Why you must consider COVID-19 Recovery Plans in your business case

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Public bodies are under pressure to help local communities manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, they need robust business cases to design, launch and accelerate effective response programmes.

Rapidly changing priorities

Shifting public health challenges, including the risk of new COVID-19 variants, upcoming winter waves, and changing budgets, means that decision-making is taking place within a volatile and uncertain environment. This has resulted in business cases being under more pressure than ever to acknowledge the policy and regulatory changes that are taking place across the country, including the Government’s pandemic recovery policies.

Many recent policies build upon the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery strategy (updated July 2020), which outlined specific health, economic and social considerations that inform the strategy to save lives and safeguard livelihoods. One of these includes the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ policy (released March 2021), which commits to investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation.

Additionally, the most recent Spending Review highlighted the key recovery themes of ‘Building A Stronger Future’, ‘Levelling Up’ and the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. Business case teams are now exploring how to display awareness of these policies for the next financial year as investments in infrastructure, skills and innovation take place.

As a result of these recent plans and policies, many business case teams have been left asking themselves: How do we factor in these policies to strengthen our business case?

Using ‘Build Back Better’ policy to build better business cases

To demonstrate awareness of Recovery initiatives, business cases should refer to the appropriate strategies and show strong cross-Whitehall strategic alignment where relevant.

The ‘Build Back Better’ policy is one such document to refer to. It can be summarised under three headings:

  1. Infrastructure – Commitment to stimulate short term economic activity and drive long term productivity improvements through investment in broadband, roads, rail and cities against a Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the Government’s Levelling Up objective.
  2. Skills – Commitment to support productivity growth through skills and training reforms, including additional investment in further education, and continued focus on apprenticeships.
  3. Innovation – Development of creative ideas and technologies will be incentivised through more funding and development of a supportive regulatory landscape, with a focus on supporting the growth of SMEs.

While the ‘Build Back Better’ policies represent several core themes of the Government’s response to the recovery, further consideration could also be made around similar policies as they are announced in the upcoming financial year and beyond.

Why is COVID-19 Recovery strategy important for business cases, and how can Recovery implications be evidenced in a business case?

A Procurement Policy Note was published in September 2020 which outlined Covid-19 Recovery considerations to demonstrate social value in the award of central government contracts. This directly impacts business cases, as they essential to approving large investments in Public Sector bodies.

Covid-19 Recovery implications on business cases can be structured using the five-case model:

  • Strategic case

Demonstrate strategic alignment with cross-Whitehall COVID-19 Recovery strategies such as Build Back Better. Consider how your programme is supporting the strategies and what evidence you can show. For example, BEIS’s Outcome Delivery Plan: 2021 to 2022 states fighting coronavirus as a priority outcome.

According to the Public Procurement Note of September 2020, alignment to Covid-19 Recovery strategy can be demonstrated by outlining how the business case will help to achieve the policy outcome of helping local communities to manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19. This could be through creation of employment, re-skilling opportunities, providing support to businesses and organisations or supporting physical and mental health of people affected by COVID-19.

  • Economic case

Restoring the wellbeing of individuals and the economic health of the country remains a top priority for the Government. Articulating a sound, evidence-based justification for investment will require creative thinking about performance metrics to prove tangible public value for money.

Heightened use of non-financial quantitative and qualitative metrics, potentially from novel datasets to measure baselines and impact, may be required in business cases. Workshops that consider the Public Value Framework can also be utilised to generate ideas about data collection and analysis.

  • Financial case

During the pandemic, the Government spent heavily. It has stated that it cannot continue to borrow to spend at the current level. Once the economy recovers, the Government will have a responsibility to return to a sustainable fiscal position.

This may force departments to rethink their funding options and business case teams will need to work closely with finance teams to understand current and upcoming funding constraints.

Due to this, any programmes which can be designed to be low cost and high impact are likely to fare well in Investment Committees.

  • Commercial case

The Government fast-tracked procurement processes during the pandemic with as many as 1 in 5 awarded COVID-19 contracts containing ‘red flags’. A return to normal procedure will be accompanied by calls for higher scrutiny.

Therefore, there must be certainty and assurance that the chosen commercial route is the most appropriate one to stand up to enhanced scrutiny in the future. The ability to vary spend utilising call-off contracts or minimum spend clauses should be considered to maintain flexibility of allocated budget.

  • Management

Another factor may be a further shift to more Agile management approaches. This is already the preferred management method for digital projects in Government that require flexibility.

Therefore, Agile could become more prevalent across all projects, and the associated business cases should be delivered using Agile ways of working, clearly identifying the deliverables and milestones that can be expected during the discovery, alpha, beta and live phases of the proposed project.

Concluding thoughts and point of view

Public Sector spending is the highest since World War Two, while GDP has declined the most severely in 300 years. To provide assurance amidst this heightened uncertainty, business cases should look to display an awareness of the wider recovery policies being proposed, such as those detailed in the Build Back Better policy, so that they provide confidence in a solid return on investment and demonstrate public value for money. With many COVID-19 allocated budgets being dependent on strong business cases, Public Sector bodies should now aim to include Recovery policy awareness throughout all five cases in order to maximise their chances of gaining approval.

Capgemini Invent are currently supporting business case development across the Public Sector, and can provide support to your business case, factoring in the current COVID-19 recovery policies, shaping the content across the five cases and ensuring alignment with Treasury standards. For further information, contact us at Jonathan.Pepper@capgemini.com

Author


Laura d’Souza – Public Sector Consultant

Laura is a consultant at Capgemini Invent. Her previous experience includes working with clients across health, local government, central government and arm’s length bodies to formulate strategy, improve management practices and implement new operations.

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