Evolving Canada’s Open Government Portal

January 9, 2020

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Well, here it is…my very first blog ever!  As the (relatively) new manager of the development team responsible for open.canada.ca, I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about some of the things our team is focused on and how we’re fundamentally changing the way we do business. 

Major Software Release

If you regularly visit our site you may have noticed it’s been faster since the major software release issued on September 20th, 2019.  Over the summer, our team made significant changes to the portal’s underlying Drupal implementation (the content management system for open.canada.ca).  We effectively reduced the number of Drupal modules used to power our website, which has resulted in a faster and more responsive site for everyone.

That release also introduced many other improvements “behind-the-scenes”.  While you won’t notice most of these changes, they mean a lot to our developers. These improvements free up our team’s time from lengthy maintenance and security patching cycles, giving us more time to work on exciting features for you!

Moving forward, we’re committed to delivering four major releases per year. These releases will focus on larger feature sets and performance improvements we can’t address through smaller releases.

Agile

Like almost every other software development team on this planet, we’re switching to an Agile delivery model. What this means for you is smaller, but more frequent, releases of functionality every two weeks.  For the past few months we’ve been gearing up for this transition and had our first official sprint on October 14th.  We’ll be providing updates, by way of blog posts, as we continue on this journey!

A big part of our Agile preparation included producing a product backlog. You may be wondering what this is. A product backlog is a prioritized list of features, defects, or other activities that we refer to when establishing our priorities for each two-week sprint.  Our top development priorities at this time relate to Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government, Proactive Disclosures and improving your experience using Open.Canada.ca.  Eventually, I’d like to share the product backlog with you for collaborative input and feedback; in fact I’ve already added this idea to the backlog! 

User Experience

Finally, we recognize that the site is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate and to find what you’re looking for.  That’s why we’ve set up an internal working group to help streamline the website. Right now, the working group is leading a variety of user experience (UX) research and data collection activities that we hope will help lead to significant improvements across the website.

I’m extending an invitation to you to participate in these activities! Please check the portal in the coming months for details on signing up. Our goal is to use the UX data and feedback we collect to design a more intuitive and user friendly portal that better serves your needs.      

I look forward to sharing the results of this UX work, updates on our Agile journey and what’s in store for the portal, in future blogs!

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to reach out to me here: open-ouvert@tbs-sct.gc.ca


André Whittingham
André Whittingham

André manages the development team working on open.canada.ca at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. He’s a computer engineer, a certified Project Management Professional, a Raspberry Pi hacker and collector of all things Nintendo.

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