Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I think we need to distinguish between delivery and engagement

Something to think about when I am away. I have been in deep and somewhat frantic (due to deadlines) thought over recent months. Too many wee projects developed for different client groups that essentially deliver for the same business needs or benefits as other projects are delivering. To the extent we have things like 'business planning for BME businesses' vs 'business planning for women owned businesses'. And its gone on for ages. And we wonder why we aren't doing so well at reaching certain groups.

Is it the service, or the method of engagement that is problematic, or both? Nonetheless I think we need to distinguish between them. They need to be considered seperately. Otherwise we try and fix the situation with yet more wee projects that reinvent the wheel somewhat.

So I reckon that there should be a marked distinction between increasing engagement and improving delivery in business support:

- Engagement – is the method in which RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY seeks to raise demand for support; recruit clients to services, systems, initiatives and programmes of support; and linking clients and demand to the supply of support. Some particular types of entrepreneurs and businesses will need different methods and levels of engagement. Selecting the most appropriate level and type of engagement will recruit the clients that RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY wishes to assist into a transaction for business support services (whether standard pan-Your area programmes or specific assistance tailored to groups of businesses or individuals).
- Delivery – is what RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY’s ‘service offer’ is in terms of programmes, initiatives and services. It involves the design of programmes, services and delivery mechanisms to assist businesses.

Some critical questions to ask about engagement and delivery include the following:

- Is the current low market penetration in certain client groups due to faults in the way in which RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY engages with, and recruits clients, or with the services that are on offer?
- It may be the case that RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY can deliver a fairly standard range of programmes and service to a diverse range of clients with similar business needs and market failures, if only it had a better performing engagement and client recruitment performance
- Development agencies can target businesses both by their specific needs as a business, and by particular client groups. RDA/YOUR DEVELOPMENT AGENCY could do one, or the other, or both over its portfolio of clients and services.


At 7:49 pm, Anonymous Michael said...

Pre question to your critical questions, why the obsession with measuring the RDA or its contractors engagement with customers in the first place? we do so because we lack the imagination the think of other ways of measuring effectiveness. The goal should be to raise engagement of businesses in the wider market of business services, the market enabling role, but instead mesurements become stuck on what the RDA did, or can claim credit for.

So for your trip, which I hope you enjoy, perhaps think over why you want to measure engagement in the first place and whose purpose is it serving?

At 2:53 am, Blogger Angry Economist said...

The engagement thing is in direct response to a RDA trying to invent lots of ways and new projects for different client groups, because they feel that these client groups don't use their services enough.

My proposal is that this might be because the groups aren't engaging with providers, or that services are not marketed or promoted to groups appropriately, rather than the services such as business advice being bad or poor, or unsuited to groups.

Its basically another means of assessing whether the group isn't interested in the small business advice because it is not appropriate or nor good, or that the service is not marketed to them appropriately.

Not proposing to use it as a means of measuring effectiveness at all really more as a means of being more effective - trying to stop people inventing hundreds of projects doing basically the same thing but for lots of different client groups.

e.g. if we have a good venture capital scheme that is very well aligned with the market and market failure, but no businesses use it from the asian community - we need to ask why rather than inventing a new asian VC fund. One shortcut may be that we may need to engage with the asian business community better a) to understand them more thoroughly and b) to flog them the VC fund.

Basically its the idea that its not necessarily new products or services needed for certain business groups, but better salespersonship of existing services to these groups. And the services can be in either the public or private sector too. Many people, where I work, don't get this, but want to create a proliferation of wee projects.

And this is just one possible answer - not the answer to everything.

Agree with you about raising engagement of businesses in wider market for business services totally.

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