Open-access content 13th September 2010
As managing director of the Built Environment division of Amey, Gillian Duggan is a strong believer in customer service. David Arminas discovers how service delivery has played a crucial role in her career to date
14 September 2010
But being client focussed is what Gillian Duggan, the managing director of the Built Environment division of Amey, learned with a passion from her seven years at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Even though she left the civil service in 1998, she can still hear the exhortations of Sir Michael Bichard, who became chief executive of the Benefits Agency in 1990. He embarked on a change management programme that literally changed management’s outlook.
Bichard’s mantra was better public service for less cost. Also, there were no longer benefit claimants, but only clients, and giving them best value for money was the agency’s goal.
“The importance of being client focussed and having a clear vision is what I took away with me,” says Duggan, who started at the DWP in Bolton, her birthplace, a week after her 16th birthday in 1991.
“Bichard also taught me about moving from being reactive to proactive and the importance of motivating staff as well as improving service delivery. It was his ‘bias for action’ vision.”
Her first job at the DWP was in administration, but she migrated to human resources where she was quickly earmarked for management training. Her first HR job was in Manchester’s notorious Moss Side where she had to train staff to think positively of the “clients” – including some “incredibly difficult clients” - and to give them the best service.
After three years she was sent to London, in 1996, to work in another “sensitive area”, she says, where staff processed benefit claims for immigrants with varying backgrounds from asylum seekers to contract workers.
She left in 1998 to work in Technicolour, the iconic imaging company, where her role was “pure-play HR”, including involvement in a major corporate restructuring programme.
Duggan moved on to more HR duties with global manufacturing firm Danaher, a Washington-based technology business that designs, manufactures and markets innovative products and services. She joined Amey in 2004 and within half a year was made group HR director.
But she grabbed the chance in September 2008 to take up the reins of the newly formed Built Environment division with its 2,100 staff, many having Tupe’d over from Amey’s major Whitehall clients including the Ministry of Defence, Home Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Duggan became directly in charge of delivering on what is now her own mantra, that of customer is king.
“There is one big difference between working with the DWP and Amey,” she says. “To be fair, the customer-claimant at the DWP can’t go anywhere else for the service. But delivering FM services is different. The client can always go elsewhere, so you have to get service delivery exactly right.”
A challenge you face when moving to any new job is to not jump immediately to make radical changes, says Duggan who took time to listen rather than talk. “Also, get out into the marketplace and speak to as many customers and stakeholders as possible. Listen, and only then make changes.”
General management skills are transferrable from profession to profession, she says. As group HR director, she launched a major talent review, succession planning and diversity strategy that is driving the internal job refill rate from 45 to 70 per cent. She also devised action plans to position Amey as one of the Top 100 Companies to work for, according to a Sunday Times survey in March 2008.
Amey’s major divisions are construction, street lighting and road maintenance. Turnover for the Built Environment is around £160m, or around 15 per cent of the group’s annual turnover, said Duggan, who is keen to move her business up the group’s ladder of importance and not with contracts solely within the public sector.
Duggan’s first six months in the job was about branding Amey’s existing FM resource as the Built Environment division. “It was a good opportunity to analyse the marketplace and to improve value for money to customers.”
She also set out her vision based on three hub sectors. Built Environment will continue its drive into aviation sector, actively seeking airport contracts. The public sector will remain a major focus thanks to the current Whitehall clients.
The third sector is Criminal Justice, where Duggan believes there are huge opportunities for growth. Within PECS, prisoner escort and custodial services – moving people from court to prison and other places – there are major issues around vehicle efficiencies and green agendas as well as using the most up-to-date tracking technologies.
Duggan fully intends to give Serco and other providers a run for their money in a market that is ripe for far more competition: “We recently partnered with American security business Geo to bid for custodial and transportation contracts. Geo has the intelligence around custodial operations and we understand the UK market and transfer of employees here. Put those together and it’s a powerful combination.
An as-yet “embryonic” sector, she says, is Scotland, where Duggan believes there is good scope for expanding Amey’s presence in the future.
She has an office in Oxford but spends most of her time with her staff and clients, including Heathrow’s terminals five and four where Amey has the cleaning contracts. Built Environment has just landed the Terminal Five contract for which she has drafted in some “Spanish know-how”, thanks to an Iberian connection through a takeover.
Amey was brought back from the financial brink in 2003 when global Spanish services provider Ferrovial bought the business. Amey had made a loss of £255m to 31 December 2003 but rallied in 2004 with a £21m profit before tax and hasn’t looked back since.
Amey group turnover in 2008 was £1.49bn, with revenue up 19 per cent, all excluding its now sold-off stake in London’s Tube lines where is still does rail maintenance.
Ferrovial is a design, build and operator, as well as maintainer, of transport services infrastructure, including airports such as Heathrow through its BAA subsidiary. Duggan tapped into Ferrovial’s FM division to bring in a senior manager for the Heathrow client.
“We still have a lot to learn from the Europeans when it comes to maintaining high cleaning standards,” she said.
“Innovation in our sector is crucial, but FM has not been subject to globalisation like manufacturing, so the requirements for improved service in the UK has not been as great as it could have been. Whereas, you can move manufacturing to China, you can’t clean a UK office from China. In effect, you have a captive FM audience in Britain, so innovation has been slower.”
Duggan believes an airport can be cleaned “as efficiently as you can manufacture a better petrol pump”, as an example. So the division is looking at how high-speed machines improve cleaning processes, their carbon footprints, how much water and detergent they use.
“Also, can operators move around efficiently in large spaces with a basic amount of training to make the task less stressful and more enjoyable.”
CV: Gillian Duggan
September 2008 – Current
Managing director, Amey Built Environment
2004 – 2008
Group HR director, Amey
2002 – 2004
HR Director, EMEA at Danaher Corporation
Head of HR, Technicolour (UK)
1984 – 1997
EDUCATION & QUALIFICATIONS
1978-1983: Smithills Grammar School, Bolton
1989-1991 Bury Metropolitan College
• At £160m Duggan’s Built Environment Division represents 15 per cent of Amey’s group annual turnover