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What is a Service Plan?

In the past few months based on the requests of clients I have undertaken significant research into the use and implementation of service plans. To my surprise, despite councils being awarded core asset management the quantity and quality of service plans leave a lot to be desired. Service plans across Australia vary in content. It is clear based on observation that many local government authorities are confused as to what a service plan is and what it is intended to do.

I can only conclude that the apparent confusion is possibly due to a number of factors or their combination such as:

  •  A lack of definition of a service plan;
  • The consulting industry not selling the concept well; and
  • People not understanding the concept.

So what is a service plan? The following is my interpretation having been on the MAV STEP program for many years and at the time the service plan concept was being developed. The intent of the service plan is to bring together the service managers and asset managers to discuss and agree on the services provided and the assets and asset related activities required to support the services.

In reality the service plan should come before the asset management plan as the policies and strategies should drive how the assets supporting the services are to be managed. In practice however the asset management plans have been developed to enable asset management to be implemented and developed within local government. The service plan will also have inputs from other areas such as:

  • Service strategies;
  • Results of environmental scanning;
  • Results of consultation;
  • Management of assets and their performance;
  • Performance of the services; and
  • Government policy and demographic data.

The above inputs are identified in the following diagram:

serviceService Plan 10 Year Outlook

In essence, the service managers will document based on their experience and requirements the service to be provided while the asset managers will document the assets required to support the service and the funding needed to manage the assets in the future.

Taking a holistic view a service plan should have a 5 to 10 year outlook and reviewed every three years to identify the progress and the activities needed to support the plan’s progress.

In most instances within local government the services are clear and can be articulated effectively. Examples of these services include:

Recreation (Passive and active);

  • Maternal and child health;
  • Independent living;
  • Early years development;
  • Residential services; and
  • Community development.

Where difficulty arrives in determining the services is generally in the engineering field where the asset manager and the service manager can be the same person and the assets directly provide the service. Examples of these services include:

  • Transportation (roads, footpaths, cycle paths); and
  • Water management (stormwater, recycling, irrigation, water harvesting).

From an asset’s perspective the service is often thought of by the asset manager as roads, drainage, buildings etc. However this should not be the case as we need to look at the service as what the assets are providing or supporting. It becomes even more complicated with buildings as buildings pare inherent in the support of many services and one building may support multiple services. A service plan however should not focus on the buildings; but what the buildings need to provide to support the service for example number square metres per person, capacity, flexibility, ambience etc…

Many authorities already produce service strategies and service documents to some degree. Consideration should be given to providing the asset requirements from the consultation with the asset managers into these documents. This would be the easiest way to produce the service plans whilst bringing together the service managers and asset managers. This would negate the need in the minds of service managers to create another layer of documentation.

In summary, I trust this blog provides sufficient information to enable local government personnel to develop appropriate service plans to meet their needs. If you need assistance feel free to contact me on the phone number on this website.