The Future of Local Government…

I have been thinking a lot recently about the future of local government not just because I work in local government but because I am really interested in how we (all local government people) are going to tackle the pressures and financial constraints put upon us. In some ways I am relishing the challenges ahead as it will only lead to radical thought and eventually transformation across the sector.

Earlier this week I met up with Steve Dale and Hadley Beeman for a couple of drinks as I was in London for a Knowledge Hub meeting. In the conversation I referred to a model that I had been thinking about which was that the Future of Local Government is purely a conceptual layer of Government.

So let me try to explain this in a bit more detail and why I think we are already moving towards this future.

The Drivers

Huge pressures on Local Government to join up, deliver shared services and this isn’t just neighbouring councils, we are really pushing towards regional shared service providers as well as joining up with 3rd sector agencies to provide and deliver public services.

The cloud is having an impact on ICT services in councils – it is clear that the level of transformation required will require additional investment in ICT but it is unlikely that a single council could justify the spend on its own, so would need to look at a shared arrangement for cloud services or even a public sector cloud – The Government Cloud is obviously driving people’s thinking here and will have a huge impact.

Financial pressure will make councils seriously consider what services they can afford and see as priorities for their specific local areas – Total Place will drive an approach which will inevitably bring 3rd sector and communities themselves to the table as service providers in some instances.

Central Government’s success with Directgov could be seen as a model for local government to drive out efficiencies and cost savings for local government transactional services – either through an enhanced LocalDirectgov portal or directly offered through Directgov.

The drive for open data will allow a greater level of local innovation by social innovators and entrepreneurs and in some instances delivering council services directly and in a more usable and useful way (FixMyStreet etc).

A greater push for more local involvement in decision-making and greater transparency to enable citizens to provide scrutiny and shape services directly.

The  Impact

In my view what all of the above essentially does and could lead to will be the complete breaking down of local government as individual organisations unconnected, uncoordinated and duplicating functions.

So we could get to a situation (I am making some big assumptions here but after all I’m only sharing some thinking)  –  I don’t believe it will be that long before we see it – where the only aspect of local government which is truly local is the actual service delivery and decision making. The organisation behind it all could well be a mix of local, regional, national and cloud based services all supporting an individual worker (who may not actually be employed by the council) to deliver a service to someone in a community.

To me this will mean that local government is purely going to be a conceptual layer – with greater transparency and openness, radical approaches to service delivery and support services, this will all mean that the only aspect of local we really need to focus on will be the People in the Community. In my view this will be a great outcome, albeit very painful and a political hot potato in some areas. But this approach in my opinion  would drive out the inefficiencies in local government and offer greater local involvement in service design and creation.

I could of course be wrong about this :o)

Read The Future of Local Government Part 2  – Social Enterprise Council here.

Business Capability Modelling and Total Place

One of the current areas of work i am looking at is thinking about Business Capability Modelling for the council. It is very early days and is seen as part of the development of our Enterprise Business Architecture effort.

However the first question I asked myself was can we in the public sector really do Business Capability Modelling and if we could what value would it actually offer the wider organisation and more importantly the residents of Devon.

So i started to think about what we mean by capability in this context and what difference would it make on the ground.  I then started to think about the wider context that this makes you think about. So in a local context, to meet outcomes we can’t deliver all our the citizen outcomes on our own and therefore we would need to consider the capabilities of our Partners and key stakeholders in the County. This lead me straight to “Total Place”.

Total Place is a new initiative that looks at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services at less cost. It seeks to identify and avoid overlap and duplication between organisations – delivering a step change in both service improvement and efficiency at the local level
You can find our more about Total Place here

Gartner analyst Mark McDonald posted on the Gartner blog: Capability is more powerful than Process and gives a nice explanation of capability thinking which i feel provides an example of how we in the public sector could think about and apply Business Capability Modelling to support “Total Place”.

iTunes illustrates capability thinking.  First off, iTunes is build from a collection or resources: the Internet, digital rights management software, the store, the delivery vehicle (iPod) and a set of relationships with artists and record companies.  Sure there is a process in there, but the process of how you sell digital media is not the focus, the outcome is the focus that lead to assembling a range of resources – most of which Apple did not own or exclusively control.

Process advocates and devotees will say that I am mincing my words, but look at the relative value of the physical supply chain the music industry invested so much in and the business value flowing through the alternative capability.  There is an advantage in thinking broader and beyond processes.

The good news is that process thinking is an integral part of thinking about capabilities.  It is just that capability thinking opens the door to new combinations required to create outcomes, rather than to support process steps.

The interesting connection for me is that in the above scenario we could see ourselves as “Apple” as we require the capability of other stakeholders to drive forward a strategic set of outcomes that come from our Community Strategy. We have the Community Leadership Role, the question is are we really prepared to use it in this way to deliver the right outcomes for people.

What we need to understand better first is what capabilities we have and those of our Partners and stakeholders. We also need to truly understand what outcomes we are trying to deliver and the value they create.

As i said at the start, this is early days and my thinking still needs to develop.