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Inside the factory – building the delivery machine

Public sector delivery is both complicated and complex, nowhere more so than in the roll out of core mission capability in the law enforcement sector. This is particularly the case in the early stages of any delivery – no matter the scale. Even simply agreeing consensus on scope across multiple independent stakeholder organisations can prove so difficult that getting the project off the ground and into delivery is by far the greatest obstacle to overcome. In this article, Jamie Bentley and Al MacIvor consider how to mobilise the right delivery machine from the outset to address these challenges.

The pressure to ensure value for money across the public sector has never been greater, and the push to make use of enabling services, to deliver once and avoid duplication requires a broad range of stakeholders to engage. Even to get started, we need to first understand and then navigate a broad range of governance, assurance and compliance gates across mission, technical, legal, policy and budgetary stakeholders.

Challenges around securing funding across multiple finance cycles and spending reviews means it’s often the case that the only way to start at all is to start small – with a discovery phase, an experiment or proof of concept. However, this early-stage work risks falling into the ‘valley of death’ if the full complexity of the constraints around implementation isn’t fully understood, and can often stall without a clear route to implementation built in parallel. Al argues “Technology is very rarely the constraining factor preventing successful delivery and while experiments that are focused on simply ‘proving’ technology may be eye catching, unless there’s a firm plan to cross over into sustainable delivery, they may not be the best use of available funds.”

So how do we ensure we understand the environment that we are delivering into from the outset – and create the right delivery machine? We take a systematic and structured approach, considering all factors that may influence delivery to enable us to get the right structures in place to support the project through its full lifecycle from discovery, through delivery and into sustainment.

We consider the structures needed for successful delivery as a ‘factory’; building a machine for delivery which should be treated as a business entity in its own right, with customers, suppliers and its own financial model. This enables us to think beyond the solution being delivered, consider the entirety of what needs to be achieved and how it might be done. By doing so, we can understand the solution in the context of how it will be delivered and mitigate scope for misunderstanding and wasted effort at an early stage.

Although such factories may be temporary, in many cases their lifespans are measured in years rather than months. The factory has its own purpose; to successfully deliver a new solution and as such shares many characteristics of commercial organisations. It has to deliver a solution that meets the needs of its customers or user community, will be developed with inputs from both internal and external suppliers and will require a financial model to support both up-front investment and long term sustainment. As it may not have a long term role to play, treating it as a start-up makes a lot of sense.

We use an adapted version of the Mission Model Canvas, an adaptation of Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas[1], originally developed as a tool to support start-ups rapidly define the core building blocks of their business as part of lean start-up method. This is based on iterative development of the business model, experimenting as you go and is something that we used as part of our planning in Principle One’s own start-up days.

The Mission Model Canvas[2], was originally developed by Steve Blank to support the launch of Hacking for Defense class at Stanford University and provides an adapted version of the original Business Model Canvas, enabling it to be applied directly in the public sector. By focusing on achieving the mission outcome and considering ‘mission beneficiaries’ rather than customers, with a few further changes of emphasis, the Mission Model Canvas gives us an easy way to sketch out the key priorities for our law enforcement customers.

From Jamie’s perspective, as a Business Architect, these tools help him consider not just the end-state operating model but the design of the factory itself. “We have considered how to apply the Mission Model Canvas tool to our factory with its shorter lifespan but covering both an operational mission (safeguarding vulnerable people) and an enabling mission (rapid delivery at minimal cost). An important difference in our Delivery Model Canvas is the treatment of stakeholders (our Key Partners and Beneficiaries), which is driven by how they engage with the factory. We divide these into five segments which helps ensure that our factory provides a value proposition for each significant stakeholder group. This helps us to consider those who will fund, build, assure, integrate, deploy and support new technology; and not just those who will use the capability once it’s delivered.”

For Al, these tools have been invaluable and are now embedded within Principle One’s ways of working. “As a systems engineer, I’m drawn to solving the hardest problems I can find and these are rarely technology driven. If the engineering team is simply focused on a technology build and is isolated or even intentionally shielded from these wider considerations, we shouldn’t be surprised if their build is not fit for purpose or sustainment. By using tools such as the Delivery Model Canvas we can understand the environment in which an engineering factory should operate and build the delivery machine that we need.”


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