Strategy Mapping & Reporting Technology

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case study N° 2

Promoting City, Coast & Countryside
Lancaster City Council
Performance Management - an implementation case study

1. Background

Lancaster City Council district is located in the north west of England. It is the most northerly and largest district, in terms of population, in the County of Lancashire.

The district includes the City of Lancaster, the coastal towns of Morecambe and Heysham the market town of Carnforth and an extensive rural hinterland. It has a total area of nearly 600 km2, 54 kilometres of coastline and a diverse physical, social and economic character with relatively affluent areas, and pockets of deprivation in parts of Morecambe and Lancaster.

The council recognises the diversity of its area and aims "to promote city, coast and countryside, to achieve lasting opportunities for all in a safe and healthy district that is proud of its natural and cultural assets."

The Council's role is to provide community leadership to help the district address the major issues it faces and this entails the council being a major dynamic in producing a sustainable economy and quality of life through delivering quality services that contribute to meeting people's needs.

2. Current Position

Lancaster City council employs nearly 1000 people located at a number of sites throughout the district. With such a widely dispersed workforce collecting real-time information to enable senior managers and elected members to plan strategically is a difficult task.

Because corporate management information is not held in one place, collected in real-time or shared widely across the authority, performance information could on occasions be more than a year out of date. This led to performance being managed inconsistently around individual services, rather than being focussed on the overall strategic priorities of the authority.

In addition the prevalent performance management arrangements were impeding, rather than supporting, a sustained focussed on the outcomes articulated in the council's corporate plan.

The most recent Best Value satisfaction survey suggested that only 45% of customers are satisfied with the council overall. The same survey also revealed bottom quartile satisfaction with some of the council's key customer facing services such as street cleanliness and refuse collection. With service performance not being monitored on a regular basis, this clearly presented a problem in taking responsive remedial action to emerging service quality issues.

Faced with the twin issues of inadequate Performance Management Systems and issues relating to service quality monitoring, the council set out to find a solution that could help alleviate these problems.

3. Solution

After considering the solutions available, Lancaster City council chose Escendency, developers of a Web-based Performance Management System. The Escendency system allows responsibility and accountability to be devolved and agreed throughout an organisation's structure. This ensures buy-in at an individual level and allows employees to monitor, in real-time, their own objectives and understand how they are contributing to the overall organisational strategy.

The design of Escendency provides the leadership of an organisation with the planning methodology to translate its often intangible, highest level strategic objectives into the tangible and measurable. It allows those responsible to propose, attach, link and monitor action plans to any entity that is part of the strategy. This enables them to bring about improvement in strategic performance indicators. It then becomes a live electronic system for monitoring, managing and reporting strategic results in real-time.

After reviewing the benefits of Escendency, the council decided to implement a proof of concept. This was run within the Corporate Strategy Service by Richard Tulej, Head of Corporate Strategy and Liz Stokes, Best Value Officer. It was also simultaneously piloted in 2 of their 16 Services.

4. Benefits

It was not until officers began to work with the system, that the positive impact a full rollout of Escendency could have upon a number of the council's corporate priorities, was recognised.

In particular it has been identified that the Escendency system has the potential to assist the authority to match performance to the spending priorities outlined in the council's medium term financial strategy. The system is also capable of highlighting areas of under and over-performance, with the council's Head of Financial Services Nadine Muschamp commenting:

The Escendency system has the potential to help the authority develop a robust performance management framework which will require (and therefore should lead to) better use of resources; in turn better use of resources (or financial management) should result in improvements in services

5. Future plans

The pilot clearly defined the potential benefits to the Council in improving its performance management arrangements. As a result the authority is now engaged in an 18 month roll out of Escendency across all of its Service areas:

The use of Escendency will also enable:

Richard Tulej, Head of Lancaster City Council's Corporate Strategy Service commented:

We, as an authority, are constantly being challenged to demonstrate that we are able to deliver value for money customer focused services, use our resources effectively and at the same time deliver efficiency savings through continuous improvement. It is very clear to me that the Escendency Performance Management System will be a key driver in changing the Council's whole approach to monitoring and managing its performance.

Our experience of working with Escendency continues to be an extremely positive one. I have been impressed by their complete belief in the value of the work they are doing, their total commitment to working with us within a true spirit of 'partnership', their 'can do' attitude and willingness to tailor their product to meet our specific needs.