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Zero-based review approach

A zero-based review project (ZBR) is a review of a business unit in order to identify opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness improvements and savings.

Each zero-based review begins with project planning pre-work and follows 5 main activities to evaluate the business unit as a whole and to identify and assess specific services and service areas for efficiency and effectiveness improvements.

Prior to data collection, the business unit under review will participate in an orientation session in order to prepare the business unit and support initial project planning activities.

Data Collection 


As the first step in a ZBR, the business unit will prepare for the review by defining services and collecting existing data and background studies. This work helps define the scope of the services under review and ensures there is adequate data to develop evidence-based and quantifiable recommendations.
The service profiles and descriptions compiled and completed during data collection includes information like financial data, business plans, performance measures and targets, citizen and customer input, and other relevant background materials to support the review.

Opportunity Identification


Following the collection of data, a high level review of all services within the business unit will be carried out in order to identify areas with the greatest potential for improvement. The result of the opportunity identification is a number of recommended focus areas for in-depth analysis by the external consultant.

Depending on the number of opportunities identified, it may be necessary to prioritize them according to the extent of their potential for improvement and the feasibility of implementing changes to the service in preparation for the next stage of the review process.

In-depth Analysis


At this stage in the ZBR project, service areas with the greatest potential for improvement have been identified. The next steps, led by an external consultant, are an in-depth analysis of those service areas and the development of specific recommendations to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The consultant will frame the in-depth analysis around service rationale, service level and scope, service efficiency, service effectiveness, and service funding. The consultant will draft a summary of findings from this analysis, concluding with a series of preliminary options for improvement to service efficiency and effectiveness.

Recommendations and Business Cases


These options are now critically assessed through a cost-benefit analysis and developed into final recommendations for Council approval. Each of the consultant’s final recommendations will include a business case that addresses financial and non-financial considerations that support a recommendation for improved efficiency and effectiveness.

The consultant will draft a final report that incorporates the summary of the in-depth analysis, options, and business cases for final recommendations. This stage involves presenting the final report to the Priorities and Finance Committee (PFC) of Council. This provides members of Council an opportunity to ask questions and make decisions on the recommended changes to the business unit under review. The PFC meeting is open to the public.

Based on the feedback from the meeting, the report may be amended or revised, and go forward to Council for final approval, amendment, or rejection of the recommendations.



Implementation of the approved recommendations is the responsibility of the business unit participating in the Zero-Based Review. Within a year following the completion of a ZBR, the business unit director and department general manager are responsible for providing a follow-up report to Council on the implementation of approved recommendations, specifying how the recommendations will be incorporated into its business plans, budgets and performance measures.
This final stage also provides an opportunity for Administration to conduct an evaluation of the ZBR in order to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement going forward.