Outsourcing and Shared Services Conference

Yesterday I had an early start as I was asked to speak at the opening plenary session of the the Annual Outsourcing and Shared Services Conference at the QE2 Conference Centre in London.

I shared a platform with Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE, Jonathan Carr-West from the LGiU, Roy Barden from Novo Altum and the session was chaired by Amanda Lewis, she being the author of the leading text book “Outsourcing Contracts – A Practical Guide”; they all spoke about the challenges ahead for Local Government and some of their experiences of outsourcing over the years. I spoke about the vision we have for Suffolk to try to protect the people of Suffolk from the worst effects of the Government giving us all less money to deliver services with.

The day was very interesting, as in some aspects it confirmed that we are on the right course but at the same time it was  room of outsourcing professionals I was intrigued to be listening to what works and perhaps more importantly what does not work when you look towards this method of service delivery.

The principle question to me is does it work and will it save us money, if it does on both counts then we need to be looking at it.  I won’t bore you with the finer details of what was said but thought it might be useful just to list a couple of comments that really struck home with me.

One speaker told the tale of the Council that in a joint shared services agreement outsorced their comms team , and a couple of years down the line the relationship with the provider had problems and the provider had a bit of a go at the Council in the press, but when the Authority tried to rebut; their comms team was most reluctant to responsd as they were not employed by the provider! – So there is a lesson.

Another mentioned an aspect of a change of attitude that they were beginning to sense with consumers and one I certainly recognised from Public service deliver, with Cloud or even app. based computing we seem to be moving from a point where we must own everything to a point where we fix a price, get a service and stick with it if it delivers and change if it does not, we seem to becoming less interested about who provides the service, we just want it to work. Now it strikes me ‘was it ever so’ in Local Government terms, residents it seems to me, don’t really care who empties their bin or which council does what, they just want it done, and they most definitely do not want to pay more and more for it.

Their was a firm word of caution which came across a number of the workshops I attended and has stuck in my mind that you should maintain some capacity in your own organisation or you will lose the abitily to manager the new relationships, to me I took that to mean it not just about having very good contract managers in place you must retain the skills i.e. officers needed to deliver a service as a part of the intellectual mix as you move forward.

Rob Brarden in his plenary session spoke about a Mini he recently brought and Mini’s production line systems that they do not simply stock pile the cars but wait for an order and then on the one production line, they work to build the car to your specification as it progresses along the line.

In my speech I pondered the nature of a ‘post code lottery’ and the need to engage with communities so that every community has a ‘tailor-made’ fitting of services, but tailor made can be expensive and so perhaps what I fundamentally took away form the day was the need to have the aspiration of a tailor made fit but perhaps what we are more talking about is along the mini production line approach where services are tailored to an extent but not entirely hand made, now I accept that is a very bad mixing of metaphors but hopefully you get the picture.

The very last workshop I attended was presented by Kieron White, Managing Director of WCL who spoke about joint partnership and joint venture companies a. One of the slides he used was from Boeing Aircraft, on it it has a pciture of their soon to be launched 787 a new long range passenger plane and all over it, it had arrows pointing out who made what, in talking about the slide he explained that 95% of the compenenets of a Beoing are outsourced and made by others from Rolls Royce for the engines; to a french company who made the landing gear; to Kawasaki who make the wheels and tyres.

He went on to explain that sometime ago Boeing took the decision to outsource the design and manufacturer of most elements of building a plane and to just be an assembler enabling them to focus on their sales and safety standards (a couple of air crashes and their reputation would be in tatters).

As he said it it really struck me that in this analogy there was a lot of synergy with local Government in that what should you focus on? all aspects of everything? or trust partners to manufacturer elements of your core product whilst you concenrtrate on the most importnant people your Csutomers and making sure everything works every time so your reputuion to delivered.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal, anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Park Farm Cottage, Fordham St. Genevieve, BurySt. Edmunds, Suffolk IP28 6TS

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