Local government senior management is optimistic about its progress in addressing the Government’s Transformation Agenda but fears that it may lack the change management know-how to deliver complete service transformation programmes, according to new research.
The survey¹ of 102 local authority chief executives, policy makers and change managers across the UK - commissioned by Civica, a market leader in software-based solutions that helps organisations improve service delivery, found that one third of respondents (34%) claims to have made significant progress on service transformation so far.
Nearly half of those questioned - 48% - expects to do so over the next six months while only one in six reckons that significant progress on service reform will take them a year or more.
However, senior executives’ optimism was tempered by clear concerns over management skills needed to deliver transformation. Researchers found that a majority of authorities (60 per cent) views management skills training as a high or significant spending priority for their authority over the next 12 months, with almost the same numbers seeking help on the key issues of funding/financial consultancy advice (59 per cent) and skills auditing (57 per cent).
The survey, conducted for Civica by research company, Marketing Assistance, also suggests that partnerships with private sector providers are now so fundamental to local service delivery that the availability of specialist skill sets to support councils on key transformation elements such as change management, process re-design and workable shared services models, will depend on them to a large extent.
Most respondents - 70% - have full confidence that they will be sharing services with other public sector bodies within three years. Virtually all authorities also view partnership with specialist providers as a high priority or significant in service delivery, whether in the form of IT consulting and services (95 per cent of respondents), management consultancy (94 per cent) or a business process provider (94 per cent).
The survey’s insight into the mechanics of service transformation at the local level comes as Civica formally launches its Enterprise Service Transformation service (EST). Aware that every authority is on a different ‘journey of change’ in response to Government promptings, EST provides chief executives with bespoke change programmes including corporate strategy, service design, tailored Value For Money delivery systems, information management and specialist services.
Lindsay Dransfield, director, Enterprise Service Transformation at Civica said: “Local authorities are clearly in a difficult position, aware that the Spending Review’s tough efficiency targets may be preventing councils from making the investments in change programmes they need to deliver effective strategic reforms. As a result, they are looking for management consultancy and enhanced management skills to help ‘kick start’ the type of structural and cultural changes that will reform services while driving down costs.”
Val Earle, head of consulting for Enterprise Service Transformation at Civica, said: “The survey is revealing because it shows that many of the elements needed for successful change programmes ‒ commitment to partnerships, investment in IT and the appetite for considering alternative service delivery models - are already in place.
“Those councils that manage to harness their previous investment in technology or business process re-engineering can take the next step of uniting front line and back office services and information systems. Authorities that aim to transform themselves from within will be better placed to achieve real and sustainable Service Transformation with clear system-enabled efficiencies whilst carefully considering their move towards shared services or potentially disruptive process outsourcing arrangements.”
Civica plc (civica.co.uk) is a market leader in software-based solutions that help organisations to improve service delivery and efficiency, with specialist expertise in local government, social housing, enforcement, education and regulated markets. Blending consulting, software and managed services, the group supplies more than 1,700 customers in the UK, Australia, Singapore and the USA, including 90 per cent of the UK’s local authorities.
About the survey
¹ The survey comprised telephone interviews conducted by research company Marketing Assistance during March and April 2008 with local authority CEOs, heads of service, change management executives, and policy managers. A total of 102 interviews were completed, with the sample selected randomly to represent the 472 District, Metropolitan, Unitary and County Authorities in the UK.