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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/libraries-alternative-delivery-models-toolkit/stage-9-go-live-and-ensuring-sustainability
Once the new delivery model has officially gone live, there will be shift in focus from planning to delivery. The first 6 months to a year of the new organisation’s life is a critical period for establishing the culture of the new organisation and learning to deliver independently.
However, it is important that the question of sustainability is not shelved during the early years of the organisation’s development. Typically the initial contract will last for 3 to 5 years, so it is absolutely vital to maintain a focus on the organisation’s sustainability beyond this time period. Even where it is likely that the organisation will win a further contract with the council, time should be spent considering how the organisation can grow and diversify its income streams.
2. Why undertake post-establishment work?
Going live as a new delivery model is a huge achievement which should not be overlooked. However it is very often the case that not all issues will have been completely addressed during the transition/implementation phase.
Therefore the initial focus for the new delivery model is conventionally around 3 areas:
- addressing any outstanding implementation issues as quickly as possible, it may be appropriate to develop a post-establishment implementation plan to support this process
- focussing on the implementation of the business plan that has already been developed
- thinking strategically about the organisation’s future growth and sustainability
The second 2 areas are described in greater detail below
3. Implementing your business plan
It is important that the immediate focus, post go-live, is on implementing your business plan. Progressing against your plan will benefit your organisation and will demonstrate to stakeholders (including the council and library users) your ability to deliver the service that was originally envisaged.
Make sure that your business plan shapes the transition and post-establishment stages. Post-establishment is when the real work begins.
Suffolk Libraries IPS
Some activities that you may need to focus on in particular include:
3.1 Changes to the operating model
It is likely that you will have proposed changes to the way the service operates. Implementing these changes within the new organisation should be a priority.
With a property portfolio of 50 buildings, it’s perhaps no surprise that property issues (in terms of overall liability and responsibilities) were not resolved prior to transfer so we opted to have a ‘tenancy at will’ arrangement for all our buildings as an interim measure, whilst we finalised our agreement with Devon County Council property.
IT remains an outstanding issue. There is a will on both sides for libraries to move off the council’s network but it is a major piece of work and will most likely take the next 12-18 months to complete.
3.2 Establishment of governance arrangements
Establishing your intended governance structure (including a board of directors, sub-committees and advisory groups) will hopefully have commenced prior to go-live, however it is likely that further work will be needed to continue to establish these groups. It may also be helpful for board members to undertake training to ensure that their balance of skills is appropriate for the organisation.
3.3 Service growth
Whilst continuing to deliver a high-quality library service to existing customers, you should also be looking to grow the service in line with your business plan. This may involve reaching new customers, or offering new services to your existing customers. Implementing your growth strategy should be a priority.
3.4 Monitoring and quality assurance
It is important to establish processes to monitor and quality assure your services from day one. These may include the following areas:
Careful attention should be paid to service quality. This is particularly important in terms of statutory library services. Any new quality assurance processes should be implemented quickly.
Financial monitoring and reporting
You will need to establish systems that enable you to monitor and report financial information. Sustainability (and particularly cash flow) are significant risks to new businesses, so you should treat this as a priority.
Contractual reporting requirements
The contract you hold with the council will require you to report against a set of measures or outcomes at an agreed frequency. Any inability to satisfy these reporting requirements may jeopardise your funding, therefore you should ensure that robust systems and processes are put in place to meet these requirements.
Maintaining strong relationships with the council
Depending on the particular model that has been chosen, you may now be operating as a library service that is entirely independent from the council, but funded by them. The strength of your relationships with the council will continue to serve you over the years to come, and so it is important to continue to maintain these relationships. Working with your commissioner to address any issues as they occur will be particularly important.
Inspire has contractual requirements and a performance specification to meet. There is a freedom outside of these to grow and reduce services based on income and funding. Our charitable objects influence what Inspire will undertake in relation to service delivery.
Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries
4. Strategic growth and sustainability
Planning for growth and sustainability is an important skill that the new delivery model’s leadership team will need to develop. Whilst some thinking around commercial growth of the new delivery model will have been done at the business planning stage, it is normal to revisit this and develop growth plans once established.
Opportunities for growth could take different forms. When thinking about potential opportunities it may be helpful to work through the Ansoff matrix which considers growth along 2 axes. These are:
- expanding your customer base - reaching new customers either in the same geographical area, or beyond
- expanding your service offer - developing new services that could meet some of the needs of your existing customers
Your ideas for growth opportunities can be further developed into a growth plan which outlines how you intend to implement the different ideas.
Many organisations grow through contracts and/or investment. This can be actively prepared for through undertaking contract-readiness and/or investment-readiness work. This is described below.
4.1 Becoming contract-ready
When preparing to bid for and deliver new contracts there are a number of areas to consider. These include the following:
It is important that you are able to identify potential opportunities and decide whether to bid for them, quickly and in line with any organisational priorities. This process can be designed internally to ensure that relevant input is sought at the appropriate stage. It is also possible to develop a mechanism for assessing opportunities consistently against a number of criteria that reflect the organisation’s priorities.
Writing bids can be a very intensive process, and it is important that you have this capability within your team (or accessible externally) when you are bidding for an important contract.
Financial modelling can help with contract readiness in a number of ways. Firstly, identifying a pipeline of future opportunities can enable you to project the likely impact on the organisation’s overall finances in the future. This is done by applying a percentage likelihood to each opportunity, based on the chance of winning the contract.
Secondly, many Invitation to Tender documents ask you to price your service competitively and some detailed modelling may be required to determine the likely overall cost of delivering the service, and to price accordingly.
Engagement with commissioners
Building relationships with existing and potential future commissioners is important to your overall business development approach. Even if there are no contracts currently available, you may find it helpful to build the profile of your organisation and the services you deliver with future commissioners.
Further information on bidding for public sector contracts can be found here.
4.2 Becoming investment-ready
In some instances, the use of external investment can be a helpful tool for organisational growth. In recent years there has been significant growth in the use of social investment (repayable finance which achieves both a social and a financial return).
Becoming ready to attract and secure investment for growth may also require some preparation. This typically focusses on understanding the rationale for the investment, and how it would be repaid. The development of an investment case, which can then be used to engage with investors, can prove fruitful. Many sources of finance for voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) can be found at Good Finance.
5. Intended outcomes and outputs
Although it may feel like a long way off, going-live as a new delivery model is only really the first step in a journey to develop a resilient and sustainable organisation. The effective use of strategic planning tools, as outlined in this section, can be critical to diversifying income streams and building a resilient organisation for the long-term future.