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Achieving Shared Services Success – Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, I outlined my perspectives on what is required to establish a solid foundation for shared services success.  The article addressed the need for a clear definition of shared services in the context of each organization, clearly defined scope, goals and outcomes, adequate long term investment and visible senior level executive commitment

Part 2 of this series addressed key implementation success factors including the immediate transfer of service delivery responsibility, differentiating service delivery from governance functions, defining a workable financial structure, recognizing shared services implementation as a complex change management exercise and defining effective oversight of the shared services organization.

This paper addresses essential ongoing operational requirements for sustained success.

Part 3: Operations  

1. Move Beyond Centralization

Centralized functions achieve higher levels of consistency and standardization of systems and processes leading to reduced costs through economies of scale and a limited customization of services. Unfortunately, centralized functions often grow remote from their business clients, becoming inflexible and unresponsive to their needs. As a result, clients become frustrated with the service (or lack thereof) they are receiving and lobby for a decentralized model where staff functions are dedicated to their operation, understand their needs and are responsive to local conditions. Unfortunately this results in increased costs, duplication of services and inconsistency of practices, standards and systems.

Shared Services was introduced as an approach that drew on the best from both centralized and decentralized service delivery, and attempted to mitigate the drawbacks of each.

Unfortunately, very few shared services initiative move beyond centralization.  The fundamental requirement for moving beyond centralization is the establishment of a service oriented culture driven to achieve customer defined needs and desired outcomes.

2. Establish a Customer Focused Culture

The establishment of a service culture is one of the most important success criteria for shared services.  A service culture is typified by people who are focused on anticipating and meeting client needs.  Not everyone in a traditional staff function will be able to make the transition to a client service focused culture.  It is up to shared services leadership to establish the expectations for a service culture and to deal with those who cannot or will not make the transition. Culture is transformed through day-to-day leadership decisions and actions. Rewarding, praising and recognizing those who demonstrate a customer focus and moving people out who do not display the desired behavior and attitudes will have the greatest impact on shifting the culture.

3. Ensure Continuous Improvement and Operational Excellence

The promise of shared services is that there are efficiency and service quality benefits to be realized through the consolidation, standardization and automation of service delivery. Achieving these benefits requires operational excellence with capable people focused on continuous operational improvement, implementing leading business processes, and the supporting technology to deliver efficient, high quality services. Shared services organizations must ensure they have sufficient capability and resources to achieve desired and expected levels of continuous improvement and operational excellence.

4. Regular Review of Performance, Outcome Achievement and Customer Satisfaction

Successful shared services requires clarity and measurement of goal and desired outcome achievement as well as ensuring that operational success factors are in place.

About the Author: Rob Cooke is a leadership advisor, strategist and coach.  Drawing on a strong background in business and organizational development, Rob utilizes his extensive consulting experience to help leaders address emerging challenges, seize opportunities and execute approaches to achieve personal, leadership and business goals.


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