This post is part of a larger series on Governance as a Service, and outlines what it means to set clear direction and expectations around the design and delivery of digital services, and why it’s critical to do so.

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Photo of horizon
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Given the topic and my background, I will begin with a disclaimer: all views in this post are my own, and do not represent those of my current and past employers. I am a digital standards nerd is all.

Direction and expectation are the “what” of governance, and digital government teams usually publish two official documents to express these: their digital strategy (sometimes also called a roadmap or action plan), and their digital standards. …

On how we cannot lose sight of the larger mission to create the conditions where digital government can be a reality.

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This week, I am excited to join my former colleagues and long-time co-conspirators Katherine Benjamin and Katy Lalonde at the FWD50 conference to run a workshop based on what we’ve learned to date about how digital teams can be set up to deliver at the speed of need. My part of this workshop focuses on governance structures, and that’s the subject of this post.

I’m going to start with the role governance plays in enabling delivery at the speed of trust for digital teams globally. There is no shortage of inspiring stories right now about what’s possible with agile, empowered multidisciplinary teams including Canada’s COVID Alert app delivered in 45 days, Ontario’s self-assessment tool in a week, and many more. For those who have been working in this space for years, there is a feeling of pride and vindication that makes the non-stop long hours of the past few months feel worthwhile. Some of that vindication comes from having these principles come to life and be more than trite slogans in their Chief Digital Officer’s roadshow deck. A less satisfying outcome that we need to also acknowledge has been the stark reality that those jurisdictions with the most refined digital responses are — unsurprisingly — those jurisdictions who were already transforming their organizations for the digital era. In short, governments who had a head start could accelerate their work, whereas others are still struggling to orient their organization to the basic premise of government in the digital age. …

On change and how government in a digital era is about resetting the relationship between policy and delivery

Photo of spiral staircase, showing expanding and narrowing perspectives
Photo of spiral staircase, showing expanding and narrowing perspectives
Photo credit: “Perspective I” by sabl3t3k, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I often introduce myself in public speaking engagements as someone who is “professionally awkward.” It’s something that is partly born of introversion, but if I am being honest it’s because I feel like I have made a career out of asking awkward questions.

The entire digital transformation movement is rife with awkward, deeply uncomfortable, but extremely important questions. But one question wins for most awkward (and most important): How much do you really want to change?

Let’s start with this mismatch for example, in the ambitions of the digital service team and the expectations of the government or public service of the day. Here’s a textbook view of how government works (or doesn’t, but we’re not here to debate that…

Multicolour stained glass with light shining through and Canadian flag on opposite side (photo by Kate Kalcevich)
Multicolour stained glass with light shining through and Canadian flag on opposite side (photo by Kate Kalcevich)

Three months ago, I joined the Canada School of Public Service Digital Academy. The mission, as I understood it? To inspire and help public servants gain the curiosity, competence and confidence they need to make digital government a reality.

Our team has been reflecting lots on our existing learning programs, and also the outcomes we want to achieve. How would we know when we’re successful? When:

  • Responsible data management, people-centred services, systems design and adaptability are public servants’ core competencies
  • Leaders foster an environment of continuous improvement, flatten out power structures, empower teams to try new things and value experimentation and continuous…

Preamble: I have been with the Ontario Public Service for a little over 13 years. I never expected to fall in love with being in the public service, but fall in love I did. Deeply. Irrevocably. For better or worse. The following is my advice for those who are just starting out in their careers. It’s mostly a collection of instructions that I wish I received much earlier in life and work. I hope you find it helpful; better yet, I hope you do the same for those who will join after you.

Image source:
Image source:
Earlier in my career, someone gifted me a print of the above image of a tiny puppy bringing a dinosaur along. For many years, it’s represented how I think of small teams with big dreams. Source:

Dream big, be bold

I wish I’d read Janet Hughes’ piece on boldness as a public service value much earlier in my career. If life/work ever had such a thing as do-overs, I…

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Putting people first by developing simpler, faster, better services

Last month, the government introduced the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act as part of its Budget bill. Since then, our team has received many encouraging messages, and has been grateful to read a few insightful posts about its possibilities, for better or worse.

Last month, Deputy Hartley shared her insights about this big milestone in our digital transformation journey.

Some highlights from the legislation

The preamble (beginning with our endgame in mind)
Most people skip the preamble when reading legislation, but it is worth a second look.

“The Government of Ontario is committed to placing people at the centre of every government program, service, process and policy and to delivering simpler, faster and more easily accessible services for the people, communities and businesses of Ontario today and in the future.” …

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Header image: computer with colour pencils.

Update, July 14: The alpha of the Digital Service Standard is live and ready for your feedback and comments. Please do check it out and let us know what you think. Keep reading below for a look at how we got to the alpha.

As we’ve mentioned before, the Digital Service Standard, and the processes that support it, will help to ensure that all digital services provide consistent, high-quality experiences that are designed with the needs of real users in mind.

Over the past few months, we’ve been doing a lot of work to create a standard: conducting jurisdictional research, applying practical frameworks, and testing our prototypes with public servants across the province to make sure the standard will be applicable, relevant, and helpful.

The standard is about the “good path.”

As we’ve been gathering feedback and input from people across the public service, one of the questions we continually get is how to simply define the standard and the need for one. …

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Header image: Blowing on a dandelion wisp

This year, I celebrated my tenth year anniversary in the Ontario Public Service, and marked this occasion by returning to work in the same area of specialty where my public service career began: working on digital government.

Since I joined the team a decade ago, the team’s size has grown and its mandate has evolved significantly, but one thing hasn’t changed: the people working on digital government across the Ontario Public Service continue to have an intense and unrelenting focus on delivering simpler, faster and better digital services for Ontarians.

I have a new role in the Digital Government team: to think about the digital service design lifecycle, as well as the accompanying assessments at each stage. …


Honey Dacanay

Passionate about making government work better | Director, @DigiAcademyCAN | Founding member & lead, @ONDigital | views, mine

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