Advanced Viral Marketing for Professional Interims: Importance of the Interim & Provider Catch-Up Meeting

A. INTRODUCTION

This is Alf’s third blog related to interim management. In the first blog, Alf shared with our “virtual” aspiring Interim Manager that he (Alf) had four searching questions for him/her and suggested that he/she reflect carefully and come back and see Alf again in a month.
As explained in the first blog, Alf has over twenty years experience as an Independent Interim Executive and is often asked for some tips by new entrants to the industry.
Alf planned to run a series of related blogs on and around this theme. So to make it easier to read, Alf adopted two actors:

  1. “Virtually” – Virtually is an old sage of an Interim Manager, with lots of scars, war-stories, anecdotes, and knows absolutely everybody in the industry.
  2. “Friendly” – Friendly is our aspiring Interim Manager. Friendly is serious about becoming an Interim Manager but does not want to make too many mistakes in learning the ropes. Friendly is looking to Virtually as a virtual Mentor.

Both “Virtually” and “Friendly” are characters created for this blog. The second blog was very much given over to Friendly answering the four questions identified by Virtually. Friendly has a vivid imagination and answered all the questions in the twenty-second century!

When Alf shared the second blog with Gavan Burden of Burden Dare, Gavan liked it so much and both agreed to collaborate and jointly write the next blog.

B. BACKGROUND

Alf and Gavan felt that the regular interim manager/intermediary “catch-up” meeting would provide the context for the third blog. The regular catch-up meeting is an opportunity for both the interim and the provider to share market intelligence.
In an age when Viral Marketing is the holy grail, there is still an important place for the traditional “catch-up” meeting over a coffee. The “catch-up” meeting is used with both intermediaries and clients.

In order to protect confidentiality, Alf and Gavan agreed to introduce a third character to the blog, namely “Helpful”. For the reader’s simplicity, the two original characters and the new one are summarised below:

  • “Virtually” – Virtually is an old sage of an Interim Manager, with lots of scars, war-stories, anecdotes, and knows absolutely everybody in the industry.
  • “Friendly” – Friendly is our aspiring Interim Manager. Friendly is serious about becoming an Interim Manager but does not want to make too many mistakes in learning the ropes. Friendly is looking to Virtually as a virtual Mentor.
  • “Helpful” – Helpful is our “Quality” Interim Management Provider (sometimes called intermediary or agency). “Quality” interim providers typically reached senior management/board level in their primary career, either in the Private or Public Sectors. The other model of provider is the “High Street” model which generates lots of replica consultants, typically with a career in recruitment, often trained in an organization like Michael Page. “High Street” interim providers often see interim management as an extension of the volume recruitment contract market but with more sector specialization – historically they were typically attracted by the higher margins in interim management.

Strategically, the “Quality” providers are specialists, or niche players, often associated with a search/headhunting business; whereas, “High Street” are classic, broad-line players, often with the strategic advantage of having the industry’s lowest cost. Quality providers must truly differentiate themselves with superior service offerings, performance & quality, with appropriate branding. Providers who are neither “Quality” nor “High Street” would be described by Michael Porter (Harvard strategy guru) as “stuck in the middle”, without a viable strategic offering.

C. INTERIM CATCH-UP COVERSATION

Helpful the Provider

Hi Virtually, come on in and sit down, how have you been?

Virtually the Interim

Good thanks, I finished an assignment two months ago. I’ve had a great break, doing some travelling. Now I’m looking for my next challenge

Helpful the Provider

Tell me about your last assignment.

Virtually the Interim

Virtually described the assignment and gave Helpful a couple of potential leads to follow up then asked: “How has the market been?”

Helpful the Provider

In all honesty, it’s been quiet, Virtually. There has been some movement but mostly what I call “must do” jobs: integration work at the banks, some low end permanent work at the consultancies, some IT infrastructure rationalisation and some outsourcing. So the vast majority has been cost saving work. Obviously we have also seen a lot of interims coming out of the public sector and an increasing number of people taking packages and wanting to take interim work.

Virtually the Interim

That’s interesting, so how do I, as an established interim manager, differentiate myself from those people coming out of permanent jobs?

Helpful the Provider

That’s a concern, Virtually. If a role comes through, a quality interim provider, you will have nothing to fear. We all will look to place “career interim managers” – they are proven and the only ones you can really rely on. They have the repeat track record with multiple clients and won’t leave a client in the lurch by taking a secure full time role when it comes along.

The greater concern is roles that either get filled by a “friend of a friend” directly or contract recruiters pushing upwards in the interim market in an attempt to increase margins.

Virtually the Interim

That’s interesting what’s happening to rates and margins?

Helpful the Provider

It depends. If the role is for scarce skills then they are holding up, but otherwise they are both under pressure as clients look for value for money. The other factor, of course, is framework agreements which tend to focus on cost rather than value created – the ROI from the interim’s intervention, if you like.

Virtually the Interim

So how should I differentiate myself do you think?

Helpful the Provider

Now, more than ever, you have to look at “bang for buck”, that’s really important. Have you seen Gavan Burden’s paper on “useful tips for CV writing” – it’s on his website, on the useful downloads page.

Virtually the Interim

No I’ll have a look – what does it say?

Helpful the Provider

You have to clearly set out what a client will get for their money. So what have YOU actually done on an assignment? Not what happened whilst you were there! Clearly set out the numbers in absolute values which are clearer than percentages. For instance if you saved £5m out of a £20m project that is helpful as it tell the reader the size of the project and the extent of the savings, but if you just say you saved 25% the reader doesn’t know if the project was a small, medium or large one. It’s helpful to set out span of control and any contract extensions too. Repeat work is also a good sign.

Virtually the Interim

Good tips! As you know, I have always focused on a three core areas (my verticals) and I have three areas of specialisation (my horizontals)

Helpful the Provider

How have you found that working for you?

Virtually the Interim

That’s worked well but, bearing in mind the market, is it sensible, or even possible, to write my CV so that it enables me to become more mobile across sectors? What do you think?

Helpful the Provider

You’re fortunate, if that is the right word, in that you have delivered a number of infrastructure programmes, and you already have a slightly cross-industry CV. There is no doubt that clients can pick from candidates with relevant industry skills as well as content, but if you have already delivered a similar programme in a different industry then you become a credible candidate.

One thing I’ve been experimenting with is sending clients a spider graph showing the qualities of the candidates mapped against each other, the issue has been accurately calibrating the axes – if you can’t do that it has no value, so I’ve tended to use hard facts and numbers, such as assignment size and scope, years as an interim, absolute number of assignments – all the things we talked about before.

Virtually the Interim

Tell me, does it make things more difficult with the market so fragmented, so many suppliers? How should I know which interim providers are the ones to contact?

Helpful the Provider

Virtually, you’ve been around this market for 15 years or so, you have a great understanding of the key players. The best interim management relationships are personal relationships acting on a “trusted advisor” basis – that way we get to know the finer points of how a client works and the sort of people who will succeed and they get an immediate personalised service as the quality providers know their interim candidates too. Providers who don’t really know their candidates are really operating a contracting model.

Virtually the Interim

I see, and that still works for traditional suppliers, does it? I thought that might have changed now there are so many players?

Helpful the Provider

Well there are always going to be new entrants into markets – the barriers to entry are very low, but that doesn’t mean service levels are adequate. It’s up to clients how they wish to fill their vacancies, but I’m still seeing loyalty and getting referrals, so I must be doing something right!

The key to all assignments is making a win/win/win, so the client, the interim and myself are all happy.

Virtually the Interim

So how do you source your new candidates now? Do you take on new ones and what about social networking tools? I hear that Viral Marketing is the next big trend for interims?

Helpful the Provider

I’m always happy to take on new candidates, my preference is for personal referrals from people I trust and for candidates who have worked in companies where I can informally reference them. Increasingly LinkedIn is driving more candidates to me and Facebook and Twitter are good for getting your name known. Viral marketing can be quite effective, but you have to be very careful as there are no guarantees as to candidate quality.

Virtually the Interim

That’s interesting, so in your mind there will always be a demand for the traditional provider who has the proven mark of quality? By the way, I have a good friend called Friendly who is currently thinking about launching herself in a career in interim. We have had a couple of good conversations in recent weeks and I pushed her pretty hard. I’d very much like to introduce you both. Just one thing, she has amazing sense of humour, she has this knack of projecting herself into the twenty-second century –it’s amazing, she’s a sort of interim management futurologist!

Helpful the Provider

Let me take your points separately.

Firstly, I think that there will always be a strong demand for quality interim providers who can provide seasoned executives who are prepared to challenge the client and deliver real value. Some of the new arrivals to interim management feel that it’s enough to field sector specialists who can drop sector jargon in client conversations. Unfortunately, Executive Interim Management has lost some of its uniqueness with volume/broad-line providers: offering office temporaries, young professionals and executive interim management. The volume players will tend to compete only on price with little or no knowledge of an interim’s track record. Quality traditional executive interim providers compete on service and quality – obviously, they will need to keep up with the times and use technology to lower transaction costs.

I would very much like to meet your friend called Friendly – I won’t forget her name! Ask her to get in touch with me. I can quiz her on Dr. Batt of GothamPark Interim! Serioughly though, the industry always needs new blood but providers like us have a responsibility to make sure that the “newbies” are really cut out for executive interim.

Virtually the Interim

Friendly, it’s been great to see you again! I know that we speak regularly on the phone but it’s important to meet face-to-face periodically. As a final point, I remind you that I’m looking for a new challenge, so don’t be shy to pick up the phone”

Helpful the Provider

Virtually, you know that I would like to work with you again! It’s very much like the search business it’s client assignment driven. Thanks for coming in. As always I really enjoyed talking to you & look forward to meeting Friendly.

Virtually, I know that you are passionate about interims leveraging their personal branding and networks, using Viral Marketing but each time we meet reinforces my view that there’s no substitute for the traditional catch-up meeting and for that matter, the quality provider!

Virtually the Interim

I agree with you Friendly. Some of the modernn, so-called, Viral Marketing experts try to  summarize good marketing in six bullet points on a blog but in my experience, life is rarely that simple.

In my mind, Viral Marketing is really important but it supplements rather than replaces good marketing. I’m seriously thinking about writing a Viral Marketing book for Professional Interims but my problem is finding interims as case studies who are already practicing Viral Marketing – just another Catch 22 dilemma, I guess. Let me know if you hear of any?

Helpful the Provider

I certainly will! Let’s keep in touch. Enjoy the rest of your day

Public Sector Catch 22: Structural Reform, Strategy and Implementation – How to avoid a Omnishambles Recovery Programme? (Part 4 of 4)

A. INTRODUCTION

With the Coalition Government‘s Reform Agenda being attacked on multiple fronts, for example, Defence and Health, plus the targets set in the Spending Review looking more and more at risk, this week the blog focuses on “How to avoid a Omnishambles Recovery Programme?

This is my sixth blog which looks at the critical choices being faced in the Public Sector both at the National and Local level.

The first two articles were: UK Local Authorities and Shared Services: Cost-Cutting – Myth or Reality?, and Public Sector Performance: Catch 22 type Dilemmas.

This is now the fourth of four related blogs:

1. Cost Cutting Vs. Cost Reduction (Blog 1)
2. Business Transformation (Blog 2)
3. The Role of IT in Business Transformation (Blog 3)
4. Structural Reform, Strategy and Delivery (Blog 4)– focus of this blog

Before focusing specifically on Structural Reform, Strategy & Implementation, it is worth taking a look at this week’s major news on progress in overhauling public services. The biggest story has been the Government back-tracking on NHS reform, taking some extra time for consultation and the publication of the Health Select Committee report. The Government has published Structural Reform Progress updates for the whole of Whitehall. As of March, the Cabinet Office was late on three reform milestones and the Department of Business Information and Skills four. For this blog, the most significant was the delay of the new model for Central Government Shared Services by the Cabinet Office but they are now promising a pan-Government strategy by April – it will be interesting to see whether this is restricted to Central Government or also includes Local Authorities.

This week Lord Adonis of the Institute for Government challenged  “No, prime minister, the civil service is not your nemesis“, with a wide-ranging attack highlighting the risk of achieving the cost savings. In another broadside, Benedict Brogan, the Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph, referred to two Permanent Secretaries comparing notes and citing “The return of the omnishambles”. We now have the Return of both “Catch 22” and the “Omnishambles”. Another five examples and I fear I shall be drawn to the headline “Return of the Magnificent Seven”!

This week, I try to link three separate challenges facing the Government and the Public Sector, focusing on both Public Sector and Private Sector Best Practice:

  • Structural Reform
  • Strategy
  • Implementation

These are very much personal views and are still being formulated. I would very much welcome your challenge and improvement. Please publish your comments below this blog.

B. PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM

Public Service Reform is not new and has challenged politicians, with leanings to both left and right, for the last forty years. Flynn provides a very readable introduction to Public Sector Reform. Neoliberalism provides the underlying theory supporting Public Services Reform, which describes a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neo-classical theories of economics. Wikopedia provides another comprehensive introduction to neoliberalism and for a more intellectual and comprehensive challenge to neoliberalism see Harvey. Critically, the Coalition Government has been described as neoliberal by Kovar. This introduction is important because it fundamentally underpins the Coalition Government’s policy on reforming public services.

The HM Treasury Spending Review announcement stated  “The Spending Review set a clear direction for reform, focused on shifting power away from central government to local level”. One of the major reforms announced in the Spending Review includes the following:

“Decisive action to cut the cost of central government, with a 34 per cent cut in administration budgets across the whole of Whitehall and its arm’s-length bodies, saving £5.9 billion a year by 2014-15”.

In addition to the monthly Structural Reform Progress Reports cited above, the Government’s No.10 web site provides details of all departments’ Business Plans supporting Structural Reform. The reader is recommended to take a look at some of the plans, e.g. the Cabinet Office and get a feel for robustness, independent risk assessment, bottom-up costing, and overall financial integrity to achieve saving £5.9 billion a year by 2014-15.

The Office of Fair Trading identified three key issues which are critical to making reform of public services successful:

  1. The importance of ensuring an open supply side in which restrictions on entry and exit from the market are minimised
  2. The key role active consumer choice plays in driving efficiency and innovation through competition, and
  3. The importance of ensuring a level playing field for providers.

C. STRATEGY

In the Private Sector, of course, there is no Reform agenda. Most large businesses have a Corporate Strategy which Johnson & Scholes define as follows:

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations.”

Key question to be answered by the Corporate Strategy are:

  1. Where am I going long-term?
  2. In which markets, products and services should I compete?
  3. How can I perform more effectively than my competitors?
  4. What resources do I need to compete effectively in terms of people, technology and assets?
  5. Do powerful stakeholder groups support my proposed strategy?

Another important distinction is between the overall Corporate Strategy and the Business Unit Strategy etc. – this would be equivalent to Central Government Departments, Local Authorities, NDPB’s etc.

Most large private sector organizations have a Strategic Planning Process which entails three elements:

  1. Strategic Analysis
  2. Strategic Choice
  3. Strategy Implementation

Strategy implementation requires three critical ingredients:

  1. Vision
  2. Leadership
  3. Skilled Resources

I do not believe that the Public Sector typically has a comparable Corporate Strategy process. Key steps in the Public Sector seem to be:

  1. Political Manifesto
  2. Reform Agenda
  3. White Paper
  4. Leglislation
  5. Programme of Work

Peter Gershon commented that in order to get anything done in the Public Sector, there are two critical ingredients:

  1. Political sponsor at Ministerial Level
  2. Formal programme, with effective governance

It is interesting that the Civil Service has traditionally differentiated between Business as Usual/Continuing Activities and Programmes. This has tended to reinforce the “status quo”, providing inertia which is a natural barrier to change. For years, the fast-track route in the Civil Service was policy rather than delivery.

To summarize, the Public Sector does not appear to have the same Private Sector Best Practice Strategic Management which focuses on:

  1. Strategy
  2. Vision
  3. Leadership
  4. Skilled Resources to deliver the strategy without unacceptable risk levels

The Public Sector also has both Politicians and Administrators. I highlighted in an earlier blog the potential dysfunctional consequences of politicians “meddling“. Let me restate the point:

The main “Catch 22” dilemma is that the Public Sector performance will never match the Private Sector, until the politicians stop meddling! Outsourcing large elements of the Public Sector needs to be considered objectively. A coordinated approach is required to strategy, including more decisive executive leadership, customer-focused, able to grasp and operationalize concepts of simplification and innovation in organization, processes and services (products) – as well as dealing with their political masters.

Let me try to illustrate the argument. In my blog on Shared Services, I recognised that Private Sector organizations typically targeted 40% Cost Reduction before considering the potential Labour Cost Arbitrage advantage of off-shoring (where labour costs are lower). I noted that Local Authority opinion was converging on 20% being an appropriate target. I argued that if all the risks materialized then the 20% cost reduction in the business case would be wiped out. I was challenged by John Gelmini , a colleague, that 40% cost reduction was realistic in the Public Sector and highlighted a number of strategic options. For convenience, I have reproduced his argument in Appendix 1.

Whether we agree with John’s data, analysis and conclusions, is not fundamental for this blog. The point is that there would appear to be strategic opportunities that have not been identified by the Government and the Public Sector. All savings from strategic initiatives will offset comparable cuts to front-line services.

This week’s example of the National Health Service Reforms highlighted the need to engage with all stakeholders and have a common strategic view.

Many would argue that the strategic changes proposed by John should form part of a political manifesto, so there would be proper public debate and political choice. Perhaps, it would in normal circumstances take two political terms, one for flushing out the strategic options and the second for implementation? The Coalition Government argue that the urgent case for cuts is because of the huge level of debt inherited from the Labour Government. Unfortunately, both “Catch 22” and the “omnishambles” are gaining ground, whilst many of the best brains in the Public Sector are considering career options in the Private Sector. At some stage, hopefully soon, the Coalition Government will conduct an independent risk assessment and see that the cuts identified in the Spending Review will not be realized in the time scale (consideration of the political options available to the Coalition Government is beyond the scope of this blog).

D. IMPLEMENTATION

Unlike the Public Sector, the Private Sector has a very long history of strategy implementation. Scholars have long been interested in the critical ingredients of successful strategy implementation, and there is a rich literature of both theory and empirical research underpinning the subject. It is very important to stress that within the Private Sector, there has been predominant interest in strategy formulation, with strategy delivery receiving far lesser attention – so even in the Private Sector, the effectiveness of strategy implementation has been mixed.

Strategy formulation is the sexy area, with many large consulting houses available to help Private Sector organizations – typical strategy consultants are aged in their early twenties with first class honours degrees from top universities. In practice, in most Private Sector organizations, implementation is subordinated, and typically handled in-house, without recourse to strategy consultants. Many Private Sector organizations have successfully turned to Professional Interims as a supplementary resource to help them with effective strategy implementation.

In the interests of brevity, within this blog, I intend to highlight the key ingredients of Best Practice in Strategy Implementation. I shall not discuss or comment on the elements but let the interested reader dig into the available evidence (cited above).

Critical ingredients in successful strategy implementation typically include:

  • Effective stakeholder sponsorship
  • Senior leadership to recognize (a) leadership competencies, (b) critical success factors, and (c) distinctive/core competencies
  • Empowerment
  • Cultural artifacts
  • Organization development
  • Human factors
  • Middle-management committment
  • Quality initiatives
  • Employee buy-in
  • Performance measurement

Unfortunately, in the Public Sector, there is the belief that Peter Gershon’s minimums are enough to secure effective implementation/delivery. To restate, these are:

  • Political sponsor at Ministerial Level
  • Programme with effective governance

There is a widespread simplistic view in the Public Sector that effective delivery can be secured from following the prescripts of good Programme/Project Management and relying upon Gateway Reviews. I have commented in an earlier blog that the traditional approach to Project Management is being increasingly challenged and cited some pioneering German research which offers an alternative paradigm. There is an urgent need for Public Sector CEOs to embrace Best Practice in strategy formulation and strategy implementation – to serious reduce the risk of transformation failure, I would encourage them to deploy external change agents (professional interims).

It is relevent to restate the conclusions from my earlier blog on Business Transformation, namely:

Permanent Secretaries and Local Authority Chief Executives are not like their peers in the Private Sector – they typically come from a different background (often policy or Civil Servant generalists). Private Sector peers, in successful businesses have the leadership, vision, strategy and risk-profile to engage in aggressive Business Transformation. Typically in the Public Sector, a Transformation Director is appointed, who is a familiar face in the organization, rather than an accomplished Transformation specialist. This context of risk aversion, normally leads to employment of expensive consultants for both design and delivery of proposed transformation. Some Public Sector organizations have wisely deployed highly skilled independent transformation specialists “client-side”, to help them manage the suppliers and the transformation. With Cabinet Office freezes on consultants and professional interims, some Public Sector organizations are now attempting transformation activities with internal or re-cycled staff – in my view, the risks are enormous, and are likely to outweigh the benefits of the programme.

Lord Adonis recently commented:

There is danger in any major transformation too that you lose the best people. The civil service is, just like any workforce, dependent on motivation, good leadership, encouragement and a talent retention policy. Ministers have just as much a role to play here as the civil service leaders themselves.

E. CONCLUSION

Effective transformation is really important because the greater the savings from transformation, the lower the level of cuts from front-line services. Why are transformation activities being excluded by the Government in favour of de facto cuts to front line services? Is it the reform agenda, political will, Public Sector leadership, inertia? Is it because of the shortage of transformation specialists and champions in the Public Sector?

Perhaps, it would now be timely to reconsider the Cabinet Office’s Catch 22 type controls on consultants and interim managers? Catch 22 controls mean that some of the UK’s most talented and experienced transformation specialists are on the bench. The UK probably has the most developed interim management community in the World – surely this is a competitive advantage wasted? If the Coalition Government truly believe in neoliberalism they should remove the barriers to independent consultants and professional interims.

F. NEXT STEPS

  1. For sure, policy-makers need to break out of the Cost-Cutting/Product (Service) Pruning downward spiral. A vision is required for Public Services, with a cohesive strategy and well sponsored and professionally managed Transformation Programmes need to follow, with effective governance.
  2. For critical Business Transformation Programmes, skills shortages need early attention. Programmes will be seriously de-risked by turning to the professional interim market for transition specialists and transformation experts.
  3. Effective Programme governance will need to focus on the Best Practice points from Private Sector strategy implementation experience.
  4. There is an urgent need for politicians and Public Sector CEOs to embrace both strategy formulation and strategy implementation.
  5. Public Sector leaders, and possibly politicians, as well, need appropriate mentoring – again, there is an available resource with the professional interim market.
  6. The effectiveness of Government policy for small business and enterprise should be tracked by appropriate metrics, for example, professional interims can be tracked using industry data captured by the Interim Management Association

APPENDIX

Transcript of John Gelmini‘s Response to an Earlier Blog:

Whilst I agree with you that local authorities lack the skill to effect radical shared service transformation, I do not agree that 40% savings are unattainable or that we should be prepared to settle for 20%.

Why do I say this?

  • To begin with we have as a country far too many local authorities, far too many police forces and far too many Ambulance Trusts.
  • Secondly, as Sir Philip Green was able to identify, in just one month, Government and local authority procurement is inefficient and loses taxpayers millions by dint of its lack of scale economy.
  • Currently we have 350 local authorities in this country with the power to raise money and spend it.
  • On top of that we have about 8700 smaller councils all of which require buildings, some staff and money.
  • The UK is a postage stamp when compared with countries like France and if one looks at a French Department, the equivalent of an English County, one can see that they have 95 Departments whereas we have around 67 County Councils and  a number of Unitary Authorities often overlapping County boundaries which take the total to nearly the same figure.
  • Given that France is triple the size this would equate to 270 French Departments each with its own CEO, each with its own buildings, IT infrastructure and service directorates and each with its own staff.
  • The argument for this UK approach  is population density, yet in Scotland, Wales  and Northern Ireland we have the Barnett Formula which gives every man woman and child in these Celtic fringes up to £3,500 GBP a head extra to cover the costs of delivering services to these sparsely populated places.
  • We have 43 English constabularies and four successive Home Secretaries have tried to get this reduced to a more manageable 12.
  • The Chief Constables aided by in the judiciary scuppered Michael Howard’s plans in this regard – the supposedly secret Ingrid Posen review into police force mergers and was leaked and rubbished.
    David Blunkett was taken to court over his plans, which the judiciary said were examples of him acting “Ultra Vires”.
  • Dr John Reid, who said the “Home Office was not fit for purpose”, was challenged by the Chief Constables and now Teresa May is being warned of a vast increase in crime by Chief Constables.
  • Taking the councils first, there is no economic case for Districts and Boroughs to exist at all because with G-Biz style tools, it is possible to integrate these services in outsourced or jointly held shared service centres, as Suffolk is already doing in conjunction with BT Global Services.
  • My own work at a 3 star county council in East Anglia suggests high levels of over-manning across the board, and in looking at Districts and Boroughs the situation is in all probability just as bad.
  • In two or one star authorities (i.e. most of them), the figures are worse.
  • Turning now to Unitary Authorities, these operate in the same geographical area as county councils, thus duplicating service provision in overlapping areas.
  • Each police force in the UK has two call centres, one for emergency calls  and dispatching, and the other 311 call centre for non emergency calls.
  • A similar arrangement exists for the fire service and then there is the question of ambulance dispatching and after hours GP care.
  • County and Unitary Authorities each have 2 call centres as well, one for General Enquiries and a second one for pre assessment of potential adult social care recipients.
  • Given that Adult Social care represents up to 50% of most county council budgets much more could be done to use CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) to identify, for example, obese people and at risk adults, in order to divert them away from lifestyle choices which would otherwise turn them into recipients of Adult Social Care.
  • Using a combination of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), annualised hours and multi-skilling, a shared service centre, covering the work of say 4 County Councils, 4 merged police forces, 4 merged fire dispatching units and 4 county ambulance trusts ought to be possible in a greenfield site, plus staggered shifts using mobile, flexible and home working, embracing the philosophy of Project Nomad.
  • A reduction of staff at lower levels would be circa 50%, whilst at higher levels where the pay is greatest circa 75% of the CEO’s and Chief Constables, Fire Chiefs and Ambulance Trust CEO’s would go under this proposal.
  • IT could be “near-shored” to a lower cost location, and after hours cover would be via automated agents.
  • The elimination of Districts and Boroughs would then enable the creation of county unitary authorities, which could be merged again until England  had just 12 counties, 12 police services,  plus two for London and just 12 shared service centres plus two for London.

 

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