Twelve years ago, I made the shift from corporate for-profit to the community services not-for-profit sector.
It is hard, of course, to not make comparisons. There are lots of positives but also a few things that puzzle me.
One of those areas is a lack of standardization in particular fields in particular organizations. Now this, of course, could be a gross generalization but comes from my observation, particularly in the early days.
Let’s say you wanted relationship counselling to assist in some marriage issues. You could go to an organization that has, say, 30 counsellors that, depending on who you got, would provide their version of the best counsellor based on that counsellor’s experience, education, skills and intuition.
While this was admirable for the individual, it meant that the organization couldn’t really position itself as providing consistent quality services to clients.
This is very different to, for example, seeking accounting services or legal services or even consulting services from a regional or global organisation – there are various forms of standardization in the methodological approach to these professions increase the level of consistency of service for a particular organisation or brand, no matter which individual was your service provider.
However, there are certainly many seeds sprouting in this area and a substantial amount of research being done across the globe to support the various types of community service work.
This is an enormous change issue for professionals in the field because to date their career in the community services sector is shaped to rely on their personal experience, education, skills and intuitions.
This change issue is a major barrier to any standardization initiative in the field and requires a strong case on why to change:
- Do proposed new “standard” methods help me to deliver a better result for my clients?
- Do I feel like the proposed new “standard” methods support or undermine my experience, education, skills and intuitions?
- How comfortable do I feel following a more “standard” approach rather than just going with my own tried and true methods?
New 'standard' methods rely on a validated and proven evidence base and being able to justify their worth and value.
Developing these methods take time and require the collection of substantial data. There can be a fear about collecting the data, i.e. are clients willing share the information?
Recent research undertaken by Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA) shows that clients are indeed willing to share the data. To be honest, given the complexity of the issues that so many clients have when coming to agencies, for a practitioner to be able to respond in a holistic way the information is needed.
How could an accountant, for example, be expected to create the best tax outcome for me as an individual without asking many personal financial and, sometimes, uncomfortable questions. The same is true (and probably even more the case) of my relationship issues, which are affected by many complicated and inter-dependent factors.
At Athena Software, our expertise is not in practice or service delivery though, it is in supporting community service organisations in their practice, and our way of doing this is supporting community service organisations in their use of Penelope.
To ensure best value for community service organisations, Athena Software has developed the Penelope Excellence Pathways methodology.
The purpose of this methodology is to ensure that our community service clients are able to maximize the benefits from their investment in Penelope, ultimately creating a better outcome for their own clients.
In the development of the Penelope Excellence Pathways methodology, Athena Software stands on the shoulders of giants in I.T. project management and change management to create tailored implementation, upgrade and benefits realization pathways optimally suited to the community services sector from a process and value-for-money perspective.
For Athena Software it is about positioning our clients for success and adding value to their unique service offering.
Because 80 per cent of our approach is standardized, we get to create the real magic with our clients on the other 20 per cent, and that is a real privilege.
If you're interested in finding out how Penelope can help your community services organization, contact us to set up a free demo today!