Cross-Government Delivery Models are a growing requirement to meet the specific needs of different citizen groups. This article considers the pre-requisites and model options to make them successful.
Author: Ed Bridgeland
If government was invented today, would it be structured the same way?
Government departments have been aligned along key policy areas for a long time. Aside from the very early entities, such as treasury functions to raise taxes, most of the major departmental types were first established around the world in the mid-nineteenth century.
This ‘traditional,’ policy-based structure has been adopted and endured remarkably well within most countries in some shape or form ever since.
There are lots of good reasons for this – it helps align policy with delivery with a clear line of sight of accountability and enables organisations to build deep understanding within their specialist areas.
However, these models don’t work as effectively for specific communities or individuals – especially in the social or human services areas of government. There are many instances where people can be passed between one organisation or another or simply ‘fall between the cracks’ of entrenched demarcations.
This challenge has become more apparent as the expectations of government service, from supply and demand perspective, have heightened and as advances in analytics has demonstrated the scale of the challenge and cost impact of individuals who don’t neatly align with governments’ current way of working.
This has led many governments to consider opportunities to create models that cut across ‘traditional’ government structures. In this article we consider some of the key conditions for success and options for achieving cross-government working to better engage and support citizens.
Conditions for effective cross-government working
The following are key conditions for effective cross-government working, which place the citizen at the heart of the government delivery model:
- Strong Client Insight – Establishing comprehensive real-time (or close to it) cross service datasets supported by specialist analytical capability is a fundamental foundation for any citizen-focused model. Integrated insights provide service commissioners with the ability to effectively scope, design and plan service offers aligned to the target location.
- Clear Authorising Environment – Any cross-government entity or way of working needs to have the clear authority to make changes to different areas of government. By its nature this means that it will disrupt the work of ‘traditional’ departments. A strong and unambiguous authorising environment is therefore a pre-requisite to encouraging people to adopt new decision-making processes that may sit outside the current hierarchies.
- Local Autonomy – Being closer to the citizen also means being closer to communities in given geographical areas who share common challenges and service needs. This means cross-government models need to enable localised decision making and planning to be effective. This should be supported by mechanisms to encourage and reflect community engagement in the design process.
- Incentives for Collaboration and Innovation – Conditions need to be set for collaboration across service areas in way that encourages individual and community focus. This includes establishing joint performance indicators based on outcomes, localised ways of working to support collaboration and a culture of adaptability which is able to flex responses based on experience.
In considering different high level options for delivering cross-government working, it is helpful to consider a simple service value chain which consists of functions which broadly relate to service commissioning (including strategy, investment and system design) and those related to delivery (which includes implementation, access and service delivery), summarised as:
Using this value chain as a basis, it is possible to identify three broad options for achieving a cross-government focus:
- End-to-end integration
The most comprehensive approach to achieving a cross-service focus is to establish a new department or agency that focuses on the particular community, client or issue. The same entity is responsible across the commissioning and service delivery aspects of the value chain.
This model sets a very clear authorising regime, which enables targeted data collation and analytics, and provides strong incentives for collaboration. Complete integration means there is a strong and clear mandate to focus on the citizen perspective, the entity can allocate funds more easily to areas of client need and demonstrate the benefits of those investments.
The main risk with this approach is around the alignment of the entity with related policies or services which aren’t relevant to the community, client or issue within its purview. The ‘traditional’ government model has endured for good reasons and entities that follow this approach need to stay very closely aligned with those other enduring functions to ensure their constitute services are appropriately optimised and scaled.
Overall, consolidating commissioning and delivery functions is highly effective in driving place-based working, but introduces risk around the level of coordination across individual services lines, which can impact service standards and efficiency over time.
- Separate commissioning and integrated service delivery
In this model, a common service delivery entity focused on communities, individuals or issues is commissioned by relevant agencies. The service delivery entity provides a common shop-front (physical or virtual) for the delivery of many different types of services. It provides the opportunity for individuals with needs across several different areas (e.g. social housing, motor vehicle registration, business licenses) to access services in one place with a common client experience, whilst enables the responsible agencies to maintain their primary policy focus.
This model enables a common client experience at the front end which can significantly improve client experience at local level, especially around they access services. It makes it easy to refer between one service and another across potentially disparate service areas. The integrated service delivery model also provides the greatest opportunity to collect and interpret the impact of service in a particular locality, which can be feedback to commissioning entities to inform and improve how services are scoped.
The limitation of this model is that the innovation is focused largely on the delivery mechanisms rather than then services themselves and their underlying rationale. Although the front-end of service delivery provides a common client experience, the different commissioning entities may have competing interests and differing mandates, with limited incentives to collaborate to innovate the service offer.
This model can drive efficiency and innovation in service delivery, improving the customer experience significantly, but has limited opportunity to challenge the fundamental service offer.
- Integrated commissioning integration and disaggregated service delivery
In this model a common commissioner is established to focus on a community, individual or issue. That entity commissions other policy aligned departments to deliver services they have developed amongst the rest of their service portfolio. For example, the commissioner may be responsible for vulnerable children and families and it would develop and commission services from agencies such as Education, Health, Justice and Social Services.
This model can effectively bring new insights across different services as the commissioning agency can access and combine data from across different agencies to provide a more holistic view of the issue, community or individual need and a more informed view of the impact of a particular service. When it works, this model can be very effective in truly innovating the services that government delivers to its citizens without being too disruptive to the machinery of existing structures.
The key challenge with this model is around the extent that the commissioning entity to influence and encourage delivery agencies to re-point or collaborate on delivery of services to meet identified community or individual needs. Without a strong authorising environment, it will be difficult for a commissioner to hold others to account for delivering on agreed objectives and drive changes at a local level.
This model can change the overarching approach to services, driving innovation in how services are planned and scoped, but relies on strong governance and / or goodwill from different stakeholders to ensure the concept is converted by disparate service teams.
Government expectations and citizen needs are changing rapidly and the shift to new models need to accelerate to meet these demands. There are variations of these models being developed across Government jurisdictions and whilst it will always be a case of finding the appropriate model for the particular service and community the four key conditions we identify are critical for setting the foundation for meaningful change.