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Commercial Maturity Review

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The Context

Against a backdrop of continuing challenges of increasing demand on services and tightening of budgets, St Helens Borough Council was ambitious to improve its approach to commercial activity. The council sought to unlock its commercial potential and create a more ‘business-like’ culture across the organisation as a method of reducing the impact of reducing budgets on frontline services.

The Requirement

Human Engine was commissioned to undertake a rigorous maturity assessment of the council’s commercial activity. The aim was to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the council's commercial landscape, identifying strengths and pinpointing areas where challenges persisted. The insights generated through the assessment would be used to shape the pipeline for commercial activity. 

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The Project

To undertake this comprehensive assessment, Human Engine utilised its robust Commercial Maturity Model.

This model was designed to assess councils across five critical themes of commercial activity:


  • Strategy and Alignment: Ensuring that commercial activity is not a silo but is woven into the fabric of the organisational strategy.

  • Market Intelligence: Recognising that successful commercial activity hinges on a deep understanding of the markets in which the council operates, whether as a supplier or a buyer.

  • Supply: Determining the maturity of the council’s commissioning, procurement, and contract management functions, all of which are pivotal to effective commercial operations.

  • Demand: Striking a balance between generating income through services and managing high-cost, non-value-adding demand.

  • Organisational Skills and Culture: Creating a way of working that supports commercial activity, communicating this to the organisation so that people are aware of why they are doing it and outlining a position that everyone can engage with and align to their daily work.

The approach adopted for the assessment encompassed several crucial steps:

  • Baseline Establishment: The team began by establishing a baseline understanding of the council's current level of commercial maturity through desktop analysis of existing strategies, policies and other reports (such as fees and charges, contracts registers and spend data).

  • Stakeholder Engagement: An in-depth analysis of the council's existing portfolio was conducted in close collaboration with stakeholders. This process aimed to identify priority areas that would subsequently inform a phased programme plan.

  • Maturity Assessment:  Combining the findings from desktop analysis and stakeholder engagement, the team presented an assessment of the existing level of maturity against the five themes and where the council’s appetite was to develop. Each theme was presented with strengths and challenges of the current approach and ambition for improvement. 

  • Future Programme Scoping: The team worked to outline a comprehensive programme of work with sufficient detail. This entailed identifying timelines, milestones, work streams/packages, resource requirements, risks and approach to benefits monitoring of commercial transformation.

  • Resource Optimisation: A critical aspect of the project was identifying where existing council resources could effectively deliver work and where external support and expertise were required to enhance certain work packages. This also included the development of a governance model from individual project delivery through the Member-led decision making.

The Outcomes

This project delivered a series of key outcomes and benefits, including:

  • Commercial Maturity Assessment: An in-depth understanding of the council's current level of commercial maturity across five themes and identification of ambition for growth.

  • Strengths and Weaknesses Identification: Key areas of strength and areas requiring improvement, along with opportunities and potential threats, were identified within each of the five core themes.

  • Transformation Roadmap: A transformation programme was outlined, prioritising key areas to improve commercial maturity, deliver savings and generate income. 


By embracing a more commercial mindset and leveraging the insights gained from the maturity assessment, the council is well-positioned to adapt its approach to commercial activity. Work packages identified through this work have since been delivered by internal teams and by Human Engine. 

About Us

Human Engine is a Financial Times top-ranked management consultancy with specialisms in strategy, change, digital, commercial and projects.  

It was founded in 2018 with a belief that the public sector deserves better than it gets from traditional consulting firms – more human, more personal and more knowledgeable of the reality of delivering modern public services.

We have worked with dozens of public sector organisations to help transform their strategies, operations and cultures to be more agile, commercial and entrepreneurial in order to achieve financial sustainability and improved outcomes for customers and communities. 

Our mission is to help individuals and organisations to do the best work of their lives.  We do this by blending first-hand experience of the problems we help our clients solve with award-winning consulting expertise and an approach based on trust, collaboration and partnership. 

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