Blog: The Local Authority operating model should look outwards
The quality and scope of services a typical local authority is able to deliver are determined in too large a part by its own functional constraints. All service focused organisations should start with what is valued by the citizen or customer and design its operations accordingly.
This post continues to set out House’s thoughts on how the Local Authority should respond to the reductions in public sector spending and the Localism Bill.
The challenge for the Local Authority is to identify their customers and what they value. This is no easy task. However, we contend that asking such questions at the local level provides an opportunity for more responsive and quality public services.
The challenge then is to balance the very local with borough and sub-regional priorities. Indeed, the Local Authority model must respond to the needs of all the places and people within the borough. One size does not fit all. Networks of sensors around the city in places, building and even on people (mobile phones / watches) will give instant feedback on issues such as pollution, transport, usage patterns. A step closer to our current reality is ‘citizen based monitoring’ where people report potholes and litter, for example, through digital channels – mobile and web. This provides live hotspot data for management services.
Meeting citizen needs is the beginning
The term ‘target operating model’ is jargon for an abstract model of processes, organisational structures and supporting technology to delivery value in line with stated strategic aims and objectives. It is a model to which organisations move towards.
An example is the customer services driven model. This model focuses organisational capabilities on meeting citizen needs, and centralises all transactional shared services. Through this model, the Local Authority interfaces with the citizen via a series of access points, including call centres, one stop shops in the community, and single points of contact for a range of services. The back office is invisible and the citizen journey simplified.
House believes the focus on the citizen or customer is the starting point for the Local Authority. The challenge is as much cultural as it is operational. The Local Authority, and all those who work within it, need to redefine the work of departments, functions and staff to focus on giving value to the citizen or customer, and not be constrained by internal demarcations imposed by departments or role. Child centred care is an example of how services can be designed in this way.
Organising to meet the needs of the citizen is an invaluable step for the Local Authority to take. But it is a step. While we accept that in the current economic climate the provision of quality public services is a challenge, it must be seen as the minimum requirement for local authorities. It can only be one part of the Local Authority’s role in the coming years. The Local Authority must look beyond its own organisation to develop growth in the local economy. The Local Authority can relieve the pressure on public sector resources, manage demand for services through a proactive approach to economic growth in the local economy.