Guidelines for Environmental Scans
Performance Management Branch, Ministry of Finance May 2010
ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN GUIDELINES
(Updated May 2010)
Environmental scanning is a key component of ministry planning processes and provides the foundation for the development of strategic, financial, performance, and workforce plans. The scan describes how demographic, political, economic, social, cultural, legal, and technological trends affect your ministry. The environmental scan enables a ministry to understand internal and external forces, informs decision makers of the changing environment in which the ministry operates, and identifies issues that may need to be addressed in the short- or medium- or long-term. Environmental scans provide a complete picture of the current environment in which the ministry is operating and set the stage for key issues that may need to be addressed in the upcoming planning and budgeting cycle. Ministries should prepare one single scan that captures all areas of a ministry’s planning needs, thereby informing the ministry’s management team of key issues facing the ministry from a policy, program, capital, information technology (IT), and human resource (capacity) perspective. The purpose of the scan is to inform the ministry, its senior management team, and the Minister, thereby guiding the development of the budget as well as longer term planning within the ministry. The secondary purpose of the scan is to inform central agencies and Treasury Board, to provide context for the planning and budgeting process for the upcoming year. It is expected that ministries will update their environmental scan each year. As ministries operate in constantly shifting environments, each ministry will need to determine when a comprehensive revision/rewrite to their scan is required and when an update of the previous year’s scan will suffice. The approach to the scan will also be affected by other processes being introduced to respond to government direction. For example, in the 2011-12 planning year, ministries will need to reflect their efforts to respond to government’s desire for a more efficient public service and a smaller government footprint. This direction can feed into government’s overall planning process, starting with inclusion of information and analysis in the ministry’s environmental scan.
Creating an Effective Environmental Scan
Although each environmental scan can be unique, there are a number of common elements that should be included to ensure ministry scans are effective for decision making. These are summarized briefly below: 1. Broad external trends: those international/national/provincial demographic, economic, and social trends affecting all or most ministries. Most ministries are utilizing a set of common indicators provided on the Planning Network SharePoint site. This approach can assist ministries in providing data and can help central agencies in their analysis and comparison of data across ministries.
2. External trends specific to a ministry’s programs or policy areas: sector specific trends; inter-jurisdictional developments; and, client, stakeholder, interest group or partner impacts. Trends should be presented with sufficient quantitative or qualitative data to explain the trend and its impact on the ministry. 3. Internal trends/issues: human resource, organizational or management challenges, infrastructure/capital challenges, and/or technological challenges facing the ministry. 4. Analysis: an analysis of what the key trends suggest for the ministry, an assessment of the risks (threats and opportunities), and associated implications for planning and budgeting decisions. 5. Synopsis: a succinct section (or stand-alone document) that may be provided to the Minister and could be shared, if desired, with Treasury Board or Cabinet. The synopsis is intended to capture the ministry’s key issues, trends, challenges, risks, and opportunities and set...
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