Software helps council to focus on the real issues

There’s nothing like an increase in council tax to focus the nation’s
thoughts on public expenditure. Add to that the headline-hitting pensioner
protests and its clear that this year has served as a reminder to local
government never to underestimate public opinion.

Jim Savege, head of strategic HR at Staffordshire County Council, accepts
that accountability is very much a part of his role.

"You need to have a sensitivity about such issues when you’re dealing
with the public purse, and we must balance quality of service and efficiency in
everything we do," he says.

Like all county councils, Staffordshire, is having to put the necessary
technological infrastructure in place to meet Whitehall’s demands for
‘e-government’. As part of a £10m investment in a SAP implementation, which is
set to be used by a total of 3,500 core users across finance, procurement and
HR, Staffordshire decided to take the opportunity to reconfigure its processes
and services to maximise the value of the system.

"We had six personnel teams and one payroll team that all did a similar
job, but in slightly different ways," says Savege. "We decided to
consolidate the different processes into one consistent way of doing things. We
were focused on providing a consistent service for every one of our 32,000
employees."

This change included moving to an HR shared-service operation to serve its
vast workforce, which includes teachers and social service staff. Provision of
the payroll service also extends to fire service and police personnel.

HR technology solutions provider Pecaso, which was one of the SAP
implementation partners, introduced Staffordshire to its recently launched
Business Process Efficiency (BPE) tool. This takes a blueprint of an
organisation’s processes, costs, people, structure and technology and uses that
information to help measure and analyse its processes, as well as calculate
return on investment. It fitted well with Staffordshire’s decision to undertake
a major business process re-engineering project, and the council became one of
the first users of the tool in either the public or private sector.

"The BPE tool provided a flexible and robust solution to manage, track
and store processes," says Savege. "Being able to communicate
processes from this basis was vital with new teams, and it will continue to be
used as the foundation for ongoing business process development.

"For organisations that are undergoing significant process change, as
many local governments are, these tools make a good platform for success,"
says Savege.

The BPE tool provides specific rather then generic information, says Wendy
Stambridge, HR consulting director at Pecaso. She explains that the company
then follows through with consultancy support to help HR departments make
improvements and quantify any returns on investment.

"All projects and changes require justification in order to happen
these days," says Stambridge. "HR projects can be accused of being a
bit woolly around the edges, and this helps build a business case for
them."

Savege homes in on the HR shared service as a specific example of using the
tool.

"We reduced the number of people working in payroll and personnel by 20
per cent (these people were redeployed within the organisation to meet other
priorities) and the tool enabled us to run a quality check and produce hard
data on whether 73 staff for the shared service was the right number or
not," he explains.

As well as mapping current processes, you can also map future processes and
test assumptions on numbers of staff or costs, for example. All of
Staffordshire’s HR processes are now mapped on to the system, explains Savege.

"It means we can look at the data and use it dynamically to tell us
whether we need to move people to do a particular job. As far as value for
money goes, it means you have a much better handle on costs, which is good for
the bigger picture, but also good for the community."

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