Case Studies and Credentials
MANAGEMENT CONSULTANCY SERVICES
Improving business effectiveness through strategy development and best practice project management.
Making strategy practical. Getting results
Project Management, from setting Strategic Objectives to Implementation and Post-Project Review. Process mapping and business modelling as an aid to identifying opportunities for beneficial change.
Barry Tuckwood has been an independent management consultant since 1993
Case Studies and Credentials
- National Project funded by central government
- Purposeful Process Mapping
- New ways of working - not just an office move
1 National Project
This project, described briefly also in Crednetials, was won as a combined assignment with Minerva Management Consulting , where there is a detailed Case Study replicated here:
Programme Management, Co-ordination, Marketing and Communications
Detailed Case Study – A Local e-Government National Project
The Local e-Government National Project programme was established to ensure that all councils have access to key electronic services and building blocks without having to build them from scratch. One of the projects in this programme was the Valuebill Project. The long term aims of Valuebill are to:
- Enable the electronic exchange of data between local authority billing agencies, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), and the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG) in order to improve the rate of collection by one per cent for domestic and by 0.5 per cent for commercial rates within three years. This represents a total of £300m.
- Reduce the number of unknown and untaxed properties that go unrecognised in the existing system, which contributes to the under-collection of property taxes.
- Integrate the VOA and Local Authorities (LAs) into the wider land related initiatives in local and central government, such as the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG), the National Land Information Service (NLIS) and the Planning Portal.
- Improve services to citizens and business through these enhancements to central and local government land systems; to reduce the cost of collection and provide a robust basis for strategic planning.
The principal objective of the prototype phase of the Valuebill project were to:
- Confirm the benefits and practicality of the Valuebill concept.
- Provide a source of information and experience to support and encourage the rollout to all English Authorities.
- Ensure that software interfaces are developed (which meet agreed standards) to enable the direct electronic transfer of information between the VOA, NLPG/LLPG and Local Authorirites' billing systems.
Initially we were asked to undertake the overall programme management and project co-ordination, but subsequently we were also commissioned to run the marketing and communications programme.
The overall project budget was £2.25m.
We worked closely with the Programme Board and other stakeholders who included LA practitioners, VOA management, the Improvement and Development Agency, the ODPM, the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, the NLPG, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The task also required liaison with numerous Central and Local Government departments as well as private sector suppliers.
Throughout the project much encouragement was required from our team as many LAs and suppliers were already heavily committed, both in terms of finance and resource, to other initiatives. We:
Managed the development and prototype programme with Prince2 methodology, over a two year period, through to completion and roll out.
Co-ordinated all aspects of the project including meetings and general administration.
Directed the communications and marketing programme.This included development of an extensive contact database; regular newsletters; production of articles for the media and other sources; development of the website in liaison with the Lead Authority; initiation of other marketing material; production of a promotional video; plus development and organisation of all aspects of the events programme including the Launch Events.
Developed the initial and updated project plans and monitored progress against them, identifying potential problem areas and recommending ways in which they could be overcome.
Developed and produced a Starter Kit. This was a key deliverable. It is a document that tells Local Authorities, Local Valuation Offices, software suppliers and other interested parties how to implement Valuebill. The Starter Kit was sent on CD to every English LA and was placed on the project website.
The business and technical case for participating in Valuebill was proven. The project moved to the sustainability stage and is being rolled out across all English Authorities.
As a result of the participation of many Authorities in the Valuebill project, the overall level of accuracy of property data held by Authorities has improved. The benefits of this have not only been proven to extend Authority-wide, but also beyond to agencies such as the Police and other emergency services.
The database schemata specifying the data to be transferred between LA billing systems, VOA systems and land and property gazetteers has been approved so that software suppliers have a firm standard which they can work towards.
All the above was achieved within budget.
2 Purposeful Process Mapping
Easy isn’t it, process mapping? Anyone can tell you what their job is, and all you have to do is write it down, right? Well, maybe. Suppose you ask two people who do identical jobs and they give you entirely different answers, is it still easy? And suppose their manager has a different view of what the job is, what then? And for some peculiar reason the recipients of their efforts do not recognise the results that are claimed?
Throw into this pot the possibility that one of the people is naturally awkward, or is defensive because they think their job is being threatened, or simply doesn’t like your approach how do you handle it?
Suppose they know that the main agenda is to try to find all those aspects of their jobs which really can be structured to be handled by a customer services centre, lending an extra element of potential significance to any underlying suspicions the interviewee already has, the ‘what happens to me afterwards?’ syndrome.
Process maps provide a tool for understanding, developing and changing ways of working, and so form an essential element of business change. This story hinges on a real example from the public sector.
The public sector client began with a need for Best Value, no different in essence from the efforts of many organisations world-wide which are pursuing improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. The purpose of borough councils is to serve their customers, directly in the case of the many residents and local businesses, and indirectly in the case of the many visitors to the area. Housing, libraries, schools, planning, street markets, playing fields, cemeteries, and dumped cars are just a few of many examples of where enquiries arise. If a large proportion of these calls could be dealt with quickly and easily by a front office, the experts in the back office could spend their time more effectively in dealing with more complex problems.
Which processes would fit into a possible customer services centre? How many processes are there altogether? Of over 200 known to exist as a result of benchmarking other boroughs which ones were actually relevant to the client? And were there any others?
Following some workshops on process mapping selected client staff embarked on research to develop a definitive list of processes, highlighting candidates for inclusion in a potential customer services centre. At the highest level they were identified only by name, and the name of the relevant manager. Candidates were readily found. Even in the complex area of benefit claims there are calls which can be dealt with speedily: forms for claimants, requirements for additional information, progress on claims.
Similarities and common processes emerged. For example, several areas of customer enquiry all require access to detailed local maps to enable the officer dealing with the case to identify the correct people or unit to pursue it: whose responsibility is removal of a dumped car, making safe a fallen tree, or repair of a pothole? There were similarities of overall approach to various aspects, especially to the many who were making claims for benefits, or seeking housing: transmission of blank application form; completion and receipt of details; checking of information; provision of additional information; vetting of application; approval or rejection; and finally payment.
The team moved on to produce detailed maps of specific processes. The key to the first few of these was in ensuring that they could be successfully piloted, so that further processes can be included in subsequent stages. The timescale for all of this might seem generous: 6 months for the first 10 or so; two years for all of the rest; and all catering for possible inclusion of web-based facilities as part of the ‘open government’ initiative.
For the team, this all hinges on the use of good interview technique, an open mind, and unthreatening questioning. As processes are analysed, these are allied to some of the standard business techniques – SWOT, of course, Porter’s value chain, PEST, and others. The ‘decision box’ is particularly useful. At many points in a process decisions are required. These are Easy or Hard on one axis, Frequent or Rare on the other, all in a neat 2x2 box. Where would a consultant be without a simple framework? To make any process efficient, decisions have to be made easier, so that everything in the Easy and Frequent quadrant can be dealt with by the front office. The more we can get into that quadrant, the more effective all of the staff will be. With time, the quadrant grows while the others shrink.
Now we have to make it practical. All that the front office typically have is a desk-based computer and a phone. Through a series of questions and prompted answers the officer can identify the right result for the specific enquiry. For this, the person either needs to be an expert with detailed knowledge and understanding of every part of the organisation, or needs to have at their fingertips access to that knowledge.
To fit in with the decision criteria, all answers have to lead to another question; and the possible sequences of questions and answers must lead to the ultimate decision for the particular enquiry. This process of screen-based questions and automated answers, known to the software suppliers as ‘scripting’ is where detailed process mapping is required. While the process is in the background – unseen by the officer – questions and possible answers appear on the screen. Anyone who has ever dealt with the persistent questioning of a small child will have an idea of the detail required for the questioner to be satisfied and therefore for the screen-based customer services centre approach to succeed.
So it has to work. We have all used those automated call centre queues – and many of us have avoided them by refusing to press one for sales, two for service, three for interminable hold while awful music blasts out of the earphone - and we know the frustrations.
Not only does it have to work, but it also has to capture the enquiry so that either it can be dealt with completely at the time, or so that the full details can be forwarded to the back office. So the process flow diagram has changed: there is more detail here than in any of the originals; more automated checking of information; more spaces for details such as contact names, postcodes, phone numbers; more room for error. In short, there are more steps all of which demand accuracy.
The target, based on rates in other sectors, is for 70% of calls to be completely dealt with by front office staff. What they need to do is identify and detail the specific processes most appropriate to their proposed customer services centre, and make sure that they can be implemented. Currently in the early stages, they expect to complete the first phase in the first quarter of 2002, and overall completion in 2003. The commitment is there. Process mapping, done effectively and in detail, holds the key.
Barry Tuckwood is an independent consultant specialising in project management, dealing with projects ranging from Strategic Reviews to Change Management. The above article is based on his work developing a course and facilitating process mapping for a public sector client. He can be contacted on 020 8295 2009, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org , www.firstmonday.co.uk
The Guru Guide, Joseph Boyett & Jimmie Boyett, Wiley, ISBN 0-471-38054-7
This provides an overview of many techniques.
The Project Workout, by R Buttrick, Financial Times Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-273-64436-X
This is the book I most often recommend on project management for its practical approach.
© This article first published in Effective Consulting, September 2001
3 New ways of working - not just an office move
Jan Dunn describes with infectious enthusiasm the successes resulting from BA’s move to Waterside just two years ago. There has been much media coverage originally because of the building but now increasingly in the changes in people’s ways of working. Jan, an HR professional in Facilities Management, has a pivotal role in helping with new ways of working especially when departments move offices. The day I visited she had already been talking with a team from Channel 5 TV.
Waterside, BA’s new glass-walled offices adjacent to Heathrow, were designed around a street which provides a more open environment for all residents - staff, visitors, consultants and contractors - than in typical corporate offices elsewhere. The view from the end of the street is across a lake towards a small village providing a link to another small community. Along the street are shops and cafes. A common question prior to the move was, “What will my boss think if they see me chatting over a coffee?”. “Your boss should do the same.” There is ample evidence that this is working: the coffee shops are buzzing with meetings, saving on formal meeting rooms and their attendant technology, booking systems, and associated burdens. Another benefit is more visibility of all staff so there is more mixing. Work has become less hierarchical, informality is becoming the norm, bureaucracy is reducing.
Visitors can be met in the reception area, in the street at a café - in much the same way that countless meetings take place in hotels, bars, and coffee shops - or in the offices. For privacy there are meeting rooms. In the offices the over-riding impression is of airy open-plan rather than congested partitioned rabbit hutches. There are private areas where people can work undisturbed, centralised and dense shelving, and lockers for personal items.
BA’s intentions when they built Waterside were to achieve benefits in managing time, space and information more effectively. The move, and all subsequent moves, have been used as catalysts for change Earlier this year Ian Murray, Delivery Manager for Speedwing, project managed the move of a business unit of 90 staff, himself included, which achieved space savings alone of some 50%.
Waterside houses over 3,000 people from 20 separate parts of BA under one roof, and, because of the street, all better able to interact than before. Conventional offices have disappeared, careful consideration of real requirements reducing the number of desks to as low as one per 1.7 staff. “Typically”, Jan says, “An audit of people’s work showed they were at their desk a maximum of 50 or 60% of the time. The more senior, the less likely they are to need a fixed desk. Some staff need permanent desks because they are there nearly all the time, but they are in the minority”.
This has affected the ways of working, encouraged through education to make sure that everyone understands and works towards the overall objectives. Introducing change on this scale inevitably meets resistance, especially on things like personal space and paperwork.
Demonstrating that the majority of paper was surplus to requirements because it was available elsewhere - off site archives, local dense storage, electronically - persuaded people that they could let go of it. Now there is only about one metre of personal shelving per person: the protective wall of paper that surrounded people has disappeared. Only material that had to be kept for legal and logistical reasons was retained. The result is a tidier office environment, an enhanced ability to work literally from anywhere, and greater freedom to meet colleagues.
Communication was a major issue: with no permanent desk how would the telephone system work? People have to log in to the phone wherever they work, an irritation in the beginning, but it works well now. There is a problem of call-forwarding to a mobile phone, increasing the cost of phone calls, which is being tackled, Ian says, by testing alternative ‘mobile’ systems.
Why has it been successful at Waterside, and what do they need to do to implement these changes elsewhere? Jan puts the major reason for success down to the project’s solid foundation: confidence and commitment, with a carefully thought out approach, champions brought forward from each department, and involvement encouraged. The space, time, and information improvements have to be developed before moving so that everyone is ready when they start at their new location.
Preparation does take time, firstly to introduce the concepts and find out what people’s main concerns are, and secondly for the move itself. Groups need some freedom of choice, so that their department’s requirements can be taken into account with the design of floor layouts, and furniture selection, but the key constraints at BA were predetermined. Total space and shelf space were fixed, as was the need to hot desk.
Preparing for the changes requires constant communication, the last presentation taking place just before the move. Training and education, led from the top to try to reduce people’s normal resistance to learning new things, is essential. Each department developed its own local guidelines for their own specific needs. The final presentation and discussion the day before relocating is called, “Not just an office move”. It concentrates on four themes: success depends entirely on the residents, hot desking best practice, the new physical environment, and the process of reviews followed by adjustment and adaptation. Pre and post move surveys revealed that the initial issues were about noise and distractions from the glass walls, but people became used to them, helped by the presence of quiet areas, and the freedom to work literally anywhere.
The lessons learned have provided a framework for subsequent relocations. Ian Murray’s move of only 90 people took only 6 months from concept to completion with “some corner-cutting to make it happen”. Teething troubles are to be expected , but for most people the new arrangement seems to be working, and review and adaptation are crucial parts of the process. For BA and their staff it is far more than an office move.
© First Published in Ambassador, the magazine of the Association of MBAs, 2000.