Remember the fiasco? Well, up in the Great White North of Canada we had our own version of that débâcle when the federal government attempted to replace and consolidate the compensation systems across the public sector.

When the Phoenix Pay system for the Canadian federal government was released in April 2016, it had severe problems affecting some 70% of the roughly 300,000 people who the system was intended to pay. It has been fraught with issues ever since resulting in under and overpayments of those employees, and in some cases no payments at all. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been and will be spent to correct the pay issues and update the system. The people working in the consolidated pay centre in New Brunswick have been overwhelmed to the point that retired compensation workers have been recalled to deal with the crisis. This was yet another example of the ineffectiveness of the antiquated approach that the government used to deliver Phoenix.

When the 2018 budget was tabled, nearly half a billion dollars was allocated to fixing Phoenix! What seemed like a footnote to that was $16 million over two years to study how to build the replacement system.

Study. That’s what finally broke me. I had been grumbling at the stories of Phoenix for years, but this finally triggered me to do something. I began tweeting to government officials, and the Prime Minister himself, that they were going to end up taking the same approach and making the same mistakes again. I wrote a series of blog posts detailing the approach that I’d take, and given my 30+ years of experience - over 15 of which were building systems small & large in the public sector - this was anything but armchair quarterbacking.

This session is about what I believe the government should have done to replace Phoenix, and what has happened since my 2018 Budget Day tweetstorm and subsequent blog posts. Ideas from the audience will be solicited and we’ll discuss how we would leverage the collective experiences of the group to deal with building a system as large and complicated as one that needed to pay some 300,000 people from 40 departments and agencies and a number of unions. These experiences can then be transferred to any large public sector initiative to reduce risk and cost while actually delivering what's needed.


Outline/Structure of the Case Study

  • Introduction - 25 minutes
  • Discussion - 15 minutes
  • Conclusion and Q&A - 5 minutes

Learning Outcome

The primary focus of this session is to provide concrete, actionable takeaways for the delivery of large systems in the public sector. That said, aspects of the discussion can be applied in any environment regardless of the size of the initiative or the team involved.

Target Audience

This session is intended for all levels of management, from first line managers & Scrum Masters to the CxO level.

Prerequisites for Attendees

There are no particular prerequisites, but this session will be of the most interest to leaders who are involved in the delivery of large systems in the public sector.


schedule Submitted 4 years ago