The complexity of keeping standards consistent when you’re responsible for any public service is difficult but managing public sector standards at scale is an enormous challenge
Central government, local authorities, NHS trusts and universities are all responsible for ensuring public organisations are kept running smoothly for the 67m citizens of the UK. In a single local authority, it is easy to understand how difficult it is just to manage and keep current the standards for maintaining roads and street lighting, let alone building and equipping schools.
Everything in local government, from the wattage of the lightbulb for a lamp post to the design of street sign, is decided and procured via a defined process. Once a decision is made about something it must be adhered to, which means they need to keep the specification current and accessible to everyone who needs it.
Managing public sector standards is tough for basic and complex tasks alike
Maintaining up-to-date records of standards and design specifications is a big challenge. The default way of managing these is often reliant on ubiquitous, easy to access office documents – perhaps a list of item SKUs agreed under a procurement deal on an Excel sheet, or PDF documents that contain a set of specifications around a particular task type, such as local road maintenance.
Such documents are almost never up to date. Although it is certain that those responsible will try to keep them updated, as they are distributed internally and sent out to subcontractors, there are certain to be multiple versions in circulation at any time – a recipe for divergence.
Now, let’s scale up that challenge. Imagine that the same local authority is planning on building a new school – something that many have on their plate because by 2027 it is estimated that the number of secondary pupils will increase by more than 400,000. Local authorities need easy access to key standards and specifications for such buildings if they are to spend taxpayer funds efficiently. Most local authorities will have their own set standards for this kind of project, which will include critical standards such as what specification and type of materials should be used – something that is very much under scrutiny, as the wrong choice could be dangerous.
Mission-critical standards compliance
In public sector projects and services, maintaining and managing specifications and standards for design, procurement, building and more is mission-critical. The approach they choose for any process should have control, transparency, and auditability of changes guaranteed, and be highly accessible to decision-makers, procurement teams and subcontractors. Document-based standards management simply doesn’t measure up. When an NHS property services project team is planning to build a new hospital wing, good standards management can ensure that they, their contractor and all the subcontractors and suppliers are all working from the same standards framework.
Compliance with overarching health and safety standards must be certain. When the Highways Agency needs to update key contractors about the latest specification for a central motorway reservation, they need a centralised, single version of the correct and current standards to which everyone can refer.
Databases beat document approaches every time
Database-driven standards and specification management solutions like IconSystem are the only way that managing public sector standards can effectively be achieved, at scale. Database-driven standards solutions are scalable and can transform accessibility and control to help contribute to the operational efficiency to which every public service must aspire.
The application of a scalable system such as IconSystem for specifications and standards is virtually limitless. It integrates smoothly with other modules of the same system, where standards management must interface seamlessly with ongoing project and property challenges, such as in the development of new schools, hospitals or housing. It can form part of a connected project and property management and maintenance software solution that is fit for a modern public sector organisation.
Choosing proven tools that are optimised for public sector use is always important. We’re delighted to confirm that our cloud-based Project Planning, Project Management, Building Information Management and Maintenance Management software and related services have all been listed on the G-Cloud 11 framework. That means public sector bodies are now able to take advantage of all the efficiencies that Elecosoft can deliver from products such as IconSystem, Powerproject, and ShireSystem.
Find out more information on Elecosoft’s cloud-based software available on G-Cloud 11.
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