Adopting a formal service review framework

Organisations approach service reviews in various ways. Some are at a very high level while others drill down into much detail. Councils usually tailor their reviews to meet their individual circumstances and objectives. This is understandable as individual councils are unique in their level of resources, political climates, demographic profiles, and organisational cultures.

Achieving best value in the delivery of services is not a static state as circumstances are continually changing. It is therefore appropriate that service reviews not be a ‘one off’ exercise, but rather be part of an ongoing improvement journey. They should be undertaken progressively throughout an organisation in a systematic manner, in accordance with identified priorities. The service reviews should be integrated with other key organisational programs including corporate and strategic planning, asset management, and organisational performance management.

It is also beneficial to take a ‘council-wide’ approach to reviews to maximise any available opportunities. Both internal and external services should be covered, however a greater focus may be placed on discretionary or non-statutory activities.

A selection of ‘cross-functional’ processes may also be included that extend across a number of services. This has the added benefit of preventing departments from simply shifting problems to other areas. Pilot service reviews are also useful for determining the effectiveness of the processes before commencing a full review program.

The scope and rigour of the reviews can vary significantly. Our research has shown that the timeframe for conducting a program of reviews across an organisation typically ranges between 6 months and 2 years. Individual service reviews can last from as little as 6 weeks up to 2 years. The implementation of review recommendations can extend beyond that period.

A sample framework for the systematic review of local government services is illustrated in the diagram below. It identifies seven phases to an effective service review. The order of the phases is indicative only and can be tailored to meet organisations’ specific needs. Some phases continue throughout the service review program while others are repeated for individual service reviews.