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Improving operational efficiency at Plan UK

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Improving operational efficiency at Plan UK

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Operational review for the UK organisation of a global children’s charity

Plan UK has been experiencing a period of significant growth and wanted to review its operational effectiveness and seek the improvements that would support the sustainability of further growth.

Plan is a global children’s charity that has worked for over 75 years with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. With 8,000 staff and a presence in 68 countries across the world, Plan empowers children, families and entire communities to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.

Plan UK is one of 20 national organisations that support programmes, raise funds, campaign, and manage sponsorship relationships to fulfil Plan’s work. Over the last 6 years Plan UK has trebled its income and staff numbers have more than doubled.

In 2010 the organisation was restructured and a new tier of management was introduced to maintain the effectiveness of the rapidly growing charity. However the Senior Management Team at Plan UK felt that they could make further improvements. Then feedback from the 2011 employee survey reinforced their view and confirmed that the priority was to improve decision making.

Verve Consulting was appointed by Plan UK to review the decision making processes across the organization, then devise and implement a standard methodology to achieve improved clarity and transparency in decision making.

Angela Beerman, Director of Human Resources explains: “We engaged Verve following a tender process because Verve showed the right balance between the vision and the practical issues. Verve demonstrated a clear grasp of the key needs and we felt confident that Verve would be able to lead the project and deliver solutions within the budget constraints and demanding timescales.”

Working closely with the senior management team and the departmental heads, Verve documented the current situation and identified the main issues as responsibility for decisions, delegation and communication. Through a series of workshops with representatives from all the employee levels, the issues were addressed and the way forward agreed. Verve then developed a top line decision making map, a decision tool covering accountabilities, responsibilities and communication, and an implementation plan.

Director of Human Resources, Angela Beerman continues: “Because this project involved cultural change and the introduction of a new methodology, it has been invaluable having objective input from someone outside the organization.  Verve’s input also ensured the workshops were productive and engendered enthusiasm in the participants. The work Verve has done is making a difference already at the senior levels in the organization and the decision making tool gives us clarity for our plans and business cases.”

Angela recognizes that Plan UK still has work to do in embedding the outputs from the project right across the organization, however she is delighted that the latest employee survey is already showing great improvements in satisfaction scores for the management practices that were in the scope of the Verve project.

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Angela added,”It is great news that we have the improved employee survey results as evidence of the successful outcome of the work Verve has done. I have thoroughly enjoyed Verve’s direct, realistic and enthusiastic approach. Verve’s drive and determination kept us focused and the project on track to meet the deadlines. Verve delivered what they said they were going to deliver.”


Accelerating progress for YoungDementia UK Homes

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Strategy development for a new dementia charity

Following the appointment of a new chairman, YoungDementia UK Homes wanted to accelerate progress toward the establishment of a care home for people with young onset dementia.

YoungDementia UK Homes is an Oxfordshire-based charity established in 2009, by YoungDementia UK, to focus on the delivery of a residential home offering long-term accommodation and support for people with young onset dementia.

Geoff Shepherd was appointed Chairman of YoungDementia UK Homes in May 2012. Prior to Geoff’s appointment the charity had been exploring various options for developing the home, without much success. Such an undertaking is a complex and ambitious capital project and, without full-time resources, progress had been slow. Geoff recognised that the charity needed to change the way it was working for the project to succeed.

Verve Consulting was appointed by YoungDementia UK Homes to work with the charity on the vision for the Home and on development of the strategy. Chairman, Geoff Shepherd explains: “We engaged Verve, following a recommendation by one of our Trustees, based on Verve’s reputation for strategy development and track record in improving the commercial efficiency of not-for-profit organizations.”

Working closely with Geoff and the Board of Trustees, Verve managed the strategy process, preparing and facilitating a workshop that covered discussion and agreement on the vision for the Home, the action plan that would enable the tight deadlines to be met, and a business case.

Geoff continues: “Verve Consulting’s facilitation of the strategy session, with their action-oriented approach, empathy for the charity’s cause and great sense of humour, meant that all the Trustees felt able to contribute to reviewing progress and agreeing a plan on the way forward. Verve helped us identify the activities that were critical to achieving our aim and then kept us focused on those key action points.”

The charity has made impressive progress since Verve’s involvement and, although Geoff recognizes that he and the Trustees still have much work to do, he is pleased with the results so far: “We have 2 key positive outcomes as a result of the work with Verve. We have appointed a full-time Director with responsibility for delivering the project and, thanks to Verve’s commercial expertise, we have produced an up-to-date business case for the Home.”

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Geoff said, “Working with Verve was a very, very invigorating experience. They have a sound commercial approach and are results oriented, which was a winning combination for us. We would not have made the progress we did without Verve and overall I rate Verve’s involvement a 5-star contribution.”


Ambitious new strategy for YoungDementia UK

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Strategy development for an award-winning dementia charity

Following new government initiatives on the delivery of dementia services and changes within the charity, YoungDementia UK decided to review its mission and develop an ambitious new strategy to ensure the charity continues to be well placed in providing a full range of support services for people with young onset dementia and their families.

YoungDementia UK is an Oxfordshire-based charity providing award-winning services for younger people with dementia. Since 1996 the charity has provided support and services for people with young onset dementia, their families and friends. YoungDementia UK was an Oxfordshire charity of the year finalist in 2011 and won a European Foundation’s Initiative on Dementia (EFID) award in 2012.

YoungDementia UK has built a strong reputation in the field of young onset dementia for the quality of support and services it provides. However, following changes in the chairmanship and Board of Trustees of the charity, and the potential changes in the delivery of dementia services as a result of government initiatives, the Board of Trustees together with Director, Tessa Gutteridge, felt the time was right to review the charity’s future strategy.

Verve Consulting was appointed by YoungDementia UK to work with the charity on the development of the strategy. Director, Tessa Gutteridge explains: “We decided to engage Verve because we wanted someone who was independent of the Board, but who had a proven track record of understanding strategy and the charity sector.”

Working closely with Tessa and the Board of Trustees, Verve managed the strategy process, including setting up and facilitating a workshop that covered the mission, strategic options and development of a new 3 year strategy.

Tessa continues: “Verve Consulting’s involvement meant that we were able to commit quality time to discussion about where we wanted to take the charity in the future. With Verve’s knowledge of the charity sector they were able to challenge our assumptions and help us get clarity into our thinking. And finally, Verve’s experience with strategy work ensured we focused on achievements, rather than the process, to give us a far better outcome.”

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall role, Tessa added, “Verve’s contribution provided us with a number of benefits, but above all their involvement excited and motivated the trustees about planning and the future. Everyone was bubbling about the workshop afterwards and it’s up to us to keep that going now. It’s a period of significant change in dementia care and we now have a great opportunity to build on our reputation.”


Procurement Strategy saves over £500,000 per annum for Anthony Nolan

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Procurement Strategy Development and Implementation for Anthony Nolan

As part of a new, ambitious five-year strategy, Anthony Nolan reviewed its commercial operations early in 2011 and identified procurement as an area that needed improvement if it were to achieve its goals.

Anthony Nolan is a very successful charity whose mission is saving lives. The charity created the world’s first register of people willing to donate their stem cells, saving lives by matching donors to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood-related disorders. It now runs the UK’s largest and most successful stem cell register, with over 400,000 potential donors, and set up the UK’s first dedicated facility for cord blood banking and research.

With an external spend of over £6million, in a turnover of around £30million, Anthony Nolan identified the procurement of services and supplies as a potential opportunity to make significant savings that could contribute to its mission of saving lives. Anthony Nolan considered appointing a Procurement Manager but, unsure that the savings could be realised, decided a permanent post could not be afforded.

Verve Consulting had already worked with Anthony Nolan on facilitating the production of the charity’s commercial strategies in 2011 and began talking to Alan How, Finance and Resources Director of Anthony Nolan, about its procurement strategy.

Following proposals from Verve Consulting, and satisfied with Verve’s procurement credentials, Alan appointed Verve for a first phase trial project of up to 3 months: “We know Verve well, trust them and like their outcomes. We decided to engage Verve for a trial procurement project with the assurance that the cost of the project would be covered by savings made, or the charges for the project would be reduced.”

Working closely with Anthony Nolan’s staff, Verve analyzed the procurement processes and examined the procurement spend in great detail. Verve then developed a procurement plan that identified where savings could be made and, perhaps most importantly, confirmed that savings were achievable by undertaking a “quick win” procurement assignment that covered the cost of this first phase trial project.

Achieving the quick win involved Verve in gaining an in-depth understanding of the spend and existing suppliers for the service selected, applying procurement techniques to the buying process, identifying a range of strategic buying options and the competitive position of potential suppliers, then launching a series of request for quotations (RFQ’s). This detailed and methodical process led to a successful outcome for Anthony Nolan with immediate savings made available.

Having identified in the trial that savings were possible and achievable, and with the price of the first phase covered by the quick-win cost savings, Anthony Nolan awarded Verve a six-month strategic consulting project to implement the procurement plan.

In the implementation phase Verve systematically applied procurement techniques to the areas where the greatest possible savings had been identified. This covered a range of services and materials bought by Anthony Nolan including the recruitment of donors, the laboratory analysis of donor samples, specialist clinical couriers and the collection of stem cells from donors.

Verve established relationships with all the key stakeholders responsible for buying the services and materials in the scope of the procurement plan, ran workshops with the in-house teams to pull together a coherent approach to the potential suppliers of each of the services or materials, allocated clear responsibilities for specific suppliers, set up tender processes, and negotiated with suppliers. The implementation of the plan has led to the successful delivery of annual savings of over £500,000.

Alan How, Finance and Resources Director of Anthony Nolan explains, “Verve has delivered an extremely successful project for Anthony Nolan. The result is a large annual cost saving that allows us to expand our services and help Anthony Nolan to achieve our goal of doubling the number of lives to whom we give the chance of life.”

Verve Consulting’s work with Anthony Nolan on the procurement strategy has helped the charity appreciate the importance of sound commercial principles and attention to detail in obtaining maximum value from its supply chain. With those philosophies in place, and proof that savings can be made, Anthony Nolan is now confident in recruiting a Procurement Manager. In this next phase of the development of the procurement strategy, Verve will continue to be involved, both in the recruitment of the Procurement Manager and in the subsequent mentoring of the procurement function.

Summing up Verve Consulting’s overall contribution to the procurement strategy, Alan added, “Verve brings a maturity of approach and a high level of professionalism that has achieved successful outcomes within a contained cost, which is extremely important for a charity like Anthony Nolan.”


Maximizing Commercial Efficiency for Anthony Nolan

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Implementing Commercial Strategies for Anthony Nolan

When Anthony Nolan began transforming its organisation to turn an ambitious five-year strategy into reality, the charity identified the need to maximize its commercial efficiency to meet its challenging goals.

Anthony Nolan is a very successful charity whose mission is saving lives. The charity created the world’s first register of people willing to donate their stem cells, saving lives by matching donors to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood-related disorders. It now runs the UK’s largest and most successful stem cell register, with over 400,000 potential donors, and has the UK’s first dedicated facility for cord blood banking and research.

Recognizing the need to maximize every penny it earns and everything it spends to ensure it fulfils its mission of saving lives, Anthony Nolan chose Verve Consulting to develop the strategy for maximizing the commercial efficiency of the charity’s key activities, based on previous successful work with the charity by Verve consultants and their proven track record in commercial strategy development.

Working collaboratively with the in-house teams, Verve Consulting initially developed a vision and principles to guide the organization’s commercial activities within the framework of the overall vision and mission of Anthony Nolan.

Verve ran focus groups and opportunity workshops to establish the direction, clear priorities and a commercial plan of action. The work undertaken included market and competitor research, market and customer analysis, pricing and costing strategies, contract negotiation and reviewing procurement processes.

Finally, the foundations were put into place for the successful continuation of the efficiency programmes with the agreement of a governance structure, and the short and long-term plans for the continued delivery of the commercial improvements.

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan explains, “Verve’s consultants have helped to galvanize our staff, bringing clarity and focus to our work on contracts and procurement. This has allowed us to make more informed decisions on our income and expenditure, generating money which can be spent more efficiently to help us achieve our goals”

Finally, commenting on Verve Consulting’s overall role, Henny added, “Verve has been key to the successful implementation of the commercial strategies, ensuring we maximize the contribution to our mission of every penny we receive or spend”


Turning Strategy into Reality for Anthony Nolan

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Strategy Development and Organizational Effectiveness for Anthony Nolan

Faced with an increasingly competitive market, changing customer requirements and a burning desire to achieve its challenging goals, Anthony Nolan recognized the need for a transformation to turn its ambitious five-year strategy into reality.

Anthony Nolan is a very successful charity whose mission is saving lives. The charity created the world’s first register of people willing to donate their stem cells, saving lives by matching donors to patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood-related disorders. It now runs the UK’s largest and most successful stem cell register, with over 400,000 potential donors, and has the UK’s first dedicated facility for cord blood banking and research.

In 2010, to achieve its challenging goals and save even more lives, Anthony Nolan embarked on strengthening the organization. Verve Consulting was selected to work on the transformation project for the laboratory, because Verve has a proven track record in strategy development and implementation with a deep knowledge of the not-for-profit sector. Equally importantly, Verve demonstrated an understanding of the sensitivities required to work within that environment and relevant scientific expertise.

Working collaboratively with the in-house teams, Verve Consulting began by conducting a review and analysis of the situation with staff, senior management, trustees and customers. Verve then facilitated senior management workshops to evaluate the strategic options arising from the analysis and agree the way forward for the laboratory.

Verve led the production of the business case for the investment required to allow the laboratory to pursue the chosen strategy. As a result of the business case the charity decided to make significant investments in the laboratory, improve the processes to maximize efficiency and reorganize to meet the new challenges.

In the ensuing design phase, Verve worked with Anthony Nolan’s teams to manage the detailed implementation of the strategy. Verve led three work streams covering the new investment in equipment, the design of the new organization and efficiency improvements from contracts and procurement.

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan explains, “Verve’s consultants have made a phenomenal achievement in the time available. Verve established trust with the staff and led a transformational project for the organisation. Verve did a brilliant job. They never let you off the hook, with great determination to keep the project on track.”

Finally, commenting on Verve Consulting’s overall contribution, Henny added, “Working with Verve made a huge difference to our ability to deliver the strategy successfully, helping us to save more lives by halving turnaround times. Because for Anthony Nolan time is of the essence.”


Embracing change

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Major change programme for a UK charity

You know that change is constant, that it’s unavoidable. Some organizations feel permanently exhausted by the sheer amount of change they have to handle.  But you know that the alternative – doing nothing – isn’t an option.  If you let change be forced upon you by the outside world, you’ll always be on the back foot and your people will know you’re not the one really in control.  Embrace change, give the organization the structure, tools skills and support to succeed, and get out of the way while they astonish you with what they can achieve.

This is the story of a UK charity that found change a challenge and a tonic…

This medium sized UK charity had become seriously stuck in its ways – something the new CEO wanted to fix fast.  He set about rejuvinating the organization so that it could get on the front foot with energetic campaigning and effective delivery of advice and support.  He quickly kicked off a large number of new initiatives. But this resulted in as many questions as it did answers!  Why was each initiative important?  How did it all fit together?  Who was doing what?  Initial progress was limited, people were confused.

We worked with the senior management team to pin down the key purpose of each initiative, and to form them into a structured change program.  This meant we could communicate clearly to staff and get them behind the program.  The team also agree common ways of reporting so that progress was clear, and adjustments could be made quickly if an initiative was struggling.

Three years on the charity has increased effectiveness on all fronts; from coverage to impact; and from customer satisfaction to money in the bank.

“They enabled us to shape and drive needed changes through our organization.  The support and challenge provided was invaluable and enabled us to focus on the priorities”  CEO


Shaping up for the future

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Organizational Effectiveness for a Leading UK Charity

Having reviewed front line operations, a leading UK Charity needed to take a hard look at the way the HQ functions worked – particularly in light of increasing economic pressures.

The economic downturn has affected the charity sector as much as anyone else. Falling income from all sources made it essential for this UK Charity to reduce HQ operating costs accordingly. With each division operating in a largely separate way, there were few examples of reuse to ensure economies of scale. Working with Verve, the senior management team carried out an ambitious 3 month programme of strategic reviews, leading to a plan for structuring the organisation to reduce unnecessary costs, balance the budget and rebuild reserves.

As the new organization was rolled out, many structural changes were made and some groups were disbanded.  A program of cost controls and redundancies was also implemented.  Operational management within each division, led by a newly-appointed COO, is driving organisational change, leaving the senior team to concentrate on strategy and managing the external environment.

As the Charity’s CEO said “… Verve gave us a proper business analysis of where we were and what was happening in the outside world. In addition, Verve provided process and a focus on driving through decisions that allowed us to make the changes we needed quickly, keeping the uncertainty for the rest of the workforce to a minimum.”


Unlocking the benefits of change

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Major Change Implementation for a leading UK charity

With a plan and team in place to implement a significant new strategy, a leading UK charity needed programme management and implementation support to make their new strategy a reality.

It was vital to build sustained momentum into the implementation to unlock benefits as fast as possible. Yet business as usual had to be protected during the change phase. This led to Verve being asked to lead and drive key parts of the implementation plan, working alongside the internal team. Verve’s role included training change managers; organising the programme work structure; acting as overall programme managers; and providing specific expertise for key workstreams.

Most changes have been put into practice on time. These include updated processes for bidding, leading to significant new business wins, totalling more than £1.5M.  Services have been broadened and new ways of working are being rolled out. Significantly, new skills have been embedded in the organisation, as well as a real sense of achievement and confidence.

Commenting on this work, the Charity’s CEO said “Verve has demonstrated its value in both hard and soft ‘outcomes’. We have won more than £ 1.5M in business –a ‘hard outcome’, but our Verve consultants have also acted as excellent role models and have helped embed these skills back into the organisation.”


Opportunity in an uncertain environment

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

A new strategy for a leading UK housing charity.

Faced with major changes in statutory funding, our client decided to rethink both its strategy to new government policy and the way it delivers advice services to clients.

Our first step was to build an accurate picture of the current situation. We analysed the potential impact of policy change on the organisation, based on external perceptions and a detailed understanding of market changes.  We then facilitated a major event bringing together managers, executives and trustees to agree a clear strategy. This allowed them to see the external changes as an opportunity to advance their charitable aims instead of seeing the changes as a threat to their core activities.

The Charity has now positioned itself well to retain and grow this segment of funding. This will safeguard its ability to provide more and more diverse services to more clients. Once the new strategy was agreed a 25% increase in funding was won, worth more than £1.5M p.a.

As the charity’s CEO told us “ …working with Verve has been a very positive experience – they manage to tell you the things that are hard to hear and then focus on the way forward. Our Verve consultants were also excellent role models in both the quality of their work and their approach.”