Introducing a sustainable commercial approach to transformation

Lichfield District Council faced significant financial and services challenges and decided to address these through the creation of an innovative transformation programme with a commercial core. Using a variety of specialist advisors, the programme introduced a range of solutions to; increase income, optimise investment, innovate to reduce costs and improve the customer experience. This case study forms part of our productivity experts resource.

Efficiency and income generation

The challenge

Lichfield District Council has faced significant financial and services challenges due to the ongoing reduction in funding due to perma-austerity. This meant that the council had been left with a budget gap in the future.

Combined with this, the council had inconsistent approaches to:

  • project management – meaning there was no consistent approach to creating a project scope and business planning, making it difficult to prioritise projects and resources to maximize return on investment
  • procurement and contract management – contract managers were not provided with the skills, knowledge and support to reduce procurement and contract costs, improve outcomes and promote supplier innovation
  • digitisation and service delivery – meaning the customer experience was mixed and expectations difficult to manage, while a diverse range of systems and approaches meant synergies were lost leading to higher support and delivery costs
  • income generation – meaning not all services were not meeting their pricing strategies thereby putting themselves at risk of increased financial challenges and subsidised discretionary services

The solution

The council used a variety of special advisors to help create an innovative transformation programme with a commercial core, while introducing a range of solutions to; increase income, optimise investment and innovate to reduce costs and improve the customer experience.

The programme introduced best practice governance and management arrangements to oversee the delivery to agreed timescales and costs. In addition, structured approaches were created to deliver a broad range of fast and fundamental reviews, the former using agile project management to deliver quick customer-focused change, while the latter used external expertise to test service delivery against comparative delivery models and determine the optimal approach for the future.

Once created, further work was done with these advisors to implement some trailblazing projects to provide proof of the concept while defining approaches that could be replicated quickly to deliver ongoing sustainable transformation.

The impact

The impact of the work has included:

  • The implementation of a new operating model for the provision of procurement advice and support, that has; increased compliance, reduced costs, digitised processes, and delivered savings (anticipated to be around £342,694 over four years).
  • The development of a standard approach to delivering fundamental review which is being tested on priority services with high customer transaction volumes or large budgets and has provided useful insight, fresh ideas for future service delivery models, and opportunities for savings.
  • The deployment of a consistent approach to fast reviews using industry best practice that has begun to; set principles to promote consistent service deliver solutions, improve and digitise services, engage and motivate services to promote and manage change, identify cashable and non-cashable savings (anticipated to be around £200,000 over four years).
  • The introduction of a commercial network to bring together key leads to identify and drive forward commercial projects, which has delivered a framework for fees and charges to standardize our approach to setting fees and charges in order to meet pricing strategies. In addition, the network has been used to resource the delivery of key commercial projects to overcome key corporate challenges and recommend changes to promote commercial approaches that increase income and help improve the customer experience (anticipated to be around £183,795 over four years).
  • The pilot of new learning and development solutions that has led to the creation of a new learning and development offer that will provide the core skills to empower our people to optimize the outcomes of the programme while supporting the development of a commercial culture.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The approach is being sustained in a variety of ways including;

  • the creation of a formal programme with clear structure and governance arrangements to oversee the ongoing delivery of projects, with the resources to deliver
  • the formation of a commercial network that is focused on the prioritization and delivery of key commercial projects
  • the introduction of a model for service delivery that engages services to ensure outcomes are returned to business as usual
  • the development of internal change agents who have been upskilled to provide capacity that can lead the promotion and deliver of change within their own services, as well as supporting change across the council
  • the introduction of a corporate learning and development programme that is monitored and evaluated regularly, with an aim of supports the outcomes of the projects through the provision of key skills and knowledge while nurturing a commercial culture.

Lessons learned

  • The expert brought a significant depth of knowledge which is helpful to consider in advance of the work commencing as they can be used to help define the route forward, therefore it is useful to keep flexibility prior to them being brought in rather than being very defined and not allowing them to help innovate.
  • The expert can provide a very helpful network of contacts that can help to inform decisions and provide useful examples and case studies, which was helpful when looking to scope projects and consider potential outcomes.
  • Planning the work of the expert and their focus should be done prior to their involvement as it will allows delivery at pace rather than delays in defining this when they become involved.
  • Identifying the resources needed to support the expert should be done prior to the work commencing as not doing so can mean capacity or information is not readily available and can lead to delays in delivering the required outcomes.
  • Communications and engagement should be pre-planned to ensure new initiatives can be launched and delivered quickly. Not doing so can delay the work while this essential component is planned retrospectively.
  • Research should be done to examine the good practice examples and case studies available as most initiatives have already been done elsewhere in a way that can help shape the work and outcomes.
  • Support needs to be put in place to nurture skills development and culture change, as this will enable outcomes to be sustainable and nurture a culture that develops complementary or required skills and supports continuous improvement.


Billy Webster, Assistant Chief Executive
Telephone: 01543 308225