Developing commercial skills, capability and knowledge

The Dorset Councils Partnership needed to ensure that they were not only gaining best value from current commercial and income activities but investigating and investing into future possibilities and opportunities. This in turn supports the councils' medium term financial strategies. In response to this; it was identified that there was a need to equip managers across the partnership with an enhanced knowledge and understanding to recognise and derive a more commercial approach and response; therefore becoming more innovative and confident. With this in mind, the councils approached the LGA for support as part of their LGA Productivity Expert Programme.

Efficiency and income generation

The Dorset Councils Partnership consists of North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.

The challenge

The challenges identified included:

  • tools and knowledge to be able to identify, evaluate and deliver commercial opportunities, including business modelling and legislation
  • the skills and mind-set required to operate within a commercial environment
  • the need to have a more business focussed and creative approach thereby understanding the requirements and conditions for commercial success.

The solution

The work with the productivity expert related to a wider training and development initiative for West Dorset District Council; North Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.

The first component of the commercialisation training focused on the Legal Framework and options available to the councils to operate in a more commercial way. This was delivered by Bevin Brittan to approximately 50 managers and officers at varying levels across the partnership.

The second phase of work concentrated on the development of the business framework and commercialisation toolkit; followed by supported training.

The final element of our project related to the development of a commercial idea brought about through the supported training. The development of a fully worked up business case currently continues and has included the production of a supporting marketing plan.

The impact

Project deliverables:

  • Increased knowledge, understanding, skills and ability to recognise and derive a commercial approach and response to succeed within a commercial environment
  • Understanding of commercial business modelling, being risk aware rather than risk adverse and understanding new risks associated with a more commercial approach
  • To encourage managers to become more innovative and confident
  • To establish a cohesive approach to commercial/ income activity
  • Development of a Commercialisation Toolkit and business framework linked to the training
  • To identify opportunities with commercial potential and to develop one of these including the creation of exemplar marketing plan
  • Providing an understanding of what is required to operate and deliver in a commercial private sector market place.

Project outcomes:

  • Upskilled managers with a good understanding of commercial acumen and are now equipped with the tools to be able to take forward and develop commercial prospects
  • Understanding of the legal framework in which councils can operate
  • Enhanced skills and knowledge of trading and commercialisation of services and opportunities
  • Establishment of a member and officer commercialisation panel
  • The use of the developed tools are being used to review current services and is bringing forward opportunities from across the Councils. It is estimated that this has realised in excess of £100k with further options for improved financial performance, including efficiencies, being developed for 2018-19.

"The Productivity Experts Programme has provided a valued addition to the Councils Commercialisation agenda. The training, insight and the development of practical tools has strengthened the councils ability to move forward with greater confidence in this area of work.

An example of this is through the training provided by the expert that has led to a number of new commercial opportunities being identified in areas not previously considered, and for these to be further developed using the tools created during the programme."

Jason Vaughan, Strategic Director
North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth Portland Borough Council

How is the new approach being sustained?

The new approach forms part of the Councils’ Commercialisation governance arrangements; and supported by dedicated resources as part of the Councils’ Income Generation and Commercialisation Programme.

Lessons learned:

  • Feedback from the training was extremely positive with 93 per cent of respondents rating the day as good or very good and 89 per cent thinking the same of tutor performance. 82 per cent of respondents now have a good level of confidence in their ability to incorporate the skills learnt in their day to day role. Attendees particularly enjoyed the interactive approach and the group discussions.
  • Be clear on expected roles and responsibilities and align developed tools with the training program to maximise value
  • Keep processes simple to maintain engagement and practical use of developed tools
  • Ensure consistency of messaging around purpose and the language/terminology used.

Matt Ryan, Programme Manager; Income Generation and Commercialisation
North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council

LGA Contact:
Grace Abel, Productivity Adviser,
Local Government Association