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01.04.13

Smart service delivery in a cold economic climate

Source: Public Sector Executive March/April 2013

Gill Terry of Birmingham City Council describes how other organisations could learn from the council’s experience, to realise substantial savings and achieve a step change in service improvement by adopting a consistent, holistic approach for managing change.

Public sector organisations are under immense pressure to reduce costs, improve service delivery and transform the way they operate. Such challenges cannot be achieved from spending cuts and staff reductions alone, but through efficiency and productivity gains achieved from introducing innovative ways of working.

Most organisations now have the tools and processes in place to enable continuous improvement. However, transformational change is different, involving a holistic and radical approach to the redesign of services. This achieves innovation and efficiencies, as well as continuing to deliver quality services to customers.

In the case of Birmingham, the city council is now beyond the mid-way point of one of the most ambitious public sector business efficiency transformation programmes in Europe, designed to streamline operations and realise benefits amounting to £1.7bn for an investment of £683m.

Key challenges

Back in 2006, Birmingham City Council faced a radical change to improve a number of underperforming services. Additionally, whilst the council was prepared to invest in improving those services, overall the change programme needed to realise substantial savings and ensure that improvements and efficiencies flowed from that investment.

It became apparent that there was no ‘off the peg’ solution that provided an effective and comprehensive roadmap for implementing a business transformation programme of such scale and complexity. To address this challenge, the council and its partners developed the CHAMPS2 business change methodology; a comprehensive approach for transforming services by focusing holistically on people, process, organisation and technology, as well as achieving lasting financial and non-financial benefits.

The transformation programme’s objectives

From the beginning, the council’s programme has focused on planning and delivering radical, large-scale change, utilising ICT as a key strategic enabler of transformation. The programme has three over-arching transformation objectives: improved service delivery to customers; greater efficiencies; and improved job satisfaction for the organisation’s employees.

These objectives have been defined and achieved using the CHAMPS2 method, which has provided a consistent, benefits-driven and holistic approach to managing change – delivering a full end-to-end solution underpinned by strong, effective leadership and robust governance.

Birmingham’s approach

Birmingham’s approach to transformation was formed on the basis that the council needed to transform itself by fundamentally redesigning services. In terms of structure, the programme comprises nine workstreams. Some have focused on improving frontline services to customers, whilst others were designed to improve corporate back-office functions to drive overall service improvements. This work has, crucially, involved detailed and extensive engagement with customers to put them at the heart of the programme and shape services in an evidence-based way.

The entire programme has been designed and managed using the CHAMPS2 methodology, ensuring a consistent focus on achieving expected benefits. The primary difference between using CHAMPS2 and alternative business process improvement approaches is that its focus is holistic, end-to-end service redesign across organisational structure, business processes and technology.

Key outcomes and achievements

Both in its scope and scale, the council’s business transformation programme is the largest of its kind in the UK, dwarfing any comparable transformation programme across the local government landscape. The programme is expected to yield £1.7bn of gross savings between 2006 and 2016 and is now at a mature stage, with transformed services now becoming fully integrated into the council’s operations as ‘business-as-usual’.

The decision to embark on the programme seven years ago was highly prescient, given the financial constraints that local authorities and other organisations must now address for the foreseeable future.

In this respect, Birmingham’s transformation certainly represents ‘smart service delivery in a cold economic climate’ and consequently the council is better-placed to deal with existing and future financial constraints.

Organisations across all sectors can learn from Birmingham’s experience, with its proven, replicable change model that can be applied to organisations of any size, irrespective of the complexity and scale of change required.

The council’s business change methodology is in the public domain as a free online toolkit, accessible via www.champs2.info, enabling others to gain advantage from applying a comprehensive, holistic approach to managing change.

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