Wessex Federation

The challenge

Five further education colleges were looking to pool their expertise and capacity across all of their support service areas and develop a shared service centre that would improve service whilst reducing costs. The scale of change required to realise benefits was huge and the Association of Colleges (AoC) – who had agreed to sponsor the programme and provide initial funding – held a watchful eye over the programme and demanded a fast return on their investment.

Each college was at different points in their development and their capacity and capability to deliver change differed greatly. The five Principals were united in understanding the need for a change management partner that would support them being bold. One that would relentlessly drive outcomes and promote collaboration across the federation. One that would hold the student at the heart of the programme and build internal capability for the colleges to deliver it.

The result

Development of a federation wide strategic vision and route map for learner facing functions, management information, finance, HR, IT and procurement that would deliver significant financial and non-financial benefits. Implementation of the first ever further education shared service function that enabled:

  • The move to a common federation-wide MI systems architecture, along with a common ‘dashboard’ to deliver benchmark activity across the colleges
  • Shared procurement resources across the federation and the establishment of a joint legal vehicle to house this and other assets
  • Shared HR and IT capabilities and services across the federation, implementing and moving towards a common technological infrastructure and applications portfolio
  • The establishment of common quality improvement resources to harmonise and improve core college processes

What made it successful

  • Collaboration – we provided the environment and tools for maximum cross-college collaboration, encouraging sharing of information and team-working, highlighting and tackling blockers whenever they arose
  • Customer engagement – students were engaged in the workstreams, to ensure they remained at the heart of the programme and to provide them with the opportunity to collaborate with the federation and share their views and knowledge.
  • A relentless focus on outcomes – the focus on student outcomes underpinned the entire programme. To support this, Ignite utilised an ‘impact on outcomes’ model that would show how every functional area was able to make changes and improvements that would flow through to student success
  • Inspiration – we introduced insights around high performing partnerships across a wide range of environments to ensure the federation embedded the leadership, mentality, infrastructure and governance that would enable it to succeed
Can I also say a really big thank you from us all to everyone from Ignite for everything you have helped us to achieve. We most definitely wouldn’t have been able to achieve it without your help, support, cajoling, challenge, and expertise. As you said – Ignite only does success!
Di Roberts

Principal, Brockenhurst College