Post by Lisa Carroll, Canadian Public Sector Lead, Microsoft Canada.
As the Public Sector Lead for Canada, I have the privilege of working side-by-side with government organizations across Canada to help them in their pursuit to becoming digital agencies. Like many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the government, and it has resulted in new and greater urgency to transform their business with technology.
Many leaders are looking for best practices on how to make this shift in a trusted and secure way. I recently had the opportunity to connect with Kari Stachon, Manager of CRM and Case Management Solutions from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to learn about their journey and how they had to quickly pivot and transform in record speed, and it is truly inspiring.
The NRC is Canada’s largest federal research and development organization. Each year the NRC’s scientists, engineers and business experts work closely with thousands of Canadian firms, helping them bring new technologies to market, by providing advice, connections, and funding to innovative small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Like many other organizations, the unanticipated challenges of COVID-19 required them to move quickly to respond.
The NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), in collaboration with the Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED)’s Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program, posted challenges seeking near-to-market solutions from SMEs that required financial support to refine their product or solution to meet a COVID-19 related need.
This search for great new ideas in areas like diagnostics and testing, patient monitoring and tracking, sanitization and personal protective equipment required the development of a new online application portal, through which SMEs could register their technology to assist Canada’s COVID‑19 response.
By using Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform cloud solutions, Stachon and her team were able to quickly create a new simplistic online portal that allowed Canadian SMEs to submit their proposed solutions in record speed.
Within weeks, the NRC team had to once again mobilize quickly, when the Government of Canada announced the new $250 million Innovation Assistance Program (IRAP IAP) that would be delivered by NRC IRAP to provide innovative SMEs with a temporary wage subsidy. Stachon’s team was tasked with building and delivering a brand-new application portal for an entirely new COVID-19 support program.
Straight away, the team began to build the new NRC IRAP IAP portal, working around the clock over a four day period, as the program development and design groups established eligibility criteria, questions for applicants, and determined the full sequence of the application process using Dynamics 365 and Power Platform cloud solutions. On April 22, 2020 the application portal went live – only five days after the program was officially announced!
Over the week-long application period, several applications were submitted in the portal from SMEs across Canada.
By the week of May 11, 2020, contracts were being put in place with recipients and first deposits were made. As part of the broader suite of immediate measures to support the economy during COVID-19, this funding will enable the Government of Canada to support over 24,000 jobs and keep valuable highly qualified staff and business investments in Canada.
In speaking with Stachon, she shared that the seamless integration of Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform with Microsoft’s full-suite of cloud-based solutions, and Microsoft’s investments in stringent security and compliance needs, were key to successfully launching these platforms in the cloud.
Earlier in the year, the NRC developed a pilot project to demonstrate the effectiveness, efficiency and security of Microsoft’s cloud-based solutions, so when they needed to deliver these new program portals urgently, the groundwork had already been laid.
Stachon says the NRC will continue to explore new applications of the Microsoft suite, likely incorporating machine learning and Power BI further into its operations. In the meantime, they are ready to tackle any task in the effort to help Canada safely navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
I just love hearing stories like this that showcase the possibilities when human ingenuity is paired with modern technology. While we still have much more work to do, I’m confident that as Canadians we will continue to innovate and persevere to respond to our community’s needs together.
To learn more about how Microsoft can support you or your organization, visit Microsoft’s COVID-19 response site here.