Sure. Maybe I'll take you back to two budgets ago. There was $18 million set aside to stand up a team that was going to look at options and recommendations. At the time, the set-up was around pay and the replacement of Phoenix. What I would say is that as we got out there and started working with vendors, it became very clear to us there really isn't such a thing. You typically would buy an HR and pay system, and so the next generation HR and pay team came into being.
The team was led by Alex Benay, but was very much supported by OCHRO and Nancy Chahwan, the chief human resources officer. It started as a team, a very small team, that was going to use an agile procurement process, which I'll talk briefly about, to identify options moving forward.
The team did a few things. One was looking at lessons learned. We had the benefit of looking at other jurisdictions, Australia, California and Alberta, and also at Phoenix and at recommendations in OAG reports to look at lessons learned and what we could do differently.
The other thing we did was to engage civil servants; we engaged government departments and HR professionals to identify what some of those key things were as we move forward.
Then there was the agile procurement process. The way it typically works in procurement, as I think most of you would know, is that the government hunkers down and writes down a series of business requirements in a little cave, and then sends them out. It goes out to the vendors, and the vendors are trying to figure out what government means. There are long blackout periods. By the time the whole thing is done, nobody has actually spoken to each other, and it's years later, and of course what you've asked for is typically outdated.
What this process does is that it allowed us to kick off with an industry day back in the fall when we talked about a process wherein we would, in fact, do it through a series of gates. We weren't going to hunker down; we were going to sit down and identify through each gate...and down-select vendors.
Gate 1, which was last fall, leaned on digital standards. The digital standards include, of course, security, official languages and accessibility, but there is what I like to call the non-digital of the digital standards, which says that thou shalt consult the client, thou shall be iterative, thou shall be agile and thou shall be in the open. We had really embraced all of those standards. Gate 1 was about whether vendors could meet those standards.
Seven vendors applied through gate 1, and very quickly we down-selected five into gate 2. Gate 2 was all about the testing. We brought in subject matter experts from across government. Those were executives. We brought in user testing. We ran user testing in lobbies. We had public servants from coast to coast to coast testing it. From that, we were able to down-select three vendors from gate 2 to gate 3.
I should also say that the interesting part about this process is that, because of its openness, we sat with vendors and defined what those requirements were. That was very helpful to us because, as government, we don't know what the latest and greatest is out there. Vendors were sitting with us and saying, “You don't really mean that; what you mean is this”, so the gates would change, and the requirements would change within the gates. We had unions in the tent. The unions helped us define what those requirements were. They sat and did the bids with us as well.
The objective of gate 3 was to do two things. We achieved part one today, which is quite exciting. The first objective was to qualify up to three vendors we could draw on. We realized early on that government isn't homogenous. The possibility of our using one system across the Government of Canada is unlikely.