures which are frustrating, and waste time and money. Organizations who successfully achieve this alignment from top to bottom usually realize their results in a shorter and more efficient manner, allowing them to either enhance their results or add other goals. This is the ultimate way to ‘do more with less’ based on a structured approach to achieving alignment.

What you can do: Translate your strategy into operations at every level of the organization and across every department. Be ruthless when it comes to assessing those activities that don’t align to the desired results outlined in your strategy. Encourage teams to collaborate to build alignment across functions to achieve strategic goals. Make sure that everyone in your organization understands that what they do on a daily basis contributes to the overall strategy and success of the organization.

4 | Developing Leaders beyond Theory

What it is: The most valuable but often overlooked component of Leadership Development is what we call ‘Leadership In Action’. This is beyond a management rotation program. It is identifying tangible and strategic projects that high performers can take on to develop leadership skills and directly add value to the organization. These have milestones that are reported to Executive and/ or Board groups or committees. This, together with Leadership coaching, a well-structured mentoring program, and a customized in-house Leadership development program, is a leading practice.

Why it’s important: Research shows that learning and job meaningfulness are more important drivers than compensation when it comes to employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Investing in your leaders is a necessity for succession planning. Leadership development also maximizes the contribution that each leader can make to the organization. Investing in leaders is akin to investing in the future success of an organization.

What you can do: Know who your future leaders are. Understand their needs and areas of development. Structure a program that highlights their importance to their organization and gives them a mechanism and path to increase contribution to the future success of the organization. Don’t take your leaders for granted, finding and keeping high performers is quickly becoming one of the most important things an organization can do.

5 | Team Effectiveness

What it is: Team effectiveness is not only the results a team achieves, but also how they achieve the desired results. A team is not high performing if they hit all their targets but they disrupt the organization and its culture to do so. A team is also not effective if it works in perfect harmony but doesn’t achieve the expected results of senior management. Team effectiveness is not to be confused with team building; team effectiveness is the science behind how a team efficiently achieves desired results.

Why it’s important: The effectiveness of individual teams directly impacts overall organizational effectiveness, especially with senior teams. Team effectiveness is one of the true drivers of an organization achieving its strategy. Teams are often unclear on what the expected outputs are and how they align to the overall strategy. Teams can easily get distracted with new initiatives and projects that dilute valuable time and resources. Ineffective teams can also translate into a lot of time being spent in meetings and not a lot of work getting done. Many teams have dynamics that negatively impact performance such as lack of trust, feedback, or accountability. Team effectiveness is a measure of how successful your organization will be.

What you can do: Add team effectiveness to part of the annual review process and don’t fall into the trap of confusing it with team building. Team effectiveness should be focused on both what a team should be achieving and how it should be achieving it. A review of team effectiveness to identify areas for improvement should include topics such as: how to measure results, key initiatives, strategy alignment, team meetings, how to give feedback, team operating principles, ground rules, and communication channels.

The Bottom Line

Organizations fail to deliver results when they don’t approach organizational effectiveness systematically. This means going beyond the traditional components of an effective organization (strategy, people and process) and addressing the effectiveness drivers. With focus on these drivers, organizations will be poised to reach desired results.

A paper management initiative at TD shows how an environmental focus can advance cost-reduction and service-improvement goals

A key challenge for many organizations is balancing business goals with environmental responsibilities. But increasingly, companies are viewing the business-environment relationship as symbiotic, whereby environmental leadership goals align with and advance financial and customer-service objectives.

Take TD Bank Group. With a commitment to environmental leadership, TD strives to make the environment an integral part of how things get done at the bank. Its environmental leadership is well recognized. In 2014, for example, the bank was named one of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World and one of Canada’s Greenest Employers, and was the only Canadian financial institution to be included on The A List: The CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index 2014.

A key area of focus for the bank is paper reduction – customers told the bank that the number one thing it could do for the environment was use less paper. In today’s digital world, customers also expect more timely access to their banking information, simplified processes and quicker decisions – difficult expectations to meet in a paper-heavy environment.

In 2010 – when TD used over 15,000 tonnes of paper – the bank made a commitment to reduce the volume of paper it used by 20% by 2015. Initially it focused on procurement; however this represents only about one-tenth of the total costs of paper management. It quickly became apparent that meaningful reduction and significant cost savings could only be achieved by gaining an in-depth understanding of paper-based business processes. However these processes are highly de-centralized, crossing many lines of business, which makes it difficult to quantify paper reduction and cost savings.

It became clear that in order to tackle paper reduction in a meaningful way, the bank needed to adopt a “total cost of ownership” approach to paper management that could be used to map all elements of the paper ‘lifecycle’ within the bank.

TD worked with OPTIMUS | SBR, a Canadian management consultant firm, to develop a Paper Management Estimation Tool (PMET) to assist with this. The tool recognizes the full end-to-end lifecycle of paper usage and allows project managers to quantify and monitor the full impact of their initiatives.

Understanding How Paper Management Impacts Business Processes

In large organizations, the cost of managing paper is widely dispersed across the enterprise, with different groups responsible for a portion of the end-to-end cost. This fragmented view of paper usage is the main hurdle to understanding the true cost of paper. The Paper Management Estimation Tool allows TD to better understand the full cost of paper across the enterprise by considering the six phases of paper management – i.e. the paper lifecycle.

  1. Procurement: The unit purchase cost of a single sheet of paper.
  2. Processing: The handling and processing of paper, including photocopying, scanning, faxing, and printing.
  3. Distribution: The delivery of paper from the bank or its partners to customers and vendors – also refers to the disbursement of paper among internal TD business units.
  4. Storage: The storage of processed and unprocessed paper either within TD or at a third-party vendor.
  5. Retrieval: The retrieval of paper from either internal filing space or a vendor.
  6. Disposal: The elimination of paper by way of recycling or shredding.

By understanding the costs associated with each phase of the lifecycle, TD has been able to focus on the underlying drivers of paper costs and pinpoint specific reduction strategies that increase business process efficiency. The tool has created a standardized approach to quantifying the cost of paper and has allowed project managers to identify savings that would not be considered in a standard business case.

Elements of the Paper Management Estimation Tool

The estimation tool determines the end-to-end cost of paper at TD using a series of user-driven inputs and paper-related vendor data. The tool utilizes unit costs – drawn from TD’s Strategic Sourcing Group, its third-party suppliers and industry data – to estimate dollar costs for each type of paper and for all applicable phases of the paper lifecycle.

The tool users are required to answer a series of questions related to the paper lifecycle phases as part of their business case development process, including the amount of paper used, percentage of paper mailed externally, average size of files stored, etc.

The tool balances the need for a comprehensive assessment of all paper-related costs with the “ease-of-use” required to ensure it can be utilized by all 800 project managers across the bank. With unit cost information being updated on an annual basis, and transparent customizable assumptions, project managers are able to quickly update specific information throughout project phases to continually refine the business case supporting the initiative.

Benefits of using the Tool

Based on the specific project inputs and the unit cost information built into the tool, TD project leaders are able to understand the impact of their initiative on paper usage and potential cost reductions. They are able to evaluate each phase of the paper lifecycle to determine the best approach to save resources for the business and environment.

Paper Management Estimation Tool Sample Output

Now in use across the bank, the Paper Management Estimation Tool provides TD with a clear understanding of paper usage and costs across its business processes, allowing decision makers to focus on initiatives with the biggest impact to business and environmental objectives.

Added potential benefits of the tool include the ability to aggregate project initiatives across lines of business that involve similar business processes (e.g. digitization projects) and to share knowledge. The ability to review costs by lifecycle phase also makes it possible to focus on driving costs down across the bank through more efficient vendor management.

This paper investigates the importance of establishing a robust Business Intelligence (BI) governance framework as part of an organization’s BI strategy. Implementing effective BI governance is instrumental in helping organizations pursue continuous evolution of their BI strategy with a view to create business value. This article explains possible BI governance models to consider (i.e., centralized, decentralized, or federated), and key success factors to implement them.

The paper focuses on data quality and change management as a means to overcome a number of common issues such as cultural barriers and lack of clarity in defining strategic objectives. We also examine the impact of diverse and conflicting user needs and difficulties in aligning technology with business strategy. The core principle to achieve BI excellence is to treat information as the most valuable asset in the organization.

A Glimpse at the Business Intelligence Market

Investments in Business Intelligence (BI)1 and analytics have long been a top priority for Chief Information Officers and senior leaders of finance, and non-finance organizations to transform data into actionable information for strategic decision-making. Using a common set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these investments help improve core business processes through which customers are better served, competitive products and services are launched, revenues are generated, and business performance is effectively managed.

According to Gartner, the market demand for BI applications has grown to US$14.4 billion in 2013, an increase of 8% compared to the previous year, and is forecasted to reach US$17.1 billion by 2016. The high demand for BI platforms is driven by several factors: the increasing need to access real-time data to stay on top of business performance, customer behaviours, supply chain activities, and to address regulatory and compliance requirements. Undeniably, the type of information businesses need to stay competitive is becoming more perceptive than reflective.

In light of these trends, the research suggests that companies will start moving from descriptive analytics and diagnostics capabilities towards predictive and prescriptive analytics. Most commonly, companies utilize BI tools to investigate and reveal what and why performance lagged in some areas and excelled in others. With predictive analytics, data is used to indicate what will happen with performance. The next step with prescriptive analytics is to receive information to help define what actions should be taken to optimize performance. This forward-looking approach allows companies to identify and mitigate potential risks in the future, rather than retroactively correcting what went wrong in the past.

We often observe that an implementation of BI tools takes place as a result of an IT-driven decision. Business reports are typically produced inside an IT department and are pushed out to consumers and analysts with a wide range of business analysis requirements, to answer critical business questions. Analysts need to drill more easily into the data to discover new insights. Once they understand the key driver of their business performance, they increasingly require more sophisticated tools to further identify variables that predict future performance.

Commonly, little planning is given in regards to how the organization will evolve toward a more sophisticated type of analysis. Although the BI market has been maturing in finance and sales areas, there are still considerable opportunities for companies of all sizes to expand their BI capabilities. Areas such as human resources, marketing, and procurement have yet to significantly leverage BI and analytics; as a result, there is significant opportunity for companies to develop competitive advantages by leveraging BI and analytics in these neglected areas.

The Myth of “If We Build It, They Will Come”

The challenges in getting a BI platform off the ground range from data quality and data definition (i.e., conflicts of data definitions used across the organization) to user experience (i.e., how users access and utilize information, their different levels of knowledge). Change management is another significant challenge, in particular how enhancements are prioritized and how to address the constant changes in business requirements.

There is often an incorrect perception that once the IT department builds the BI platform, users will automatically see its benefits, and the organization will realize the returns on their investments within the short term. In reality, BI applications require a multi-disciplinary understanding of the business and close coordination between business and IT issues to ensure the real value is realized.

One key deliverable in BI implementations is to create data standardization and centralization to provide a common view of the business. A key challenge, however, is determining what data methodologies should be used to ensure consistent information is understood in the same way across units or departments. Achieving this “single version of the truth” can provide effective decision support, but it is not easy to achieve. This requires bridging the silos within business units and the enterprise-wide BI strategy.

The issue raises numerous questions, such as:

  • How do you enable cross-organization collaboration?
  • How do you connect and engage business sponsors for decisions related to your BI strategy?
  • What processes and procedures do you currently have in place to handle changes in the BI platform that align with enterprise strategic objectives?
  • Do you have a clear roadmap to evolve from the initial BI implementation and adoption to maturing its usage towards more diagnostic and predictive capabilities?

After reviewing these questions, you may be wondering where companies should look to for the answers. To find the solution to many of these challenges, organizations need to take a closer look at the governance side of BI. Beyond project management, BI governance helps the business to align its strategic objectives with the deployment and utilization of the BI solution.

BI Governance versus Project Governance

The definition of BI governance is an integral part of the enterprise-wide management of information systems. It consists of the leadership structure, policies, processes and procedures that ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of BI initiatives. It is essentially a business-driven effort where stakeholders representing the various cross-functional areas meet and decide how to govern their data assets and how to drive their BI strategies to the next level.

Compared to project governance, a governance structure for BI has a broader, longer-term scope to transform and evolve the organization’s competitive advantages by utilizing a BI solution. While project governance is created to ensure the successful delivery of large projects, BI governance is a platform used for strategic decision making to support current and future business needs.

Do not mistake BI management with BI governance. Commonly misundertood, each actually serves its own distinct purpose: the first is focused on “how” the BI solution is implemented; the latter revolves around deciding “what” BI capability to invest in to boost business growth. It is important to understand this distinction in order to fully grasp the effect BI governance can have on a company’s growth trajectory.

Governance in Business Intelligence Optimizes Results

Significant budget and staff resources are often dedicated to the selection, purchase, deployment, and management of BI and analytics solutions. However, these programs often proceed without a governance framework in place. Among the biggest risks of doing so is the lack of documented business definitions and methodologies for utilizing and integrating BI data into the BI tool.

A study by Gartner3 showed that companies lose an average of US$8.2 million a year because of poor data quality. Standardized data is a critical aspect that should be part of any BI governance model. But more than an $8.2M loss is at stake: without BI governance, current and future business capabilities are not prioritized and distributed to the right user groups; multiple change requests from several units increase the cost of BI development and its ongoing maintenance; and communication between end-users and IT groups diverge. Proper BI governance is necessary for any organization wishing to utilize its data to the fullest potential.

For example, from a user’s perspective, not all BI initiatives consider how to balance the rigor of standardized BI data with the flexibility required by business users. These users need the right tools to allow them to explore and manipulate the information the way they need, while maintaining a common view of the business. At some point, if data stewards are not assigned or properly identified, changes in the BI solution may deviate from its initial purpose. Additionally, external economic and market factors can lead to changes in business priorities. Consequently, business requirements of the BI data will also evolve in order to answer more sophisticated types of analysis.

In light of those risks, most companies are concerned that their efforts to define and implement standardized data and an overall BI strategy may be wasted if the appropriate governance and controls are not implemented. A Rand Secure Data study found that about 43% of companies in North America do not have formal data governance in place, or are doing so at a departmental level, often in a highly informal manner. As the volume and sources of data increase, companies have difficulty in gaining business insights from these more informal mechanisms.

To more effectively transform data into valued information and insights, data governance must be comprehensive, consistent, correct, and current. BI governance facilitates the evolution of those business needs and maximizes the value of the initial BI investment by clearly communicating the strategic goals and creating clear metrics and objectives.

This is not a problem that technology itself can solve. Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges companies face when implementing BI solutions lies in understanding the impact of the transition across business units and creating tactical adoption plans. So, considering the level of investment many companies put into business intelligence or related performance management applications today, implementing BI governance should not be underestimated. Most BI implementation projects do not factor in the continuous data management, change management, and controls aligned with a clear BI strategy, and this is a grave mistake.

Establishing a BI governance structure will help the organization gain more clarity of the benefits that BI solutions can provide in regards to its return on investments. Regardless of the size and type of business, an organization can benefit from the best practices of BI governance to ensure that current and future business strategies and goals are met.

BI Structure

BI Governance Orchestrates People, Processes, and Tools

There are many components to consider when starting a BI governance program including: data architecture, metadata, data integration, data security, end-user information delivery, and change management. Using a holistic approach, a BI governance framework should bring all these pieces together through coordinated processes that connect each of these components with the overall BI vision.

The proposed structure of the BI governance model, depicted in Figure 1, ensures that data governance, typically run by IT, is also linked with the business capabilities. Figure 1 proposes a comprehensive structure of the BI governance that orchestrates business and IT goals under common pillars, such as data quality, ownership, stewardship, and strategy.

As a starting point, the enterprise vision, direction and desired future-state in a BI strategy should sustain the initial pillars of the BI governance model. Over time, as the organization increases its BI utilization, there should be a continuous process for measuring performance and comparing the results achieved against their business objectives. The BI governance should include refining the BI strategic direction when appropriate as the organization evolves in its BI maturity stages.

Bi Governance Iterative Process

An organization’s size, culture, and the presence or absence of a process to manage BI initiatives will determine the appropriate governance model. Often times, an organization already has some data governance practices, which may just be a mix of different names and functions. The first step is the creation of an inventory of current BI processes and categorization by the initial BI objectives set through the governance model. This helps to identify areas that require development of set of sound BI governance practices.

Some of the main functions of a comprehensive BI governance framework include:

  • Strategic Planning
    Determine the organization’s needs and type of information required.
    Understand, compare, and assess the current BI maturity stage, and establish future-state BI capabilities.
    Develop and approve policies, procedures, and standards related to the usage of data, metadata, BI reporting, and analytics capabilities.
  • Ongoing Control
    Coordinate core BI governance activities.
    Monitor and enforce BI policies, procedures, and standards.
    Communicate the value of data assets.
  • Performance Measurement
    Define and implement key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the value of BI in support of business objectives.
    Balance the number of strategic versus operationally-driven BI projects.

Measure the BI maturity phases.

Such strategic decisions, assessments, and recommendations have a significant impact on how the organization operates. Most BI programs require an operating model where knowledgeable resources have clear roles to support BI policy and procedures. The model also helps team members manage change effectively and monitor the organizational efficiencies in utilizing a BI solution. Considering the several units where BI capabilities are implemented, it is difficult to find individuals with extensive expertise in all of the different BI domain areas. BI governance is clearly a team effort.

So, what resources, skills, and knowledge are required to set up a successful BI governance program? As noted earlier, that will depend on the organizational structure and what the organization wants to achieve through related initiatives. It will also depend on how much sponsorship and endorsement from senior leadership is available. These questions need to be asked even before a BI governance program is designed or resources are allocated.

To succeed in a BI program, consider adapting the governance model with your company’s culture and decision-making style.

Enabling Better Decision-Making to Effectively Realize the BI Potential

BI governance models are hardly a one-time solution based on specific control points of the organization. When people say they are developing a data governance strategy, they typically mean that they are in the process of improving their existing operational controls in systems across the enterprise, while implementing high-level data governance policies.
Most companies organize their approach in different ways to meet the demands of their environment: decentralized, centralized, or federated approaches.

In the decentralized approach, each division or business unit handles its own requirements without the involvement of the enterprise. The level of BI expertise in each division varies significantly. The decentralized approach is often used when companies quickly deploy BI solutions in order to respond to urgent needs to track the company performance. Business units engage analysis to start creating custom reports and typically start combining data from various sources, including databases created by end-users. Consequently, the number of customized reports proliferate; some business units would have advanced BI implementations while others have virtually nothing; reporting systems utilize very different methodologies, creating conflicts in data definitions and redundancies in project resources and tools utilized. This scenario increases the risk of the BI data becoming unreliable.

Decentralized Approach

On the contrary, the centralized approach, adopts a typical top-down decision-making style. In this model, executives decide to remove reporting, analysis, and data management functions from the hands of business units and move these controls into a shared or centralized service. This approach takes advantage of the synergies across the organization and allows for an enterprise view of information. It centralizes the BI function, building an enterprise data warehouse, that develops and distributes BI reports for all business units. The goal of the central BI team is to align the business with uniform data and deliver cost savings through economies of scale. A fully centralized BI operating model will promote consistent data definitions as the enterprise view of the data. However, it tends to slow down the approvals and deployments of new BI capabilities and can be less responsive to local units’ needs that require more customization.

Centralized Approach

Attempting to incorporate the best of both approaches, a federated BI approach (Figure 3) blends the strengths offered by a centralized approach with flexibility that decentralization provides to business units. Federating the control typically means opening certain BI functions to individual business units, such as the ability to develop and deploy their own BI reports. However, the enterprise data standards are kept under the control of a central BI group. A federated BI team maintains a unified architecture that delivers consistent, accurate, timely, and relevant data. The team invests in sufficient training to enable individual units to be proficient in their BI tools. This model requires considerably more coordination to keep everyone involved in the BI program and fully aligned. The challenge is to keep the different relationships across businesses aligned in their priorities and to ensure the continuous flow of communication.

Federated Approach

To succeed, continuous adjustments are needed to reach the ideal state, ensuring that everyone involved is moving in the same direction. Without sufficient communication and direction, any of these BI approaches could present serious flaws when put into practice.

Well-designed BI governance defines the rules under which the BI strategy is steered, organized, implemented and further developed. It helps all participants identify which areas require more support in their BI initiatives, how much these initiatives are adopted in the organization, and how closely they are aligned with enterprise strategic objectives. Ultimately, the better designed your BI governance, the more likely it is that the time and money spent BI and analytics will benefit your organization.

Five Recommendations to Help a BI Governance Program Take Off:

Few companies have developed proper controls to ensure the continuous success of their enterprise BI initiatives. By implementing robust BI governance, an organization can transform data and compliance from a one-time project effort into forward-looking, on-demand business processes. These processes allow the company to continually update policies, manage resources, analyze risks, and refine BI strategies across the enterprise. Ultimately, it is the organization’s people, processes and technology working together organically and collaboratively that result in an effective BI governance program. A key factor for a successful BI governance program is to engage teams of both IT and business representatives from the very beginning and allow them to participate directly in developing BI governance standards and policies.

Here are five best practices to help get a BI governance program off the ground:

  1.  Obtain executive sponsorship to support the structure and execution of the BI program and define roles and responsibilities for members of the governance team.
  2. Select a representative from the functional departments that are currently impacted by the BI environment, or will be affected in the near future. The committee will be responsible for clearly defining, changing, or updating the requirements of each user group, and aligning them with the BI goals across the company.
  3. Prioritize change management in the governance agenda. Consider positive organizational culture when developing documentation, processes, and standards. Never assume that any BI capability will be assimilated without proper training, guidance, support and communications.
  4. Define a communication plan for the BI governance group that outlines clear objectives, frequency of meetings, and how BI decisions, standards and policies will be shared throughout the organization.
  5. Together with executive sponsors and governance members, set the BI objectives and create realistic performance indicators for all BI-related projects. Measure these regularly and set corrective courses of action when crucial metrics are not met.

These guidelines can move the focus of BI and data governance away from what is often perceived to be a compliance activity, to establishing key performance indicators and getting the best value of business intelligence.

The Bottom Line

BI governance is the responsibility of the board of directors and executive management and must be aligned with the enterprise strategy. Critical to the success of these structures and processes is effective communication among all parties, based on constructive relationships, a common language and a shared commitment to addressing the issues. The end benefit of a BI governance program is that it enables information to drive organizational flexibility and agility. Bad decisions, overhead costs for rework and workarounds, and other problems due to data quality can be avoided, leading to a more streamlined and efficient organization.

BI-relevant activities need to be coordinated. Even if the BI environment has already been rolled out, it is not too late to develop the policies needed for effective governance. Robust BI governance can be achieved by combining structured guidelines with owners who have well-defined roles and responsibilities, and more formal oversight mechanisms.

However, BI governance should not become an end unto itself. Consider the BI governance framework as iterative and flexible enough that it can be refined over time. By dedicating the resources to address the organization’s BI management challenges, by applying a variety of best practices, and by committing to the continuous evolution of the BI governance model, a company can truly achieve BI excellence. This, in turn, can empower an organization with the capability to treat information as its most valuable asset.

For the fifth consecutive year, we are honoured to announce that OPTIMUS | SBR has been named one of the Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada, Platinum.

At OPTIMUS | SBR we recognize the importance that our employees play in the success of our organization, and thus we commit to providing an environment that stimulates leadership and initiative among our team, and where employees feel invested in their work. We realize the importance of an engaged workforce, and we have not lost sight of this as we continue to grow. To this end, we continuously implement initiatives that align with our cultural pillars, support our staff and nourish an engaging and bold corporate culture. These pillars clearly define our culture as:

At OPTIMUS | SBR we sincerely believe that success begins with our employees. From the values promoted by our committees through the organization of events, to the level of professionalism we endorse and uphold when working with clients, OPTIMUS | SBR employees work as a team to uphold a Bold Attitude whilst completing every endeavor we take on to the highest possible standard.

This award reflects the feelings that our employees share towards the company. It is through this annual study, conducted by Aon Hewitt that we can assess our engagement and spark improvement in our programs where necessary. We look forward to what the coming year holds for us at OPTIMUS | SBR and how we can continue to excel and grow.

For more information about OPTIMUS | SBR, please contact us at or 416.649.6000

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