160 – Making a local government service catalogue. Part 2: What to do with it?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                      630 words

service category

In the first post I described a service catalogue and looked at where (and how) to start making one. This post discusses what to do next to refine the service catalogue and use it to improve organisational performance. I have no doubt that a service catalogue is essential to starting a discussion with the community about services required in a rate capped operating environment, however it should also drive continuous improvement by providing a focus for service reviews.

The ‘first cut’ service catalogue that defines services from the customer viewpoint and links that view to organisational structure, is really just the start.

Further analysis is required to determine the link between the service catalogue and organisational strategic plans (especially the council plan). This can be achieved by coding the spreadsheet of cost centres with the themes or key objectives or themes in the plans. This will allow further analysis by pivoting on different criteria. What is the link between council plan objectives, customer defined services and cost centres?

It would be interesting to discover how many of the cost centres or the customer defined services have no link to the council plan.

I am sure that when the service catalogue is presented to the leadership group there will be a need to give coherence to the catalogue. The costs centres are numerous and there is often no naming convention and they will appear as a random list of activities that have been added to the budget over time.

The customer defined services will most likely make sense to managers but may be difficult to relate to current operations or the organisational processes in place to improve operations. For example, the idea of ‘my travel’ will make sense to everyone in their own life experiences as a resident but could be hard to relate to work – does it include advocacy for public transport, cycling maps and pathways, footpaths, road maintenance, traffic control, safer neighbourhoods, walking groups, etc?

What is really required is a version of the ‘separate, relate and integrate’ process described in a previous post. The separation has happened in the creation of cost centres. The relating is starting to happen through coding with the customer defined services and plan objectives. The integration step is likely to involve examination of the end-to-end, cross-organisational processes required to deliver the services. It is the critical step in setting the organisation up to reliably deliver the services valued by the community and enabling continuous improvement.

Most managers will need some help to connect all of this thinking and analysis with their current view of what they do.

This can be done using ‘natural groupings’ of services that make sense to operational managers. In local government, this could reflect historical service provision to properties and public places, and the more recent move to delivering services to people (see Catherine Dale’s thesis for an in-depth discussion of the changing roles of councils). In addition, the services delivered internally would need to be grouped.

Coding of cost centres according to property, place, people and internal would relate services in a way that provides a logical basis for discussion with managers across the council. In a way, they represent the broad service categories that could drive organisational thinking about service planning. It provides a coherence for managers that will be essential in then describing services to the community.

When customer-defined services are placed in the property, place and people framework it will assist in determining the value creation logic and operations strategies to be applied by the organisation in delivering them.

For example, property services may use an efficiency-based business model and be driven primarily by the private value expectations of the property owner as the key stakeholder. Place-based services could use a hybrid of efficiency-based and value-based business models and be driven by public value expectations of the general community. People-based services could use a value-based business model and be driven by the private value expectations of recipients within the public value framework determined by the community.

Making a service catalogue is the first step in setting strategy which will enable whole of organisation priorities to be identified and for everyone’s effort to be put into achieving them.