In late 2019, our Business Consulting team embarked on a new project for the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Based in the North East of London, Waltham Forest is one of the greenest boroughs north of the River Thames. It’s made up of three neighbourhoods: Chingford in the north, Walthamstow in the centre and Leyton and Leytonstone in the south. One of the most diverse areas on the capital, the borough is home to a total population of 284,000. It was also one of the host boroughs of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The council appointed Mazars to conduct a comprehensive Process and Organisation Design Review. The principle aim of the review was to assess whether the current structure, role and competencies of team members were ‘fit for purpose’ and able to meet the needs of the wider council.
The challenge facing the council
The need for this review arose from a previous external audit, which had identified weaknesses in certain processes and controls. The organisational structures and processes had evolved over time and the council now required an assessment of the team structure, people and capabilities. Some of the council’s current issues included systems not being fully leveraged, manual processes leading to inefficiencies within the team, and management information being time-consuming to collate and not able to produce value add information to the organisation’s decision-makers.
The objectives of our structured assessment were to review the robustness of the processes to ensure that the controls and risk mitigations were in place; document, review and streamline the existing processes with handoffs between individuals and teams, and to provide recommendations of types of monthly or quarterly reports to inform the management of performance and to encourage and enable a culture of continuous improvement.
Helping to identify pain points and processes and systems to ease them
Our Business Consulting team worked with the council’s Finance and Business Support teams to understand and document the state of the current processes to identify key ‘pain points’, which were harming the efficiency of the business.
To do this, we held discussions with key stakeholders, both individually and in workshop settings, to understand their activities and the challenges they face around the processes or controls. We also carried out data analysis to assess process performances and the impact of the council’s challenges. We identified a number of improvement initiatives that were organised into workstreams within a Finance Transformation programme. We were engaged to further develop a Project Management Office (PMO) to support the prioritisation, sequencing and implementation of improvement opportunities.
Identifying quick fixes and longer -term support to drive efficiencies, and spot opportunities that will help with service delivery
Our proposed Transformation Programme and PMO covered short-term fixes to quickly address gaps in controls and immediate audit challenge, system improvements on data input to reduce workload, and policies to assist with driving process compliance, increasing oversight and control.
In terms of process improvements, we found opportunities across the various process areas to reduce duplicated effort, formalise hand-offs and responsibilities and, improve process efficiency. This included training to educate service users and create a cultural change across the whole organisation.
We also suggested that the council build an effective reporting system to provide senior management with insightful Management Information, which did not previously exist within the organisation.
The Programme also focused on developing a long-term strategy for teams to support the alignment of processes and future ERP system requirements.
The project concluded prior to the onset of lockdown amid Covid-19 in late March and certainly helped the organisation better deal with the challenges of remote working.
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