Leatham Green, PPMA Talent Management Policy Lead and Programme Director, People & Change at Orbis, is our guest blogger this week and he explains how a historic partnership between Surrey and East Sussex is shaping the business landscape of the region
“In April of this year, East Sussex and Surrey County Council formally launched their partnership to establish a shared business advisory, professional and transactional service supported through a shared business model, known as Orbis. East Sussex and Surrey County Councils are both forward thinking and innovative organisations with a relentless drive to improve efficiency and deliver good quality, affordable services for our residents and businesses. Both councils have a strong track record of delivering excellent services through partnerships and have already developed a successful track record of working together.
In April 2013, we established a partnership for procurement. The joint procurement team use a best practice category management approach to procurement. Common technology solutions and processes have been adopted for e-tendering, e-contract management, project benefits tracking and document sharing, and these have enabled a well-founded programme of work to be delivered that is aligned with the councils’ budget plans. The team is led across both authorities by a shared Senior Management Team. Also, in 2013, both Councils entered into an arrangement which brought together transactional services from both organisations, including payroll, expenses and pensions administration, along with the hosting of our core financial and HR systems (SAP). These transactional services had formerly been outsourced by East Sussex County Council to a private company. This project has led to a collaborative relationship between our Councils, with senior managers and operational managers working closely together to ensure successful and valued service to customers. We believe that Orbis will build on our existing relationship to deepen trust and co-operation between the organisations. The creation of Orbis is considered as the best option for our authorities to improve public value for our residents and businesses, and to ensure that our services to them are supported by an efficient and effective business service.
Our vision is to build a strong partnership of local authorities with values and principles aligned to the Orbis partnership. Orbis will provide a range of services covering finance, HR, ICT, procurement, property and transactional services to our own authorities, the wider public sector and beyond – creating public value for residents. While we expect Orbis to become a compelling alternative to private sector organisations, we also recognise that these service delivery changes must be undertaken and implemented without losing sight of our core mission, purpose and identity as local authorities. Orbis will offer us the most flexible, affordable and adaptable model for change, ensuring that the arrangements support the transformation agenda of each council. It also offers us the best opportunity to sustain employment and enhance professional development for our staff. We expect Orbis to become a highly innovative environment that will attract and retain talented professionals who will share our aspirations to deliver high quality public services using a next-generation approach.
The culture for Orbis is being co-designed involving our 1,400 staff who have started to develop the underpinning principles for the Partnership. The ‘EPIC’ principles are based on being seen as having Expertise, having Passion in what we do, looking for new ways of doing things through Innovation, and putting the Customer at the heart of everything that we do.
Orbis is in its early stages of development and HR are at the centre of supporting this transition. A draft model for an integrated HR service has been developed and is being used by all services as a proforma for future design work. The model for HR is based on supporting and empowering customers to be more self sufficient, underpinned through having the knowledge and compelling enabling technology they need to do this. A culture of ‘for the public sector, by the public sector’ and the need for it to continue to feel like an integral part of the partner councils, and not something separate or remote, is seen as a key factor in determining the optimum delivery model. HR is playing an integral role in supporting and enabling the change and transition of Orbis as it reaches the desired future state.
This is the start of a three year journey towards full integration however already the benefits of partnership working are being recognised and the energy and support of our staff, trade unions and politicians is very exciting. Our task is to maintain and build on this enthusiasm for what is an historic partnership for both Councils and we will share our ‘epic’ progress with you in future posts.”
Leatham Green is Programme Director: People & Change – Orbis