by N Burrell, Marketing, Research and Analytics, CIPFA
"The CIPFA brand carries gravitas and that’s important. There are many providers out there that have slightly different ways of presenting the data-sets, but having credible data is key, so it has to come from national data returns and organised by experts. CIPFA’s Value for Money Toolkit (VfMT), is the perfect combination of good value for money and real brand credibility in the market place."
Steve Evans | Head of Corporate Strategy and Performance | North Yorkshire County Council
North Yorkshire County Councils Strategy and Performance Team were established around two years ago following a review of previously fragmented corporate policy and performance functions. The core purpose of the team is to assist the organisation to deliver an effective and ambitious strategic and performance framework, which supports the organisation to meet local needs and deliver great value for money.
North Yorkshire County Council are a high performing authority who benchmark their internal services against those of their local counterparts, to identify those who achieve better or similar performance, at lower cost.
CIPFA’s Value for Money Toolkit (VfMT) is a central feature of the council’s ongoing service planning process, it brings together the national data returns in terms of performance and finances. VfMT comparative data results are a great starting point in helping North Yorkshire County Council understand their relative position and the position of peer organisations, enabling them to assess performance, relative spend and identify organisations from whom they can glean ideas.
The business challenges faced by the Strategy and Performance team
Steve Evans discusses the business challenges that CIPFA's VfMT helped address
"Whilst it all comes down to performance and finances, as with every organisation, we are looking to always do more for less, rather than simply jump to cuts in service specification. The important bit is identifying those areas where the data indicated an anomaly worthy of follow-up action. VfMT identified the organisations who we then needed to go and talk to.
"Essentially it helps us to identify key lines to enquiry and the opportunity to talk to others. An added advantage is that it provides corporate visibility of relative spend and performance beyond traditional professional networks, which is important in terms of scrutiny and triangulation of data. We aren’t interested in limiting ourselves to just one-dimensional benchmarking.
"Pulling together benchmarking data and using it in this way can lead services to challenge the validity of the data, rather than considering service delivery or practice based improvement opportunities – the first thing people may do if the findings are less favourable, is start to question the data source and perhaps discredit the it. Having credible data is vital to this whole exercise CIPFA provides credibility to our analysis."
"CIPFA analytics tools are available at such a low price, I feel it’s really good value for money. It’s a marginal overhead considering the wealth of information provided."
Financial planning activity
Steve outlines how the VfMT report information was used.
"As VfMT is powered using statutory national returned data, we decided to take the findings one step further by changing the way we used the data to get the best out of it. Last year we developed a process called BEST – Better Efficiency and Sustainable Transformation. Every service area within the council received a benchmarking pack which they used to complete a self-assessment on their own performance and spend. The results were used to drive improvement and financial planning processes.
"The BEST approach worked so well that its now incorporated as an integral part of an integrated service improvement and financial planning process, which feeds in to our performance management framework and Medium Term Financial Strategy. The process in sponsored by the Chief Executive who leads 'challenge' meetings ensuring plans have the appropriate level of ambition and financial rigour. This is being applied across the organisation.
"If I had to indicate what my favourite part of the VfMT report was, it would be the graphs. They are visually impactful and speak a thousand words. I can manipulate them by dropping these elements into reports, documents and are easily added to slide decks and other report collateral. They do add value which makes it a very useful part of the product functionality."
The future of analysis tools
Steve concludes with identifying what North Yorkshire County Council are likely to need from analysis tools in the future.
"Predictive forecasting models is where we’re at. The very nature of benchmarking against what has gone before means that it is very ‘rear view mirror’. We would benefit from a tool that allows us to work on projections, based on historical context and future hypotheses. For example, modelling spend and interventions, based upon future population health and socio-economic factors.
"This would enable us to identify opportunities to better manage demand, by designing services which intervene earlier. Currently it’s not always easy to prove the return on investment on preventative services or to model changing demand profiles.
"I look forward to CIPFA developing such a tool!"
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