Strategic planning in the public sector
Performance management software can facilitate the strategic planning cycle and make the process a whole lot easier.
Do you experience challenges during your annual strategic planning cycle? Is your strategic plan and annual performance plan easily approved and passed through the legislature in time for the commencement of implementation from day one of the fiscal year? Are you happy with your strategic objective measures of performance and, more importantly, is your plan going to ensure your organisation is not only compliant when audited, but sustainable in the long-term? Most relevant, however, will your plan result in the expected level of service by your customers, including both public sector and political leaders?
“Deploying the right performance management system can address the above questions and many other challenges observed over the past 20 years, in both government and public entity strategic planning cycles,” says Bruce Moepye, Managing Director of Gen2 Enterprise Services.
Experience has shown that most public sector planning starts far too late in the fiscal year, resulting in the planning process being rushed and planners facing intense pressure to meet deadlines. For public sector strategic planners, the annual process is all too often a tiresome and stressful process, while trying to co-ordinate a multitude of stakeholders who need to be involved in various parts of the process.
Government’s planning requirements are frequently changed and are becoming more stringent to ensure not only sustainable performance, but valued service delivery to all people in South Africa. Strategic planning documents must also be aligned to higher level plans such as the National Development Plan, and Provincial Growth and Development Strategies, and an ongoing stream of directives. Equally importantly, these documents must also inform lower-level plans that can be cascaded in a logical manner. “This fundamental planning principle is critical for government-wide performance improvement,” explains Moepye.
Observations made during numerous strategic planning projects are that many public entities appear to be struggling to understand the government’s planning framework stipulations. These include the Theory of Change, the Logic Model/Logic Framework, Balanced Scorecards and even Management by Objectives (MBO). There is also increasing emphasis being placed on using Activity Based Costing (ABC) during the planning and budgeting process, owing to the severe austerity measures being imposed by government across all classes of expenditure. This is in line with the National Treasury’s initiative to conduct performance expenditure reviews within government departments and public entities where service delivery performance versus expenditure issues have arisen.
Senior managers face many challenges in the planning process. Observations over years of providing strategic planning support have revealed that it often takes a long time for entities to comprehensively adopt planning methodologies prescribed by government. A case in point is the Logical Framework, introduced in 2007, with which many public entities still struggle to comply, as they do with the more recent Theory of Change approach.
The annual planning cycle does not necessarily have to be like this.
A performance management software application is able to guide the strategic planning process, including five-year and annual plan development, by utilising a series of templates that conform to government standards and legislative/regulatory requirements. “This template-driven approach enables the strategic planning process to be easily managed by planning, monitoring and evaluation personnel.”
Deploying performance management software should enable government entities to be far less dependent on consultants during the entire planning cycle, while still ensuring compliance.
Finally, deciding what to measure to enable effective performance delivery is a challenge every strategic planner faces. “Choosing meaningful indicators that are S-M-A-R-T (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) to drive performance will ensure sustainable performance, rather than selecting measures and targets that are easy to achieve for the sake of compliance,” he advises.
Read more about performance management solutions specifically for public sector here.