“Austerity” is now a way of life in the Public Sector. In the United Kingdom we have lived through five years of the process so far and whatever the result of the upcoming General Election, whichever party is in Government or Coalition, the concept of expecting more from Public Services for less will continue well into the next Parliament. Yet after five years of budget reductions, most of the easy options for making cuts have been exercised by those tasked with delivery of services.
When faced with a budget cut often it is a process of what can be seen can be cut, unfortunately the most essential element of our service delivery is not only the most visible but also expensive; our people.
Over the last five years we have been forced to shrink our Public Sector workforce below that which is ideal for delivery of the core services we provide. That is not to say that the workforce did not need some degree of rightsizing, but going forward it is unrealistic for services to be maintained with further dramatic cuts in personnel.
Leadership must now find areas where savings can be made outside of the visibly obvious. There just is no longer that “fat” to cut so where to look next?
In 1992 I sat at a computer for the first time. I was an Army recruit instructor and was confronted with a particularly troublesome young man who I wanted to get RTU’d to civilian life. This was not the easiest process as our desire was always to maximize the value of the individual who had applied enlisted to serve. In this case the individual was beyond our help.
At that time there was one Computer in the Training Wing, this was operated by the Administrator and provided basic Word Processing, and documents were sent to the central typing pool. Confronted with the complexity of generating a dismissal report, I worked over a weekend to create the dismissal request myself – and yes it did take me all weekend to type a fifteen page report.
The net effect was two-fold; the individual was RTU’d as desired, and the typists went on strike. They could see that if we all did our own typing on these “new-fangled computers” their jobs were at risk.
Fast forward 23 years it is hard to imagine how we would all function without the PC or Laptop that now dominates our working life, nearly every role involves the daily interaction with technology. In most cases technology has become the great enabler that it was always intended to be. It is indeed hard to imagine meeting the necessity of Austerity without the technological support of the IT infrastructure on which we rely.
But could it be that hidden somewhere within the mysterious world of IT there could be the opportunity to make considerable savings without reducing headcount?
The answer is yes! Emphatically! You just have to know where to look.
Consider the following scenario;
The organization has a contract with a Software Vendor to provide essential and specialist software under an Enterprise Agreement. This agreement has grown over the years and constitutes a major annual Operational Cost for Software Maintenance and a Capital Cost once a year at True Up time.
The normalization of this “Chequebook License Compliance” has led to far more invisible “fat” being deposited around the inner organs of our organizations than most leaders would realize. And just as it has been necessary to right-size the visible it is equally necessary to right-size the invisible waste we may be generating.
The challenge is that this is typically not something that your suppliers want to help with, after all they exist based on the revenues they generate. Your Account Manager from Software Company A is not motivated to reduce your financial commitment to him, but to increase it.
I am minded of the story of the rising waters in India;
A Cobra was trapped on an island and saw a boy in a small canoe paddling against the torrent.
“Help me!” called out the Cobra.
“You’ll bite me” replied the Boy.
“Not if you save my life I won’t” promised the Cobra.
So the boy scooped up the Cobra and put it in the canoe whereupon it immediately bit the boy.
“Why did you do that when I was helping you?” asked the Boy.
“I just can’t help it” answered the Cobra, “It is my nature”.
If the workforce has reduced by x% why hasn’t the Software Cost? Where is the Software that is no longer being used that you are constantly renewing your maintenance costs? Where is the Hardware that is costing money to maintain that you could switch off if only you could identify it is not providing value to the organization?
So likely you will turn to you Vendor Partners, perhaps the Outsourcer who provides your services for help in finding these cost reductions. Likely the will suck the air through their teeth, tell you it is difficult, present you with a quote for a feasibility study and conclude it is not possible. They will then wait for your chequebook to once again open.
And for the next five years, each year you will look for the person you can see who doesn’t look busy enough and they will be the next casualty of the Austerity Program.
Enough is surely enough, isn’t it time to take control?