65 – Service suppliers to local government. What do they do differently and why?

Posted by Parkinson                                                                                       350 words

integrated systems

It has always intrigued me that the major suppliers of services to local government operate quite differently. What are some of the differences and why?

The first difference that is obvious is the investment in enterprise management systems. Some are better developed and more integrated than others but all have a third party accredited quality (ISO 9001), safety (AS4801), and environment (ISO 1400) systems. They will also have a corporate operations manual and a management manual setting out company policy and requirements.

The larger and more sophisticated suppliers then have integrated systems for risk management, asset management, business planning, human resource and staff development, customer service and continuous improvement.   At a more operational level, they will have plans for activities such as emergency management, community social responsibility, energy management, waste management and procurement.

These systems are documented and described in detail when they tender for contracts from local government. Successful tenderers show how their systems are linked to service plans and programs to deliver specified services. Even more detailed plans are prepared for large contracts to apply corporate systems to the specific requirements of the contract. A works management system typically underpins the deployment and control of resources.

In comparison, many councils do not have third party accredited enterprise systems or an integrated management system for the organisation. Instead, they rely on a variety of financial, safety, risk, human resource, procurement, customer service and business planning systems that are seldom integrated fully.

The interesting question is why councils do not have the systems provided by their major service providers. Part of the explanation is that councils require their suppliers to have these systems to minimise risk to the council as the service purchaser. It is reassuring to deal with companies with a demonstrated capability to manage themselves.

The other part of the explanation is that it makes business sense for large organisations to make their business model explicit and invest in systems. They have to market themselves to win work. One major company describe themselves as ‘customer-facing by market segment with integrated delivery systems supported by internal shared services’. They focus on customers and take risks to create value that differentiates them from competitors.

Unfortunately, there is no such pressure in local government.