With head offices in Chicksands, Central Bedfordshire Council is a unitary authority serving a growing population of around 255,000. It is a largely rural area with over half the population living in the countryside and the rest in a number of market towns.
A series of principles underpin the Council’s approach to providing services and these includes being focused on the customer experience, being open and transparent in all dealings and adopting a “can do” culture.
Equally important, is the Council’s approach to Procurement, which strongly promotes working in partnerships, realising efficiency gains wherever possible and ensuring consistency across the Council’s many Departments. It is fair to say that the Council’s Corporate Commissioning and Procurement Strategy underpins the effective delivery of all of Central Bedfordshire’s services.
It was against this backdrop that the Council was recently looking at ways to meet the organisation’s Procurement challenges. Terry Gittins, Senior Category Manager, who headed up the project team, had been involved in a similar exercise with another organisation and so was well placed to look at how best to meet these specific challenges.
Terry Gittins (Left) demonstrating the new Procurement Map to colleauges
Terry, who has been with Central Bedfordshire Council for five years, had worked previously with another Council as well as having experience in the private sector. As part of an earlier remit, he had been closely involved in reviewing procurement procedures.
“It was clear that if the system for accessing information relating to procurement was simplified, then the service delivery organisation and the people it served would stand to gain”.
As part of an initial project brief, Terry reviewed procurement procedures which were both numerous and complex - a problem that many organisations will recognise. With users not having access to the same procedures and templates, the risk of conflicting advice being given to customers was high.
A User Guide was the first thing to come out of this review, successfully followed by a Procurement Toolkit which was developed in partnership with East Hertfordshire District Council and the Procurement Agency of Essex, both members of a 54 member strong Regional Centre for Excellence.
“The toolkit was genuinely considered the best available and we were delighted when it was taken on by other organisations ”.
It was through contact with members of the Regional Centre for Excellence that Terry was first introduced to First Adapt and their Knowledge Map solution. Highly visual in design, the Maps are based on a simple and easy to follow question and answer navigation system.
“We could immediately see how the User Guide and Toolkit could be developed into a Knowledge Map solution which would simplify procedures even further and give users the ease of access we were looking for. The Maps can have their own look and feel so we could mirror the procurement cycle including corporate procurement”.
As a result, when Central Bedfordshire were going through a similar review process last year, Terry and his project team, which included e-Procurement Manager Alec Edgar, were again convinced of the merits of the Knowledge Map solution for the Council.
“ A primary aim was to introduce consistency across all Departments in terms of the forms and templates being used and since we estimated that this could mean upwards of 70 primary users, we had to get it right. We were able to tailor the Knowledge Maps to our specific requirements. You can see from the Home Page just how visual it is and users find it intuitive to navigate which cuts down considerably on training costs”.
As with any project, the best advice is to appoint a dedicated team particularly during the implementation process. Knowledge Maps themselves are straightforward to update, however reviewing policies and procedures can inevitably take some time. Terry acknowledged the skills and expertise of the First Adapt personnel adding, “The product itself is so good it almost sells itself!”
The Procurement Knowledge Map is now up and running at the Council having been launched by way of an internal newsletter article and an ‘Introduction to Procurement’ guide with all the relevant links. Terry and his team also intend to hold drop in training sessions so that staff have the opportunity to trial run the system.
A presentation on Knowledge Maps is planned for a future meeting of the East of England Local Government Association, working on behalf of 52 local authorities. In the meantime, Terry is happy to talk to interested organisations about his experiences of both the Knowledge Maps and the implementation process. If you would like to be put in touch, please contact First Adapt.
Jade McHale - Procurement Co-Ordinator
One year on from implementing the Procurement Knowledge Map from First Adapt, homes and community organisation livin have seen the benefits of the new system.
livin, was already in the process of centralising and updating its Procurement procedures when it was introduced to the Maps. Following a thorough evaluation and having put forward a successful business case, the project team set about implementing the Map. They took a staged approach to implementation, taking the opportunity to further streamline procedures as they went along. Implementing Knowledge Maps is an iterative process and livin found it useful to have First Adapt review what had been done to help make adjustments prior to going live.
Jade McHale, Procurement Co-ordinator for livin, who has been closely involved throughout, liaising with First Adapt and taking feedback and comments from users, said: “We had very clear ideas from the start of what we wanted the maps to achieve. One year on, they have exceeded our expectations. Most feedback has been positive and complimentary and usage has rapidly increased.”
livin has embraced the idea of having centralised points for Procurement Procedures and users have found the Document Library of particular benefit.
Jade added: “Introducing new systems always has to be approached sensitively. Users can become used to their own way of doing things and of course it’s important to keep hold of all of that individual knowledge and expertise when it comes to implementing a Map.
“Knowledge Maps are also an excellent source of information when it comes to new starters and because the Maps are so easy to navigate, they can be used as an effective training tool in their own right. It’s great when users tell you that they have found a system straightforward. It makes implementation worthwhile.”
Having successfully implemented the Procurement Map there is a chance that other areas of the business will see the benefit of expanding the use of Knowledge Maps further.
Based in Nottingham, The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) was formed in 2006 out of the partnership between Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham. The expertise of these two highly respected organisations has allowed the Institute to establish an impressive track record in the fields of cutting edge education provision and innovative research. This forms the basis of the Institute’s mission and its primary focus: to improve the care and treatment of those who use its services.
Dr John Milton, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist (above), has been closely associated with the IMH for three years. With the sponsorship of IMH Director, Professor Nick Manning, and working closely with Jonathan Cross, PR and Communications Lead, Dr Milton and his project team have recently developed an auxiliary project, the Mental Health Clinicians website, in which they have implemented a research ‘Knowledge Map’ from specialist providers, First Adapt. The Knowledge Map has been designed specifically for use by clinicians involved in, or wanting to be involved in, research projects.
Dr Milton explains, “Our main issue was not a lack of information but more how to streamline that information and make it easily available to those who need it. Ensuring that clinicians have the most up to date information on what research projects are currently underway, as well as those where funding and resources have yet to be established forms a crucial part of research and academic networking”.
The Mental Health Clinicians (MHC) website is an open access one-stop-shop facility: an important factor in ensuring it is available not only to all staff who are its first audience, but also to the wider clinical research world. Common to all users is the desire for the very best treatments and outcomes and this can be significantly increased through access to better evidence.
There were a number of factors, which drew the MHC team to use Knowledge Maps. “Firstly, they are easy to implement which means minimal time is spent on implementation. The Maps are extremely visual and from a user perspective, easy to navigate. Using a flow chart process, we worked on a series of questions and answers which users would then be able to intuitively follow”, says Dr Milton. “Another relevant factor is that users can also access the Maps via tablets and smart phones. This ties in so much more with current working practices”, continued Dr Milton.
All in all, Knowledge Maps have proved an extremely successful, as well as cost effective, vehicle for the MHC’s requirements to provide research project information to those who need it. With minimal training requirements, it is the benefits to the end users, which remain paramount.
Dr Milton was happy to acknowledge a positive experience of working with First Adapt during the implementation process. “We do find that dealing with smaller organisations can have its advantages. The decision-making process is quicker, staff are more readily available and it’s helpful being able to deal with the same people for the duration of a project”.
The MHC team is also happy to recommend Knowledge Maps to other organisations and to talk about its experiences to those who perhaps are facing similar challenges.
We are delighted to welcome Devon & Cornwall Housing Group (DCH) as our newest customer. DCH have taken the HR Knowledge Map which they will be implementing for use across the Group in support of their overall HR strategy and policies. With a staff of 700, DCH, which comprises Tor Homes, Penwith Housing Association, Independent Futures, Westco Properties, Devon & Cornwall Leasehold Solutions and Call24, manages over 19,500 properties.
Sheila Whelan, Group HR Director adds:
‘I always thought the HR Knowledge Map was a great idea when I first saw it several years ago when first launched. Since taking the post of Group HR director at a large geographically spread organisation we have bought the Map to enhance communication with staff across the Group, increase transparency and consistency and make our policies and procedures easy for staff to find and use. We will start implementing it shortly’.
More news on this story once implementation is underway.
Created in 2007, River Clyde Homes is Scotland's newest and third largest Social Landlord and run by a tenant led Board. Key commitments made to tenants include investment in core housing stock of £83m and the provision of 850 new homes by 2015.
Kevin Scarlett, Chief Executive, River Clyde Homes
With over 30 years' experience in the Housing and Regeneration sector, Kevin joined the organisation in 2012, having previously been with Salford based Salix Homes also in the capacity of Chief Executive. Here, he oversaw the implementation of Knowledge Maps in a drive to create consistency in the correct use of policies and procedures in their Customer Service Centre. Knowledge Maps were also used as a vehicle for keeping staff and customers informed as Salix underwent an Options Appraisal process.
Service Excellence also forms a key part of River Clyde's strategy and the organisation is shortly to go live with a new Customer Service Centre. The decision was therefore taken to implement the 100 Questions for Customer Service Knowledge Map as part of this initiative.
"Knowledge Maps are a really useful tool for disseminating information and change through the organisation", says Kevin. " They aid accuracy and reinforce consistent service delivery'.
As the project moves forward and service delivery continues to improve, the aim is to continue using Knowledge Maps to assist staff and further reduce errors across the organisation.
First Adapt, leaders in the provision of Knowledge Maps, have been commissioned by the Institute of Mental Health to develop a Knowledge Map which will significantly help clinicians when it comes to simplifying the process of carrying out detailed research. Formed in 2006, the highly respected Institute of Mental Health is a partnership between Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham. With their mission to achieve ‘Research Excellence for Innovation’, The Institute of Mental Health’s key activities are to promote research, support clinical practice, provide educational courses and act as an expert resource in promoting best practice.
First Adapt is delighted to have this opportunity to work with the Institute and looks forward to a successful collaboration over the coming months.
With offices operating across 54 local authorities in the Midlands, Midland Heart own and manage 32,000 homes and invest more than £100 million every year. It is therefore no surprise that Procurement plays a key role in its overall business strategy.
Procurement at Midland Heart aims to provide customers with the very best of services, both in terms of quality and Value for Money. This doesn’t just happen by itself and Midland Heart has worked hard to develop a long-term strategic Procurement Strategy which will ensure adherence to legal and EU requirements, consistency of procurement activity across all areas of the business and also dovetail with its overall Corporate Strategy. All this at a time of enormous economic challenge faced by the housing sector.
The challenges faced by Midland Heart will resonate with many other housing organisations; high numbers of suppliers, high levels of manual transactions, disparate procurements systems, little use made of collaborative purchasing and lack of customer involvement in procurement activity.
The vision for Midland Heart was to achieve excellent Value for Money on all goods, works and services as well as ensuring efficiency gains in all procurement activities; managing risk, improve contract management and working smarter wherever possible.
Eliminating waste, supporting the organisation’s sustainability and environmental strategies has been embedded into how Procurement is managed. Encouraging staff, suppliers and customers to think about these objectives has been key to improving informed decision making. In this way, Procurement has become a vehicle for business process improvement across the organisation.
Improvements in the information available to staff and customers has also played a pivotal role. Midland Heart has implemented a Procurement Information Map (PIM) using Knowledge Maps from First Adapt. This is available via the intranet and informs employees of the best method of purchase. It also outlines the detailed processes to be followed when buying goods, works or services. The Map is used for all procurement activities and ensures that the relevant controls are in place. Standard templates, documents and terms and conditions are all available via a Document Library within the Map. In addition to Procurement, the Map covers other business critical areas such as Equality & Diversity, Health & Safety and Resident Involvement.
Amerjeet Keilah, Procurement Manager at Midland Heart highlights that the Map “supported the business desire to become more agile and has made the process of procuring much quicker and easier to understand”.
She adds, “It ensures that staff are following the correct procurement processes and that they can work independently without having to rely on the Procurement Team for lower value and less high risk orders”.
Midland Heart recognise the importance of continuous improvement in supplier relations and performance in all areas of front line and back office service delivery. And if the Procurement Team has become a bit more visible to the rest of the organisation as a result, Amerjeet and her colleagues are delighted.
Challenge, compare, consult and compete – the Value for Money (VfM) mantra by which providers must abide in order to stay ahead of the game. But what steps are required to ensure that this is truly embedded in how an organisation operates?
The first step has to be taken at the top and the Board needs to agree the main objectives of a VfM strategy and how these tie in with its overall business plan. This in itself requires a real understanding of how well the organisation is doing and how it compares with others in the sector. Time needs to be spent internally on performance evalution and externally via benchmarking with other providers. This will also give a steer of where improvements need to be made and where new services can be offered.
Developing clear operational plans from the top level strategy is crucial not only to ensure excellent communication at all levels within the organisation but also as a vehicle for staff involvement and performance management. By cascading objectives and actions, the strategy itself will remain dynamic and relevant to what is happening on a day to day basis.
But it is not just about buying goods and services at the price/quality mix. It is also about customer involvement since they are best placed to help shape these services so that they are tailored at the local level. This approach also favours the longer-term interests of the organisation, its customers and stakeholders. Collective procurement, partnering and Shared Services are also increasingly being adopted as routes to more professional procurement strategies.
Another important step is making sure that there is a comprehensive and up to date library of policies, processes and operational documents.
Our Procurement Map has been specially designed with this in mind and allows you to make this information available to all staff across via an organisational intranet.
So, is your organisation operating an efficient and easy- to-use tendering process in an environment which frees up staff to operate effectively?
A central database of standardised processes and template documents guarantees improved operational efficiency. The majority of our customers have chosen to implement the Procurement Map for these very reasons and with the experience we have gained from numerous projects, we can offer a standard template design which substantially reduces the amount of in-house resource required to implement the maps.
Download more information about our Procurement Map.
LMH and in-house contractor, Housing Maintenance Solutions (HMS) have been awarded ISO accreditation for not just one but three key areas - Quality Management (ISO9001) , Environmental Services (14001) and Health & Safety (OHSAS 18001).
These latest awards recognise LMH's overall commitment to both staff and customers in wanting to deliver first class services underpinned by a commitment to robust systems and procedures which support all key areas of work.
LMH acknowledge that ASK (their Advice and Support Knowledge Map) was a big part of how they were able to evidence their formal approach towards documenting processes.
ASK forms part of an initiative to provide a 24/7 on line resource for customers via the website and kiosks and provides answers to a wide range of frequently asked questions.
Want to take a look at ASK? Just click HERE.
When Midland Heart conducted a thorough review of their procedures and policies for Procurement, they were delighted to find that we had a tried and tested package that would do exactly what they needed. They found it slick and visually very attractive but recognised that beneath the veneer were multiple layers that made the solution particularly rich. They liked the idea that you could drill down to more detail if you needed to, but equally, if you just wanted to click through the process, you could do that as well.
Midland Heart's view of the Procurement Map is that it's a very interactive way of working and because the data is presented in an attractive way, users quickly find a level that suits their ability and knowledge. When Midland Heart was going through merger, it was of huge benefit to be able to adapt the map and pull together all the procurement policies and documents from legacy systems and organisations into one easily accessible place.
They now have a centralised system which is easy to use and gives greater access to documents needed by staff. Consistency of information has also greatly improved communications across the organisation and with staff able to find what they need first time round, efficiency savings have been achieved.
Read the full Midland Heart procurement knowledge map case study
First Adapt is delighted to welcome Central Bedfordshire Council as its most recent customer. With its main offices based in the rural setting of Chicksands, Central Bedfordshire Council serves a population of approximately 255,600. The wide range of services provided by this Unitary Authority keep its staff busy at all time. No more so than those involved in Procurement, an area of increasing importance when it comes to ensuring efficient services are provided at the best possible value. Value for Money was a key deciding factor when Central Bedfordshire Council made the decision to buy the Procurement Knowledge Map from First Adapt. The solution, which helps to streamline policies and procedures and make documentation more readily accessible to staff, went through a rigorous tender process. Staff within the Procurement Team will shortly be embarking on a phased implementation of the Procurement Knowledge Map, working with First Adapt to ensure a smooth transition to the new system.
If you would like to find out more about the Procurement Knowledge Map or any of the Maps we have on offer, just get in touch.