Improving Business Services through TTBizlink in Trinidad and Tobago

Allison BidaiseeAllison Bidaisee currently holds the post of Manager Stakeholder Adoption, Single Electronic Window (SEW) at the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications (MTIIC), Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. She was the MTIIC’s Team Lead for its participation at CAPAM’s Innovations Awards, 2014 and similarly, is the Team lead for TTBizLink’s participation in the Diamond Standard Certification Programme. Certification was received in January of this year. Ms. Bidaisee holds a B.Sc. Industrial Management degree, with Honours – from the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine Campus, and received the Executive Masters in Business Administration (EMBA) degree, with Distinction, from The Arthur Lok Jack Graduate Schools of Business (formerly known as the Institute of Business), UWI. She also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration from the UWI. Ms. Bidaisee has worked in the private and public sectors as well as the non- governmental sector. While working in the non-governmental sector with the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC), she was, for one two-year term, Secretary of the Regional Executive Committee (REC) of the World Association of Christian Communicators’ (WACC) Caribbean regional body – WACC Caribe. Ms. Bidaisee was also selected by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva as a Guest Editor for one issue of its publication, WCC NEWS.

Sometimes Open Innovation in government means looking for answers and collaboration beyond the silos traditionally utilized within a single department. It means working with other ministries and external suppliers to achieve results. CAPAM provides readers a closer look at the TTBizLink initiative from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GROTT). A 2014 International Innovations Awards finalist in the “Innovations in Government Services and Programmes” category, TTBizLink is a secure business portal that provides 24/7 access to applications for various trade and business-related government services by linking multiple partners via a single electronic platform.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications (MTIIC) continues to receive local and international accolades for TTBizLink, its Single Electronic Window (SEW) portal originally deployed in 2012. Accomplishing such an achievement has been due largely to MTIIC being able to foster a steadfast collaboration between public and private sectors supported by sound project management principles, thorough business re-engineering, and proactive change management processes. These combined elements have focussed on building a culture in the public service that embraces the use of innovation in the delivery of services to the business community and the public at large.

The concept for the MTIIC’s SEW is founded on the experiences of economies that have successful active SEWs such as Singapore’s TradeNet. In fact, the MTIIC drew upon an existing wealth of experience, knowledge and technical capabilities by engaging the company responsible for TradeNet’s design, CrimsonLogic Pte. Ltd. Additionally, the MTIIC has, and continues, to use its country’s human capital in the implementation of its SEW along with existing facilitative machinery such as the authentication system of The National Information and Communication Technology Company Limited (iGovTT), through its ttconnect Unit.
In 2015, TTBizLink enters Phase 3 of its implementation which, when completed, will see TTBizLink providing forty-six (46) trade and business e-services. This phase will also represent collaboration with twenty-four (24) government agencies across ten (10) ministries together with the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC). In just three (3) short years TTBizLink has recorded over 170,000 transactions and has over 6,100 registered users. It is expected that these statistics will continue to steadily increase.
TTBizLink arose out of concerns for the country’s declining competitiveness as reflected in its 80th ranking in the World Bank’s 2009 Ease of Doing Business Survey, having dropped from the 71st and 67th positions in 2008 and 2007 respectively. This ranking was lower than many benchmark countries as well as many countries in the Americas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
To address this, the MTIIC undertook a comprehensive feasibility study to evaluate what would eliminate the challenges being experienced. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) was instrumental in providing guidance and recommendations on strategies to improve Trinidad and Tobago’s ranking.
It was found that the traditional and long accepted way in which individuals transacted business with government (via manual/ paper processes) was characterized by gross inefficiencies. This was due to:
  • submission of multiple copies of the same information to multiple government agencies;
  • significant time lost in commuting and waiting in lines;
  • frustration in obtaining status updates; andrepetition of the process when amendments were required due to incomplete or inaccurate information.
For trade and business transactions, this situation was compounded by:
  • the lack of coordination among and widespread locale of agencies involved in trade and business facilitation.This resulted in an exporter/ importer having to physically visit each agency to both obtain relevant application forms and submit them for processing.
  • the ‘discretionary’ interpretation and implementation of laws, tariffs and regulations by government officials due to the lack of automation on a single monitored system. This resulted in uncertainty and facilitated an environment rife with corruption. 
There was therefore the need for an holistic and unified platform for trade and business facilitation – a Single Electronic Window – now branded as TTBizLink – which would reinvent the way in which business was transacted by, and with the GROTT.

Accessed online at, TTBizLink is a secure, neutral and user-friendly IT platform that facilitates the delivery of various trade and business related services electronically from the ‘front-end’ (i.e. end-users/ applicants), to the ‘back-end’ (i.e. approvers).
TTBizLink can be accessed anytime from anywhere in the world. Persons no longer have to go into an agency to collect a form during stipulated working hours. Rather, they log onto the system and complete and submit e-applications as needed.
Through TTBizLink, the applicant completes one electronic form, which consolidates the information requirements of the relevant approving agencies. This avoids duplication and the need for multiple copies of the same documentation. The system contains validation points, information tool tips and detailed instructions manuals to assist with completing an application and improve its accuracy and thoroughness. Submitted applications are then automatically routed to the relevant approving agency for processing. Each agency that logs into the system can view, query and make a decision on the application.
The system also tracks each application as it moves through the processing chain so that managers can review the process, identify bottlenecks and take corrective action as necessary.
The application process has also been streamlined so that an applicant can begin an application, save it and return to complete and/or amend it at a later date. After submission, the applicant can log into the system and check the status of the application. Once a decision has been made, the applicant would immediately receive an electronic notification informing of the decision and providing instructions on how to proceed.

TTBizLink provides the customers and approving agency with a completely new and unaccustomed way to transact business that eliminates inefficiencies inherent in the manual/paper process.
The GROTT has invested heavily in the TTBizLink project. However, at every stage efforts are made to reduce cost by not reinventing the wheel and using existing resources and mechanisms in the government.
Costs were reduced by:
  • engaging the staff of various collaborating agencies in the provision of operationaland institutional expertise in documenting process flows and assisting in its reengineering;
  • establishing connectivity with the Government’s Data Centre at Fujitsu (Caribbean) to house the TTBizLink platform;
  • engaging the iGovTT for the use of its authentication system– ttconnect; and
  • effectively using the GROTT’s human capital as that of the MTIIC’s legal department and the Office of the Attorney General. Over 85 public officers worked on the implementation of the system through various project teams and participated in approximately 315 project meetings. The country’s cadre of returning national scholarswas employed to the positions of TTBizLink Specialists.
Some of TTBizLink’s clients at a User Acceptance Testing session for the new e-services


“Since the deployment of TTBizLink’s first e-service in early 2012, citizens and firms have experienced several benefits.” After having used the e-Permits and Licences, Nadira Dass, Manager  – Customs Department, HADCO Ltd. noted that, “The processing time by the Ministry is within a matter of minutes and I can collect import permits within the same day. This, compared to 1-2 weeks before is amazing.”
As a direct result of the refined business registration processes via e-Company Registration this country also advanced in the Doing Business report.

Customers such as Sophia Spence, Managing Director, Kainos Concepts Consulting Ltd. shared that, “TTBizLink has helped us quicken our delivery time of our services to our clients, approval notice within 24 hours of a name search and a maximum of 48 hours for incorporation of an LLC. Previously, notice of approval took a minimum of 3 to 5 days and 5 to 8 days respectively.”
The specific improvements in processing times for Phase I (i.e. 2012/2013) e-services are as follows: 
  • e-Certificate of Origin under the exporTT Ltd. and the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) - from 1 day to 5-30 minutes
  • e-Company Registration under the Ministry of Legal Affairs (Companies Registry) - from 7 days to 3 days
  • e-Fiscal Incentives under the MTIIC (InvestmentDirectorate) - from 6 weeks to 11 days
  • e-Import Duty Concessions under the MTIIC (Investment Directorate) - from 6 weeks days to 11 days
  • e-Import/Export Permits and Licences under the MTIIC (Trade Licence Unit), Ministry of Food Production (Animal Production and Health Division and Plant Quarantine Services) and Ministry of Health (Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division) - from 4 weeks to 1-2 days
  • e-Work Permit under the Ministry of National Security (Work Permit Secretariat) - from 6 weeks to 2.5 weeks 
These achievements have resulted in other Ministries seeking collaboration with the MTIIC to streamline their processes and remove inefficiencies. For 2014, TTBizLink saw the launch of e-Company/Partnership BIR and VAT Registration, e-National Insurance Registration and e-Goods Declaration under the Ministry of Finance and the Economy (Board of Inland Revenue, National Insurance Board and Customs and Excise Division, respectively). In that same year, TTBizLink also saw the launch of e-Vendor Registration under the Ministry of Finance and the Economy (Central Tenders Board Division) and e-Maritime Services, which is a collaborative venture with seven (7) agencies where the Ministry of Transport (Maritime Services Division) is the lead agency.
In 2015 TTBizLink is preparing for the launch of the e-Utilities Module. This will allow customers to electronically apply for water and sewerage connections from that country’s Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and electricity supply from the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC). Additionally, work is being done on the expansion of the e-Permits and Licences Module through collaborations with the Ministry of Health’s Pharmacy/ Drug Inspectorate (MHDI) and the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Inspectorate (PTCI), which will see a total of fourteen (14) new e-applications available on the platform. Additionally, enhancements to the Work Permit and Company Registration modules are underway.
TTBizLink is therefore scalable and its learning and benefits transferable to other Ministries.
Along with these achievements and having been a finalist in the CAPAM Innovations Award, in January 2015, TTBizLink was one of eleven (11) Government agencies in Trinidad and Tobago to receive Diamond Standard Certification. The Diamond Standard Programme is a Citizen Service Certification Programme aligned to achieving excellence in service delivery and is an initiative of the Ministry of Public Administration. In 2013, TTBizLink was also a winner in the United Nations Public Service Award in the category “Promoting Whole-of-Government Approaches in the Information Age”.
To achieve the above notable results and efficiencies, TTBizLink’s implementation involved a range of strategies to ensure the project’s success while mitigating potential risks. A comprehensive feasibility study was undertaken by the MTIIC to examine the project needs and potential of a single window, review best practices and standards by international organizations as well as the then current enterprise-wide ICT and public administration reforms being implemented by other Government departments. This ensured that the system would be customized to the country’s needs, and that potential obstacles identified and addressed. More importantly, it ensured that the project would not duplicate, but complement many of the reforms being undertaken by other government departments.
Strategic Leadership and Effective Project Governance mechanisms were established by ensuring that the Cabinet of the country had approved the Project, thus allowing all relevant stakeholders to use the system for their trade and business clearances. Additionally, an Inter- Ministerial Steering Committee with various sub-committees comprising several senior ministers and public officers were established to steer the implementation of the project.
Commitment and cooperation of stakeholders was sought from the project’s inception and onwards. Stakeholders also formed part of the project teams and worked alongside the MTIIC during project development and implementation. This action ensured stakeholder understanding of all components, clarification of expectations, roles and responsibilities and project buy-in.
A main focus of the TTBizLink project was on business process reengineering in the relevant GORTT departments administering the various modules. This entailed a comprehensive review of existing workflows to identify and eliminate points of inefficiencies. A comprehensive Business Process Mapping and Reengineering (BPR) report was developed, shared and implemented by the various project teams.

A detailed communications plan was developed and implemented over the phases of the project to ensure that stakeholders were informed about current developments and to provide feedback to the project teams on concerns that may have arisen. Staff also worked closely with the collaborating agencies and the business community to undertake sensitization and outreach sessions to build buy-in.
A specialized Project Management Office (PMO) was established within the MTIIC, staffed by competent and committed professionals. Each TTBizLink Specialist has responsibility for the operationalization of a particular module or set of e-services and is charged with strengthening working relationships with the module’s stakeholders to ensure smooth delivery of service, adherence to set targets, and monitoring and performance evaluation against agreed parameters. They each therefore act as change agents.
Performance Based Management was encouraged throughout the Unit. A comprehensive Knowledge Management Framework was also established to facilitate sharing of information, best practices and lessons learned. Clearly defined service standards were established with the relevant stakeholders and monthly reports generated and dissected to ascertain system efficiency (e.g. percentage of applications processed within set standards). Moreover, the PMO adopted a customer-focused approach to service delivery. To this end, there has been the establishment of a dedicated TTBizLink Help Desk mandated to ensure that no stakeholder is unduly inconvenienced when issues arise and that incident resolution turnaround times are kept to a minimum. This Desk is equipped with incident management software, which further facilitates knowledge sharing and efficiency in managing incidents. Additionally, formal arrangements have been in place with carefully selected agencies to provide training so that customers can build their competencies in using the e-services.
The methodology adopted in realizing TTBizLink represents a positive shift of paradigm in the approach to public service transformation. It focused on holistic institutional capacity strengthening that addressed:
  • garnering stakeholder buy in and commitment byinclusivity and transparency of information transmitted;
  • development of foundational legislative, regulatory and policy instruments;
  • human resource challenges by providing avenues for acquiring the news skills and competencies needed by key stakeholders to build their productive capacity;
  • intra-organizational inefficiencies by undertaking business process re- engineering and enhancing technical infrastructure; and
  • inter-organizational issues via formal agreements andestablishing robust consultative networks between and amongst organizations.

TTBizLink facilitates the provision of key government business services according to transparent service standards to which all citizens are entitled. For local, and particularly for foreign investors, this is a welcomed change as the Ease of Doing Business ranking
is a key determinant to investor attractiveness. TTBizLink therefore complements the mission of the state agency invesTT, which is responsible for leading activities in targeting, attracting and securing local, regional and international direct investment to the country.
Additionally, the system’s design increases the level of transparency by its inherent security features as well as the inclusion of a self-audit facility that tracks any unauthorized or arbitrary/ discretionary application of accepted business rules and regulations. The key lessons gleaned thus far are as follows:
  • Innovation in the public service is possible but requires careful planning and dedicated attention to all stakeholders throughout the process to gain their buy-in.
  • There is the need for solid commitment and clearly defined and agreed upon goals by key stakeholders, from project inception. Key stakeholders must assist in driving the implementation process rather thansimply being led. Each must understand why it is needed, what quantitative and qualitative benefits will accrue and what is required to accomplish the end result.
  • Trust and close collaboration amongst all stakeholders is needed. For TTBizLink the vision and leadership provided by the National Strategic Plan and Inter-ministerial Steering Committee were instrumental factors for TTBizLink’s success and key in building trust.
  • In effecting transformation within the Public Service it was also important that required policy and legislative frameworks were in place. For TTBizLink to legally operate, the enactment of the Electronics Transaction Act No. 6 of 2011 and the Data Protection Act No. 13 of 2011 were required. This gave legality to electronic documents, electronic records, electronic signatures and electronic transactions, and provided for the protection of personal privacy and information, respectively. Such frameworks built confidence in the minds of users on the new way of transacting business, and gave credence to the system.
  • Careful and meticulous deliberation must be given to the selection of a lead consulting team with due regard to existing tenderingprocesses and to ensuring that solutions developed outside of a country’s borders can be customized and implemented successfully within the local context. The selection of CrimsonLogic Pte. Ltd. was based on its successful history with providing end-to-end e-Government solutions in more than 20 countries, including Singapore, which consistently ranks high in the Ease of Doing Business report. CrimsonLogic Pte. Ltd. brought years of technical expertise and experience in building and implementing successful and sustained single window solutions.
  • The implementation of any new system must be based on a thorough constructive and critical investigation of existing business processes to determine existing gaps and the exact resource (human, technical and infrastructural) needs of each agency relative to its mission. It must be a collaborative effort. The internal adoption of any new system or process requires that the leadership of collaborating partners also introduce appropriate change management methodologies.
  • It is important to have recognized benchmarks against which performance standards can be determined and success monitored. TTBizLink follows the recommendations and guidelines developed by the international communitysuch as UN/CEFACT – recommendation No. 33.
  • Finally, the most valuable lesson brought to light is that small developing countries in the Caribbean have the capacity and capability to implement transformative projects of complex dimensions once thereare clearly defined project management methodologies and collaboration between and amongst ministries and other stakeholders.

(Members of the TTBizLink Unit with their department head, Director Policy and Strategy Randall Karim (center). Front row, from right are: Manager Stakeholder Adoption Allison Bidaisee with SEW Specialists Shermatie Jagdeo and Charelle Joseph-Samaroo. Back row, from right are: SEW Specialist Stephen Rodriguez, Help Desk Officer Vernelle Harewood, Associate Professional Amrish Persad, SEW Specialist Neshan Singh, Senior Help Desk Officer Rodney Ali, Help Desk Officer James Vailloo, Operations Manager Justin John and SEW Specialist Christian Marquez. Missing were team members SEW Specialist Caleb Wales and Administrative Professional Glemma Bartholomew.)