Services Options Appraisal
What we deliver
Assurance of the most cost-effective and operationally efficient service options. Our experience of optimising over 500 complex supplier relationships, means our appraisal will provide you with visibility of the most effective service options.
How you will benefit
Options clarity. You will gain clarity through independent evidencing of the key pros and cons of your current service arrangements, whether they are in-house, provided externally (outsourced) or operating a hybrid model (combined in-house/external), and of the likely benefits (or not) new service options should provide.
Certainty of operational and commercial risks. Exiting from current service arrangements and transitioning into new arrangements has many risks. We will assure you have end-to-end visibility of these key risks and outline the the mitigations you can quickly put into place.
Business case confidence. Our approach assures an objective, evidence-based confirmation of the optimum delivery model for your service(s) and robust foundations for developing and finalising your Business Case.
Key elements of the BPG Options Appraisal methodology
Options Appraisal Overview
An options appraisal allows a number of different delivery model options to be explored and evaluated against a set of agreed criteria, leading to the selection of the preferred option. It can be conducted once the business outcomes and objectives for the services have been clearly articulated, socialised with key stakeholders and agreed.
To evaluate the delivery model options, three main themes for investigation are used:
- Desirability – the degree to which each option meets the strategic objectives and priorities of stakeholders
- Viability – the degree to which each option is financially viable and sustainable
- Feasibility – the degree to which each option can be implemented.
These themes are mapped to specific criteria against which each option is evaluated. This leads to a final recommendation about the preferred delivery model that can then be taken forward to the business case.
Why undertake a Services Options Appraisal?
An Options Appraisal provides the opportunity to organisations make an informed and evidence-based decision on how to deliver key services. It does this by considering the relative advantages and disadvantages of a number of different delivery model options (including the current way in which the service is delivered).
The appraisal methodology helps you to consider the relative desirability, viability and feasibility of the different options, and to answer the following questions:
- Are there better ways to achieve your objectives?
- Are there better ways to use the resources available?
- Is this the best way to achieve the desired outcomes?
An options appraisal can be helpful in the following ways:
- It provides a clear outcome by identifying a preferred model of delivery, which can then be developed in greater detail
- The process can be used to engage with key stakeholders and identify priorities from their perspective
- It can raise difficult and important questions at an early stage.
While the Options Appraisal is important in helping to identify a preferred option, you will not necessarily be able to resolve all of the questions by the end of this stage – this is to be expected.
Summary of the process
The process of undertaking the options appraisal consists of several important activities. If there are significant time constraints, it is possible for some of these activities to take place in parallel, allowing the process to be completed within a shorter time frame.
Developing a long-list of alternative delivery model options
The range of possible options will be informed by several different sources including:
- the case for change
- the case for any externalisation (third party private or other public sector service delivery specialist providers)
- any requirements of the particular service functions
- evidence and examples from across similar examples in your own sector and beyond.
Market analysis and assumptions to underpin appraisal
To undertake the appraisal, it is necessary to conduct some analysis of the supplier market within which the delivery model will operate, and to explore other relevant areas. These could be proposed funding levels (including any anticipated savings targets), evidence of unmet need and trading opportunities/external funding opportunities.
Developing assessment criteria
Development of a set of criteria, allowing each option to be consistently tested, is most effective when a range of stakeholders are involved. It is not just the criteria themselves that need to be developed, but also an understanding of how important each one is (this is often referred to as the relative weighting) and the definition of good and bad for each option (often known as the scoring mechanism).
Identifying gateway criteria
These are the most important criteria which can be used to quickly identify any options that are unsuitable. Typically 2 to 4 criteria from the full list are usually identified as gateway criteria.
Developing a shortlist of options
Applying the gateway criteria to the long-list of options allows you to identify a shortlist of options which can be taken forward and developed in more detail. This means you can target your efforts at the most appropriate options.
Developing propositions for each of the shortlisted options
Each of the shortlisted options should be developed in more detail. This will enable you to consider each option in greater depth.
Objectively scoring each of the shortlisted options
Each of the shortlisted options will then be scored against each of the criteria. You should identify a team representing different perspectives to undertake the scoring, or involve external advisors, to ensure that the assessment is as objective as possible. Record comments and points of discussion during the scoring exercise for future reference, as memories can fade as to ‘why’ certain decisions or action were or were not taken.
Identifying the preferred option(s) for further investigation
At the end of the options appraisal you will have an overall score for each option. This should be interpreted carefully to identify the preferred option and a rationale prepared which explains why this is the preferred option.
Each of these activities is described in greater detail in the remaining sections of this webpage.
Step 1 : Scoping the options
Typical delivery model options that might be considered for your services are listed below, and can be outlined in greater detail as required. The delivery model options are:
- remaining in house with some potential re-engineering (this should always be included as the status quo)
- outsourcing (to an existing social enterprise or charity; or to a for-profit provider)
- joint venture (potentially involving ownership and control by a range of stakeholders including (but not limited to) staff, the council, community agencies)
Where a central or local government body is having an options appraisal, then you would also usually consider:
- Local Authority Trading Company (commonly referred to as a LATC)
- Public Service Mutual (commonly referred to as a PSM or mutual)
When identifying a long-list of options for delivery of your services, the following aspects should be taken into account:
The strategic case for change
The internal rationale for changing the method of service delivery. This could include factors such as the:
- your organisation’s strategic plan
- desire to deliver improved value for money for shareholders or if you are a public body, for your citizens/service users
- potential for your services to be delivered in collaboration with additional services from other organisations.
The case for externalisation (using a third party service provider)
The rationale for delivering the services outside of your own organisation and whether this lends itself to any particular models.
Requirements of particular service functions
Whether there are specific service functions that would suit some models more than others.
Evidence and examples from elsewhere
Services are increasingly being delivered in new ways and you should consider examples of innovative models being used elsewhere when developing your long-list of options.
The range of options identified are likely to sit along a spectrum of ownership and control which, at one end, will be entirely with your organisation (for example an in-house service), and at the other end, entirely outside of it (such as an outsourced/externalised service).
It’s important to create a long-list that reflects all of the available options to you. This helps you to keep the options appraisal process robust and objective.
Step 2 : Underpinning the appraisal; Early market engagement/analysis
You will need to make sure the options appraisal is based on realistic assumptions. Some initial research should be carried out to understand the market context in which the delivery model will operate. The findings from the needs analysis should also be considered at this stage.
It is also important to consider likely future funding levels by your organisation (including any savings targets), as well as any potential trading opportunities and/or external funding opportunities that may exist.
Step 3 : Developing assessment criteria
Using assessment criteria for the options appraisal provides you with a consistent framework to analyse each delivery model option. As outlined in section 1, you should use three main themes for investigation – desirability, viability and feasibility.
These three themes mean you can develop an options appraisal scoring framework where each area is equally important, even if the number of criteria identified for each is different. For example, it may only be possible to identify three criteria to test feasibility, but there may be ten criteria to test desirability.
Stakeholders may, however, feel that one theme is more important than the others. The process allows you to allocate a greater weighting to one theme.
The development of the assessment criteria
The development of the assessment criteria is often undertaken in a workshop format. This provides an opportunity to engage important stakeholders in the assessment process. Collective thinking and discussion of the three themes is likely to bring to the surface any underlying concerns, motivations, or questions that stakeholders have.
After you have identified your initial set of assessment criteria, it is important to define these further through 2 further steps:
A weighting representing the relative importance should be assigned to each criterion. This is usually a number between 0 and 10, with 10 representing an extremely important criterion and 0 representing one that isn’t important. It’s important to develop a range of weightings, making sure that not every criterion is rated of high importance.
Scoring mechanism – what do good and bad look like
A definition to determine a high and low score for each criterion should be created. This is most easily done by envisaging the scenarios that would warrant either an extremely high or extremely low score.
Step 4 : Identifying gateway criteria
After you have developed the full set of assessment criteria, it is usually relatively easy to identify a small subset of gateway criteria. These are make or break criteria – should an option not meet most or all of the criteria, the option drops out of the appraisal process.
Gateway criteria are applied at an early stage of the options appraisal to refine the list of delivery model options that progress to the main body of the appraisal.
The example provided above would be considered a gateway criterion, as it has been allocated the highest possible weighting of 10 points.
Step 5 : Developing a shortlist of options
Having identified gateway criteria, these can be used to rapidly identify a shortlist of options.
This step involves assessing each option against the gateway criteria to determine whether they should progress to the long-list or be discounted at an early stage. This process requires you to assess whether each long-listed option passes or fails each gateway criterion.
Having determined the outcome for all options in the long-list, this will lead to the development of a shortlist of options that are worth further consideration.
Step 6 : Developing propositions for each shortlisted option
Having clearly identified a number of shortlisted options that meet the gateway criteria, the next step is to develop propositions for each of these options. You will need to consider a number of important areas. The main characteristics of each option should be outlined, including:
- the required level of your organisation’s ownership / control over the service
- the intended level of ownership and control from various stakeholder groups, including different levels of staff
- the governance structure through which the ownership of the service will be expressed.
A high-level financial model should be developed, informed by the proposed function of the services and market analysis information. You will have already collected some of this during the case for change (stage 2) and case for externalisation (stage 3).
A high-level consideration of the important technical features for each model should be undertaken. These include:
- the anticipated procurement route
- proposed contract management arrangements
- back-office services, in terms of whether the option will be required to continue to run these in-house, or whether these can be procured from the open market
- asset transfer arrangements relating to property, equipment and other relevant assets (including maintenance responsibilities)
- staff transfer arrangements
- pensions and redundancy liability transfer arrangements
Step 7 : Objectively scoring each shortlisted option
After you have developed a proposition for each option, the next step is to objectively score each option. This can be done in a number of ways. A collaborative process, such as a workshop, which draws on input from a number of stakeholders, is likely to build the greatest level of consensus and promote further buy-in to any potential recommendations.
Each option must be scored against each criterion. This should be done with the previously agreed scoring definitions available for reference. Sometimes the most logical way to structure the scoring is to assess each model against a particular criterion in one go. This can help to make sure that you are applying a degree of objectivity and consistency when looking through a number of models and criteria in a single exercise.
If this process is being undertaken with multiple stakeholders, it may be preferable to ask all stakeholders to individually consider a particular criterion or model, and then to discuss the results as a group before coming to a final consensus on the appropriate score. This helps to avoid ‘group-think’ creeping in.
Once the scoring is complete, the results should be entered into a spreadsheet which uses the pre-agreed weightings along with the scores to calculate a percentage score for each option.
Step 8 : Identifying the preferred option(s) for further investigation
At this stage, you should have a percentage score for each model. This score can be understood as representing the degree to which each model satisfies the criteria you have chosen. It follows that, at a first glance, the model with the highest score represents the strongest fit with the criteria.
At this stage, it is important not to accept the score that has been generated without asking some further questions. In particular, where a number of options may have scored particularly close to each other, further consideration is warranted. In this instance, differences in scoring between the models should be closely examined to ascertain the precise reason. It may become obvious, for example, that one option has scored well against desirability but negatively against feasibility, with another option reversing these scores. This should then be explored further before deciding on a preferred option.
Should 2 or more options still be scored very closely together, we recommend including both of them within the business case process. This will allow you to further analyse both options, before one of them is identified as the preferred option.
Services Options Appraisal is only one element of the BPG ‘Optimise’ method
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