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The Role of BPM and Government Service Reviews

3D Character and FriendshipBy Stephanie Venimore, Business Performance Advisor, City of Burlington, ON Canada

More and more local governments are faced with the need to meet the objective of being more effective, efficient and economical with the delivery of government services.  Traditional approaches of cutting or reducing services levels to decrease the tax base are not always the best and desirable solutions.  In addition, these solutions can in turn create dissatisfaction in customers (the citizens) and concern among with work force.

Across Australia, the UK, the US and Canada, an additional solution to accomplishing the objectives of effective, efficient and economical delivery of services called Service Reviews is in place.   However, often the term Service Review has been misinterpreted, not clarified or not well defined by government, leading to many different interpretations of the phrase and ultimately the goals and activities involved.

For the purposes of this discussion the definition of a Service Review is the activity of reviewing the current service delivery by defining and assessing the current level of efficiency, effectiveness and economical impact of the service with the intention to improve or provide alternative delivery and provide ongoing reporting and service delivery monitoring.

Currently, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in Ontario, Canada provide local government managers with a Guide to Service Delivery Reviews.  In other countries, these types of supporting documentation exist and are used to support the Service Review process.  In general, Service Reviews should include items such as;

  • Identified performance measures and set performance targets
  • Evaluation of current performance
  • Citizen (customer)/City Council needs and expectations
  • Considerations for improvements – including increases in benefits and output of the service
  • Financial and/or cost identification
  • Investigation into alternative methods of service delivery
  • A change and implementation plan

So you would ask, what does this have to do with Business Process Management (BPM)?  In the City of Burlington, Canada, the BPM methodology has been very useful in providing management with a corporate tool to help evaluate and improve processes across the Corporation.   The link between process and service is that processes are the mechanism or enabler to execute service delivery.  To have good service delivery you need good processes, which are efficient, effective and are of economic value.

In reviewing the many service review approaches across each country it is evident that the BPM methodology fits with the intent and goals of a Service Review. However, the question is, are other tools necessary to completely assess all aspects of the service delivery in local government?

The BPM methodology includes the following;

  • Establishing objectives, defining performance measures and setting target.
  • Defining the processes and any interdependency and/or supporting processes
  • Evaluating and accessing the process with a series of tools such as;
    1. Customer feedback/insights and needs
    2. Benchmarking
    3. Cost analysis / value / return on investment
    4. Process mapping – waste, error and redundant work analysis
    5. Quality reviews
    6. Risk assessments
    7. Employee issues identification and improvement suggestions
  • Implementation of improvements
  • Creating a Continuous Improvement and Change Management plan for ongoing monitoring and reporting on service and process performance.

As an example, currently the City of Burlington is reviewing the internal process of Development and Approval of the Current Operating Budget. This is a cross functional process that is used by Financial Services to plan, review, approve and execute the Corporate budget.  Multiple staff members are involved and many staff utilize the process for developing and then receiving approval of the budget by City Council.

In this review a number of key elements of the process were looked at;

  1. The needs and insights from process users, Senior Management and City Council
  2. The staff effort in time to execute the process
  3. The time duration for executing the process
  4. The roles and responsibilities of staff who support the process
  5. Possible risk events that could occur in the process
  6. Staff issues and improvements identification
  7. Technology enhancements

As a result of the process review a number of process improvements have been identified which can impact the process and enhance the overall service delivery.   As well, performance measures and overall process objectives were identified and also included improvement targets.

So with this methodology and these evaluation components in place, what else is necessary to call this Process Review a Service Review?

What’s missing?  Is it necessary to have overarching framework that evaluates the order, importance and depth of the Service Reviews?  Other suggested components in a Service Review have included;

  • Internal and External Audits
  • Core Service Identification
  • Strategic Planning

 With the incorporation these components into a BPM project does it become a Service Review?

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