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E-GOV SUPPLEMENT - EALING DISCOVERS THE POWER OF SOFTWARE

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Has Ealing LBC found the answer to effective performance management in its choice of online software, asks Antony P...
Has Ealing LBC found the answer to effective performance management in its choice of online software, asks Antony Page?

My colleagues often see me as a thorn in their side. I hear deep sighs when I badger them for better quality, or more timely performance data. They don't fear being measured - they are frustrated. There are too many numbers, no decent way to translate what they mean and no fast and effective method to detect the alarm bells or star performers.

To solve this at Ealing LBC we have invested in some software called PerformancePlus Local Authority - we think it will revolutionise how we make decisions and prioritise.

It is accessed online by anyone with a password, and consists of user-friendly screens that display sets of performance information graphically. Four symbols indicate how the council is performing on any particular performance indicator. A green star says we are above target, a blue circle in target range, a red triangle we're below target and a question mark says that not enough data has been inputted to provide a measure.

It sounds like Playschool - but the power of PerformancePlus is in what lies behind the symbols. We can group performance indicator to provide a performance update on a single objective, a whole service, or more importantly we can bring performance information together from across many services on a cross cutting key theme, for example, community safety.

It is this potential to break down departmental silos which caught the attention of the director of our change programme at Ealing. Pat Elliott said: 'PerformancePlus is key to our one-council vision. It demonstrates the interdependencies between services, enables us to draw together the hundreds of strategies existing in the council and visibly align them to the council's vision and priorities. For the first time it will be crystal clear how each service we deliver contributes to our high-level priorities'

PerformancePlus Local Authority is automatically loaded with up to date comparative data for benchmarking against other councils. The system allows us to quickly identify any deviation from achieving our vision, what delivery areas are causing the drop, and the intervention needed to recover performance. I have gained senior support for investment in this system because it has such broad implications and such a big payback.

Once it is rolled out across council, people will have a clear line of sight from their work to the council's priorities. They will have a clearer relationship to the rest of the council and performance measurement will be a motivator rather than a threat.

Robert Hobbs, the chief executive of the software provider INPHASE, often talks about the system providing council staff with 'a common language that can be shared throughout the organisation.'

I think that's right, and it is our language - with INPHASE's support we have customised the system in a way that's right for Ealing.

We are not the first council to pickup on this software - Wigan MBC was there first and several other councils are at different stages. But I think we are going further and faster than anyone else. With the support of consultants from both INPHASE and PricewaterhouseCoopers we've been developing a balanced scorecard for the council at the same time, and this forms the top line of our PerformancePlus system.

It is difficult to exaggerate how this piece of IT could help improve things at Ealing. We've a lot more work to put in before the system delivers its potential, but I am confident it will be worth it.

Antony Page

Head of corporate performance, Ealing LBC

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