By the Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board

“People on their deathbed don’t say to themselves ‘I wish I had spent more time with the government!’”

Last week, public servants and members of the community gathered for a bracing master class with Gerry McGovern, a leading global expert on the digital customer experience.

Gerry was in Ottawa at the invitation of TBS to share his knowledge of tools and techniques for measuring user success.

Photograph of Gerry McGovern interacting with the audience at the master class, Bayview Yards, February 13, 2018
Gerry McGovern interacts with the audience during the master class at Bayview Yards in Ottawa, February 13, 2018.

What is user success?

Well, Gerry’s wry observation about deathbed wish lists gives us a strong hint.

When we make government services easy to use, we give time back to Canadians. And to make services easy to use, we need to know where we are wasting users’ time.

Focusing on user needs means measuring their success in doing what that user set out to do, rather than counting downloads of a pdf, or page views. In fact, that’s how business has always been done. A storeowner gets instant feedback every day. When there’s a long line at the register, or too many people returning a product, that’s real feedback they can act on.

With websites, it can be hard to understand what the users’ needs are, or whether we’re meeting those needs. Yes, government managers see “usage data.” But do they get enough of it, do they know what to do with it and, most importantly, is it the right data in the first place?

We need to focus on gathering data that tells us whether people are successful at getting what they need. This is about metrics that matter, not metrics that flatter, the kind of data that preoccupies Google and Amazon. If we know where the problems are, we can take action and make things better. We can give Canadians a better online experience…and more time for themselves.

This work is underway at And TBS is helping departments and agencies that are changing their focus from how many people visit a web page, to how many people actually understand it and succeed at a task. As Gerry McGovern says, ‘‘It means measuring success based on customer success, not organization success.’’ The focus is on making information simple and easy to understand. And we need to get it right.

As l’ve said before, we can’t be a Blockbuster government serving a Netflix citizenry. But Netflix never would have succeeded if people couldn’t figure out how to use it, quickly and easily.

That’s why the work done at is critical. It’s central to a great citizen experience and central to great digital government.

The Honourable Scott Brison is the President of the Treasury Board.

Scott Brison, the Member of Parliament for Kings–Hants (Nova Scotia), has been elected to Canada’s House of Commons in 7 general elections between June 1997 and October 2015.

Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Mr. Brison to the federal cabinet as President of the Treasury Board in November 2015. He serves as a member of the key Cabinet Committee on Agenda, Results and Communications that tracks progress on the government’s priorities; the Cabinet Committee on Growing the Middle Class that considers strategies to promote inclusive economic growth, opportunity, employment, and social security; and as Vice-Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Defence Procurement.