How do you embed commercialisation into your local authority?

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When making commercialisation part of your organisation’s DNA, do you focus on having the right culture, structure or strategy? Anthony Roche, Deputy Chief Executive at North Hertfordshire District Council, explains all

Why are we going down the road of commercialisation – it’s simple, money. The need for local authorities to consider increased commercialisation is driven by financial pressures, so how do we embed commercialisation in our organisation’s DNA? Is it all about having the right culture, structure or strategy? I believe it needs all three.

After looking at the work of others, we’ve identified those three strands for embedding commercial culture. And these are the initial questions you will need to ask:

  1. Structure – who are your people, how are ideas are brought forward and tested, how are decisions made?
  2. Strategy – what parameters are you setting for commercial activities and what level of returns are you expecting?
  3. Culture – how do you create that political buy-in, how do you engage your workforce, how do you provide training and support to develop your workforce?

Let’s look at structure. This year, we’ve undertaken a senior management restructure, we appointed Steve Crowley, Service Director for Commercialisation, in June. We created that new role for two reasons; one, financial pressures have meant that we need to speed up that pace of change, and two; we can’t just be coming up with single ideas in single departments, we need to have a much more commercial approach across the organisation.

The structure is the staffing, internal decision-making structures, finding out who leads on ideas. Is it the commercial director and his team, or the service areas who work in partnership with the commercial team?

How are your different organisations bringing ideas forward?

So, you’re generating the initial ideas – how do you capture them and how do you test them? Now for strategy. Historically at North Herts, our approach has been service led, working on a project by project basis. What we’ve not had to-date is that overarching strategy that allows you to make those quick decisions.

What we’ve discovered is that North Herts’ strategy can be far more service-specific than a larger authority, because it is a relatively small authority. Additionally, due to either existing capital or our ability to leverage in at low-interest rates, we can make projects viable when private firms are unable to. If local authorities have confidence in our abilities there is no reason why we cannot deliver projects without private firms taking a whole load of the profit!

And finally, culture. If you were to get all of your members and officers in a room and ask them for a definition of commercialisation, you’d probably have more definitions than those in the room. Getting your messaging and your goals clear from the start is crucial in engaging your whole workforce.

Ultimately though, as local authorities, what are we here to do? Yes, generating income helps support services and helps deliver new services, but the whole point is we are here for our community. Repeating this message to your workforce will help instil the correct culture to move forward. If we keep this in mind, along with the three key points mentioned above, we can embed commercialisation deep within the roots of our organisations.

If you would like to share examples of good practice, please contact Steve Crowley or me as we are keen to carry on the conversation.

Anthony Roche was speaking at the recent Local Government Partnership Network event, hosted by Partnership Network Events. .


Anthony Roche

Anthony Roche

Deputy Chief Executive

North Hertfordshire District Council

Tel: +44 (0)1462 474 000


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