5.2.1 Planning the approach
There are many questions that need to be considered when embarking on a LoS consultation exercise, including:
- How will the consultation interface with other planning activities (e.g. periodic strategic planning, asset management plan development and review, annual budget processes, etc.)?
- When will it be carried out?
- Should the consultation be carried out at the corporate level, and cover all of the services the agency delivers, or for a particular asset or specific activity (such as the use of different roads surfacing materials)?
- Have the different customer groups been satisfactorily identified? Will they all be consulted, or will only some groups be consulted?
- What consultation approach(es) will be used? This will depend on the level of robustness, qualitative vs quantitative, that the agency seeks, as well as the appetite of the community to be consulted.
- Who within the agency should be involved, e.g. which departments and personnel?
- How is it intended that the results will be used? This will influence the reporting and communication of the consultation output – to be useful, it must be used in decision-making.
- What can go wrong – what are the consultation risks and how will they be managed? For example, could expectations be unrealistically raised based on the messaging delivered?
- How often to consult – is it a one-off or will it be repeated periodically? What factors will influence this decision?
It is important to remember that the overall purpose of the consultation is to understand community, customer and stakeholder expectations. It should not become bogged down in detail if meaningful information cannot be discovered. At times, it will make sense to limit consultation to a particular user group, such as heavy vehicle operators or cyclists, in order to determine their needs. Consultation with all groups can be spread over a number of years, building up a picture of overall needs, or it can be carried out as a single program if desired and if resources permit.