At the very first Executive meeting I was invited to present at, a discussion on KPI’s showed a key frontline service was performing badly – everyone agreed something needed to be done and there was an action for an urgent review. Next agenda item – Change performance; a change freeze was announced for a year. There wasn’t enough resource to support further change and its impact on IT. I was intrigued at how the two clearly opposed decisions could be made. The cogs started turning- was it that the information had been provided separately to the decision-makers which had caused these contradictions?
 

 
The changes and challenges I see across different parts of the public sector have resulted in me becoming convinced that the separation of “business as usual” from “change” is hamstringing chances of success. Why do they need to be considered separately?

 

Is the divorce that bad?

Separation of ‘changing the business’ and ‘running the business’ is at the heart of most of the frameworks and methodologies the public sector adopts when they attempt to change. Frequently BAU and change compete for the same resource and the same energy from an organisation’s people. Performance is managed separately and worsed of all, this introduces its own waste. Doubling up on governance and people’s time, draws more money from the frontline and results in neither service delivery or change happening effectively. Even ‘mature’ organisations with good practices in portfolio management suffer from fully realising benefits through this separation.

This is compounded by the way digital is forcing up the pace of innovation in services. With BAU and change governance in place, two routes to get anything decided and funded does not equal agility – especially in the sometimes glacial and politicised environments of governance in the public sector.


Getting back together for the better…

So how can we get information from the people that know the service, to the people shaping the service, in a way that builds and improves them for the citizens accessing them?

Technology is at the point where the public sector could rapidly understand the how, what, why, where, when and who of their services. They could use that understanding to improve. That activity could be their business as usual.

That feels a bit like Enterprise Architecture to me – although EA is scary, expensive and horribly stuffy and academic – turning off the public sector in swathes or becoming another governance hoop in its own right. Likewise, Government services are to varying degrees embracing agile to help them shape better services – with mixed results in true transformation.

There’s some great emerging thinking drawing together and innovating approaches, but also some exploitative practices selling panaceas and creating more waste. Civilisation should be compelled to make this accessible, affordable and achievable for the public sector.

The pressures facing the UK public services in their need to improve with ever-tightening budgets, make it an exciting and challenging environment for those passionate and involved in shaping service delivery for future generations.
 
Personally – I’m proud to be involved in helping make information-enabled transformation the public sectors’ Business As Usual. To find out more email Gavin at gavin.stephenson@methods.co.uk