Planning Portal – A journey from .gov to .co

The business:
Online hub for planning applications and building regulations.
Run by the Dept. of Communities and Local Government until 2016.

The Planning Portal revolutionised the planning application process in the UK. In preparation for part-privatisation, the management sought HGKC’s support during this complex change. Leading a consortium of legal, financial and competency advisors, we’re proud to have assisted an extremely successful transition.

“We wanted to bring experience and expertise to support the management team. HGKC were selected as having the best blend of skills and resources, which included the specialist legal and finance skills. We recognized that having this breadth of support would make life much easier,” Chris Kendall, Director

Challenge: Partner search + transition from public to private enterprise

The primary task was finding the right commercial partner. But given that this has been a Government business since day one, we knew the transition to a new commercial owner would be a complex change, and bring extra challenges in terms of culture, skills and processes. It was vital for management to guide the 40-odd staff, understanding their roles, maintaining morale, and being mentally and functionally prepared themselves.

“I thought the focus would be on helping us find a partner. So I was very surprised at the extra things included around HR support. And in hindsight, this was the most valuable part,” Sarah Chilcott, Deputy Director, Service

Support: Skills, knowledge and confidence to manage complex change

Team HGKC decided to shape the project into two distinct streams:

  • The partner identification and evaluation process with financial and legal support, and
  • Change management support to evolve into stronger commercially minded organisation.

Everything was then structured in project sprints, with lean teams focusing on key individual goals. Sarah Chilcott: “We had a massive amount of work to do in an incredibly short period of time. HGKC led us through, working with each member of the leadership team refining our processes, techniques and in particular our soft skills to manage the change.”

Chris Kendall agrees: “We felt much better prepared and more knowledgeable going into the discussion with our ultimate partners. It gave us the confidence that we could cut it, so we felt we were on an equal footing.”

Progress: Highly successful joint venture and a new planning portal

As expected, the entire project took years of hard work. But the new JV with Terraquest ticks every box including new commercial opportunities and new software skills leading to an exciting new portal. Ultimately it’s also a huge positive for the UK Government and public – to be a shareholder in a successful revenue-generating business, that performs its public sector role even better. Personnel-wise the transition was equally successful.

“We were led by the rules that HGKC instilled in us, in terms of using facts and being clear in communications. We would have really struggled to engage and motivate the team through such a protracted and challenging process,” says Sarah Chilcott.

And Chris Jones, Deputy Director, Operations adds: “We lost very few staff, so it must have worked.”

“It felt like we were more than just a job, more than just the next client. It felt like HGKC really did care about what happened to us in the longer term. And we’re still in touch today,” Sarah Chilcott

Planning Portal

A huge positive for the UK Government and public – to be a shareholder in a successful revenue-generating business

It felt like we were more than just a job, more than just the next client. It felt like HGKC really did care

- Deputy Director, Sarah Chilcott

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