For a planning consultancy, outcomes are critical, naturally. But the means are every bit as crucial as the end, especially when it comes to the client’s experience.
What are clients looking for from a planning consultancy?
The one thing that keeps coming up is proactivity. To a large extent, professionalism and planning expertise are givens. But proactivity is different.
And, at Maddox, we’ve found that proactivity goes hand in hand with transparency.
What’s Been Missing from Planning Consultancies?
The traditional planning consultancy model is more done-for-you than done-with-you.
Where proactivity does figure, typically it’s seen as an add-on, an extra benefit.
And while it’s easy to pay lip service to the idea of being proactive, the reality is that it needs to be integral to the process to be meaningful.
This has been our starting point.
What Should Proactivity Involve?
Primarily, being proactive is about identifying different angles and opportunities in a given project. It means doing more than simply responding to the brief.
For example, the brief could be to prepare a planning statement, submit the application and liaise with the local council. But what if we look in more detail at how we achieve the specific objective of gaining approval by following their planning policy?
What actions might we take over and above the original scope of the brief to meet the client’s overall objectives?
We can look at the local authority’s past monitoring decisions to identify patterns and similarities.
We can look at the individual councillors involved and see where there might be lobbying opportunities.
We can spot development trends to see where the council’s policy is heading
We can watch out for policy changes in the council’s local development plan.
Any or all of these factors will influence how we put forward the client’s planning application, and help us decide whether we’ll need to submit representations and how we can support them.
The details are important, right down to the wording of the application.
Making it Work
We don’t leave these things to chance. Our proactivity isn’t ad-hoc. We’ve built it into our systems.
The practical tools we’ve found invaluable for this are collaborative, cloud-based WorkPages.
Using this system, we can keep our data up to date, monitoring the development plans, appeal decisions and any other changing factors and conditions that impact the project.
The team has full visibility, which maximises collaboration and communication. And it allows for flexibility within a form of standardisation. WorkPages provide a centralised knowledge bank for when we’re working remotely.
This standardisation reduces risk, providing a reliable means of control that doesn’t restrict the individual’s freedom to work.
Everyone in the team knows what’s expected of them, and the system supports highly efficient resource management.
Centralising project data is also crucial for cross-company collaboration and providing valuable market intelligence.
Sharing and Transparency
For us, the logical next step in using WorkPages is to share them with the client.
This keeps them in the loop and always up to date with the work we’re doing on their behalf, and it’s a clear demonstration of our openness. It lets them see how we strategise for any future challenges that might affect the progress of their project.
Transparency builds trust. This runs through everything we do, from how we collaborate internally to how we work with clients, stakeholders and other interested parties.
Building a Proactive Mindset
As stated earlier, WorkPages are practical tools that support our work, but ultimately, proactivity is a mindset.
It’s a part of who we are as a consultancy and a brand.
Other planning consultancies might aspire to proactivity, but we’ve found a way of turning it into a proven, practical asset.
It’s not about adding value so much as building it into our business model.