Governments aren't typically designed to turn on a dime. Nevertheless, the Canadian public sector has shown commendable degrees of speed and agility in the face of 2020's challenges.

The resulting public sector transformations are widespread. Across many jurisdictions and throughout all levels, Canadian governments have fast-tracked digital services and innovative strategies to provide Canadians with critical supports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their efforts have provided citizens nationwide with critical financial resources (CERB and CEWS), more accessible public services (e.g., telehealth), and public-private collaborations (e.g., considerations on digital identities).

Certainly, with nothing less than its citizens' health and prosperity on the line, Canadian governments have pursued organizational and digital transformations at scales and timelines that are unprecendented for the public sector. Now, as provincial and federal leaders turn their attention to the post-pandemic reality, their challenge will be to make the most beneficial changes stick, and do so in a way that drives meaningful and sustainable value for both public sector employees and the people they serve.

In many respects, the government has had no choice but to adapt to a new reality. The sudden and seismic shift to remote work, for one, forced public agencies to embrace collaborative tools (e.g., cloud, software as a service, etc.). At the same time, escalating health risks made it necessary to install new protocols and pandemic safety measures for operational and frontline workers that can not perform their roles remotely. These may have started as patchwork solutions, but now that the work-from-home-revolution has begun, public sector agencies join private sector businesses in the ongoing task of managing, supporting, and embracing diversity within a new hybrid workforce.

Moving with speed and agility does not come without its costs. And in the race to stand up crucial pandemic resources for Canadians, governments have had to assume a greater risk appetite and implement effective oversight governance and controls. With online support programs come the chance of fraud, with remote workforces comes data security vulnerabilities, and with every digital investment comes the risk of missed value or disrupted processes. These risks are on the public sector's radars, but the need to move fast has left less time to manage the threats along their path. More than ever, a dynamic risk assessment approach is needed to identify, address, and track these new vulnerabilities to ensure the good progress that has been made is not without long-term consequences.

So where to from here? KPMG Canada has undertaken a deep dive into six key areas of change and opportunity that will define government operations in the new reality. Inspired by our global peers, we've drawn insights from our public sector clients, industry partners, and KPMG subject matter specialists to examine how the public sector is transforming, the impacts of those changes, and the many opportunities moving forward.

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