Shared services

10 Lessons for Shared Service Success in Government

Posted by  Mark Gibbison

Most government agencies have common functional areas that could be shared for cost efficiency and organisational effectiveness. Here are our 10 lessons for successful shared services implementation:


  1. Have a clear vision: Make sure everyone understands why your organisation is implementing a shared services model. Is it purely for cost savings through administration? For improved customer service? Setting clear goals for implementation makes for a smoother journey for all stakeholders, and may give them some motivation to help it succeed.
  2. Choose the right services to share: Many benefits come from standardisation, including more efficient processes and less manual entry. Most organisations choose to start with simpler back-office functions before moving on to customer-facing departments. Make sure there are no fundamental barriers in terms of processes or regulations stopping you from sharing a common service with partner organisations.
  3. Take a clear look at the numbers: Examine the likely RoI. In a time of painful austerity measures and pressure for increased efficiency, cost savings are critical. Using comparable service levels, at what price point does it become cost effective for other organisations to discard their own infrastructures and share? How will you quantify less tangible benefits such as increasing staff satisfaction or customer service?
  4. Manage the shock: Moving to shared services can be a challenging time for everyone. It is critical that your organisation gets buy-in from senior political and operational leaders. Mitigate concerns by engaging and involving stakeholders in the process, holding workshops, and implementing their ideas and best practices. Finally, communicate clearly and train staff so everyone is up-to-date with the system and comfortable with the choices made.
  5. Establish a strong governance model: Make sure that at every level of your organisation, everyone knows who makes the decisions. This compels individuals and teams to be accountable, speeds decision-making and ultimately helps you reach deadlines on time.
  6. Plan, plan, plan... and then plan some more! Establishing a shared service is not an after-hours activity, but rather a major undertaking that affects the fundamentals of your organisation. Getting the planning right sets the foundation for the future, especially when working across not just organisations and departments, but administrative regions. Get your resourcing right before the project starts: you will need full-time, dedicated experienced professionals from business operations and technology partners to contribute at different times. The relationships and understanding you establish during this planning process will be critical to overcoming future challenges.
  7. Keep it simple: Standardise where possible, and localise where necessary. Make sure that the strategy is focused on the scope in question and isn’t too wide reaching. Before taking on the next steps set tangible goals that are realistic and achievable.
  8. Choose the right technology partner: Remember that you’re not just choosing a technology. Your technology service provider is going to be your partner for what may be a complex and difficult transition. Choose one that has the technical expertise and shares the same vision. Choose technology flexible enough to keep pace with the tides of change quickly, cost effectively and with minimal disruption to customers.
  9. Get buy-in: Some of the most expensive shared services disasters stem from a lack of customers. Change must be carefully and sensitively managed. If your initiative to share back-office functions makes participation purely voluntary, or if you tailor services extensively to meet the differing needs of individual departments, you will end up with an overly complex, inflexible, expensive system. Also consider how you will promote the Shared Services to other organisations to grow your member base. If you can demonstrate efficiencies and cost savings, organisations will come to you rather than being pushed.
  10. Get strong executive sponsorship: A lack of leadership on any project implementation, and beyond, can be fatal. Leadership needs to be credible and visible. It also needs to rise above any individual organisation's needs and be able to look at the bigger picture.

Cost-savings through Shared Services are a tangible, quantifiable benefit of greater efficiencies and process standardisation. But there should also be a focus on how Shared Services can focus energy and resources on creating better customer service and internal communication. Beyond back-office efficiencies, public sector organisations now have the opportunity to rollout improved services, greater transparency, and a more effective government for all citizens.

Mark Gibbison

Mark Gibbison

Mark Gibbison is the Industry Director for Public Sector for Unit4 in the UK and Ireland. He is driven to help institutions deliver improved services at a lower cost using enterprise technology. He has held senior positions in local government IT and with technology vendors like SAP. Mark joined Unit4 from Objective where he held positions as Head of Enterprise Sales and as Local Government Sales Director.