Cheltenham Borough Council
Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) won the MJ Award for Best Commercial Council and the APSE Award for Best Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. We have been working with CBC during this journey and continue to do so now, supporting them to bring further focus and structure to their commercial development journey. This case study describes the process we have gone through together and the impact this approach is having.
Developing a Common Understanding, Mindset and Language
A commercially focused authority has collective buy in to the approach with staff at all levels clear about what ‘being commercial’ means generally, what it means specifically for their authority and the process and structure that will be used on the commercial development journey. To achieve this in Cheltenham we ran a series of commercial awareness workshops for both staff and members. These workshops looked at what a commercial mindset is and key commercial skills and tools whilst being structured around a process for the commercial development of any service area.
Wide engagement is needed to develop collective buy in to the process so these training events varied from whole day workshops to lunchtime and evening masterclasses to ensure the process and the language became common across the authority, a critical part of the culture change needed to develop commercially. In total over 100 staff attended training events.
Commercial Opportunity Analysis
In our experience, coming up with ideas is never the problem. A much bigger problem is knowing which ideas to prioritise so that limited resources are focused on the areas that will give the best return. To support Cheltenham with this we undertook a review of their commercial opportunities.
The work used a ‘sprint’ approach to give a ‘working’ answer that highlighted the commercial potential that exists at CBC and the areas for further investigation.
This involved meetings with 11 service teams followed by research looking into their service areas. This stage was done over a few days, building on our experience of similar initiatives in other authorities to quickly identify when an unrealised opportunity existed. These opportunities were classified together with an estimate of the market potential to enable quick decision making on how to move forward.
Providing Structure to Manage Growth
We introduced and implemented two key tools to help Cheltenham structure and manage organisation wide commercial growth. The first of these was a ‘Commercial Service Board’. This board, with membership comprising managers of services with the main commercial initiatives and the Director of Finance, has two primary functions: to monitor and manage existing commercial initiatives and to evaluate new ideas making recommendations to the Executive Leadership Team on where investment will produce a return.
All commercial activity reports through the board creating a dynamic environment that harnesses ideas and skills across the authority to develop the best plan for each commercial initiative. The mixed membership of the board also identifies synergies between departments rather than commercial development following a silo based departmental structure.
To aid the board a Commercial Framework has also been introduced. This, simple to use framework, asks the right questions to ensure managers of existing initiatives and new ideas think through the key aspects of operating commercially. For existing initiatives this provides information to identify current performance and future developments and for new initiatives it gives a common approach to evaluation no matter what the opportunity.
For new ideas the Framework is applied using a two-stage approach: stage one the questions are answered by managers in no more than a couple of hours and presented to the Board. Only if the board deems it a priority opportunity will additional work be done using the framework to turn the idea into a full business case. This saves time and increases motivation.
Developing an In-House Centre of Excellence
Two commercial opportunities, Trade Waste and Bereavement Services were chosen to move onto the marketing and implementation phase. This not only helps these opportunities to deliver a return on their commercial potential, but also creates templates and in-house expertise that can then be used to support other service areas to go through the same process.
During this phase detailed market analysis was undertaken, a marketing plan developed, and the plan implemented for a pilot period. This phase was done through close collaboration with service managers, developing their skills and confidence and creating an in-house resource that now sustainably continues the commercial development of Cheltenham Borough Council whilst already seeing an increased return for the two service areas.
DACORUM BOROUGH COUNCIL
Council Wide Commercial Transformation
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT US
CHELTENHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL HAS FOUND THE WORK DELIVERED BY COMMERCIAL GOV EXTREMELY VALUABLE TO DATE. THEY HAVE BEEN SUPPORTING THE COUNCIL’S AMBITION TO BECOME A MORE COMMERCIALLY ASTUTE ORGANISATION, WITH TRAINING, 1-2-1S, MASTERCLASSES AND BESPOKE CONSULTANCY SOLUTIONS.
THEIR EXPERTISE HAS BEEN FUNDAMENTAL TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A COMMERCIAL SERVICES BOARD AT CHELTENHAM, THIS BOARD WILL PROVIDE A SUPPORT MECHANISM TO ENSURE FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMMERCIAL GROWTH HAVE THE GREATEST CHANCE OF SUCCESS.
“WE RECOGNISED THE NEED TO EQUIP OUR PEOPLE WITH THE SKILLS TO HELP THEM IDENTIFY COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES"
DAVID’S EXPERTISE PROVIDED NOT ONLY ENGAGING COMMERCIAL MASTERCLASS TRAINING, BUT ALSO THE FRAMEWORK AND TOOLKIT TO HELP OUR PEOPLE CHANNEL THEIR IDEAS INTO MEANINGFUL BUSINESS CASES. I HAVE NO HESITATION IN RECOMMENDING DAVID AND COMMERCIAL GOV.
Executive Director for People and Change,
Cheltenham Borough Council