What to look for in a public sector transformation partner

Public sector transformation projects are complex and require a unique set of skills and experience. Here’s how to pick the perfect partner for your project.

In the opening passages of the Government Transformation Strategy, published in 2017, the Cabinet Office sets out a bold vision.

“The tools, techniques, technology and approaches of the internet age give us greater opportunities than ever before to help government:

  • Better understand what citizens need
  • Assemble services more quickly and at lower cost
  • Continuously improve services, based on data and evidence

We will transform government services and make government itself a digital organisation.”

A laudable goal, for sure. And one that has kept me busy, working with various councils around the country on public sector transformation projects.

But what are the practical steps that councils have to take in order to make full use of “the tools, techniques, technology and approaches of the internet age”?

At Ricoh, we believe that in order to transform the services you provide, you must first understand and then transform the way you work. And so, for government to truly become a digital organisation, they must embrace a digital, future-facing workstyle.

Alongside this, there is another motivation – cost-saving. Councils are under more pressure than ever to increase efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness. Overhauling outdated workplace processes is a surefire way of doing this.

The reasons for undertaking a public sector transformation project are relatively clear. But how best to do it?

Choose a partner that understands the unique complexities of public sector processes

Something I’ve seen a number of times are councils running multiple, parallel processes for internal and external communication. For instance, an on-site mailroom, a print room and various departmental print solutions.  

Sometimes, when we conduct our initial audits, we find that every part of the council is producing paper, from public letters to payslips. And paper is usually a good sign of an inefficient process.

The obvious answer is to consolidate these many processes down to one unified solution. However, there are some challenges particular to local government that make this harder than it might seem:

1 – An understandable reluctance to overhaul historic investment in processes and expertise

2 – The need to increase operational and financial efficiency while minimising job cuts

3 – Long-standing software or platform relationships which can limit the pace of transformation possible

Creating one unified solution

Most of the time, councils know they need to achieve some form of consolidation before we speak to them. But they don’t know how to go about it.

Consolidating processes down effectively without having to start again from scratch requires specialised experience and expertise. There are lots of change processes to manage. For this reason, council transformation projects are typically long jobs – the average project time is about a year.

Typically, the appetite for risk is lower with councils. So the best way to update processes is by enhancing existing processes with bolt-ons and unobtrusive solutions. This creates lower-risk outcomes.

One particular area of focus is print and mailrooms. Usually, finding ways to scale down and replace existing print and mailroom processes with more efficient solutions.

A good example of this is our work with Conwy council. Our clients were struggling with ageing and inefficient processes, while at the same time being tasked with delivering a major public sector transformation programme. By implementing a managed print and document solution, we reduced print costs by 70%, while improving the efficiency of document management resources.

Brian Laing, Corporate Project Manager at CCBC:

“It may seem a bit counterintuitive trying to reduce print on one hand, while on the other investing in new equipment. But the Ricoh solution is more than just printing, it’s about rationalising print resources, using technology to improve processes and help staff to be more efficient and agile, and ultimately filter those improvements through to the services Conwy County Borough Council provides to the community.”

You can find links to this case study and others below:

Choosing the right partner

Councils are not like other organisations. The challenges they face are complex and unique.

The change process when working with councils often carries multiple compliance requirements and critical timelines. Prior experience of specialist software providers such as Academy, Northgate, Civica and the file formats they use is also helpful.

Compared to private sector counterparts, councils are often more concerned with defining how new work processes will be governed. For instance, to help councils cut down on the post, we sometimes suggest ‘co-mingling’.

Sometimes, this refers to bundling multiple messages for one address into one envelope. Or pre-sorting post for multiple addresses in close proximity to one another to make it easier for the Royal Mail to deliver.

Both of these solutions can reduce costs. However, both would also require a set of rules or principles to ensure nothing went wrong.

Appreciating the legislative imperatives that enforce inefficient processes is also necessary. Unless you understand the legislation, it’s hard to find ways to work with it.

For instance, we will often look at legislative requirements around public communications and identify where 1st class post can be replaced by DSA 2nd class. As well as a combination of secure email and SMS, all of which reduces cost and improves service delivery.

Are you embarking on a public sector transformation project?

On a number of projects, Ricoh has been consulted pre-tender and helped clients assess their own needs. Our recommendations then go on to form the basis of the competitive tender.

If you’re thinking about beginning a public sector change management project and would like a second opinion on how to tender your project, feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn and we can pick up the conversation. I’m also happy to answer any other questions you have around public sector change management and document management.

Or if you’re looking for more information around how you can analyse, understand and improve workplace processes, check out our Optimal Office report.

Robert Munro

Business Process Consultant at Ricoh UK & Ireland

Read all articles by Robert Munro