Four Shared Services Myths Impacting Government Efficiency
By Stephen Woodring
The concept of shared services has garnered a lot of attention recently by appearing in executive orders, mandates, and legislation issued by the current and previous administrations. However, this idea still causes apprehension throughout the government, and concerns about the impact of shared services on effectiveness persist across government agencies. Although the transition to the shared-services model isn’t without its challenges, it provides a worthwhile return on investment to both the government and to American taxpayers.
At The Clearing, we believe that this model is capable of actually increasing both efficiency and effectiveness of participating agencies, and we are actively supporting efforts to expand the impact of shared services within government. To help bridge the gap, we took a closer look at some of the pervasive myths that continue to impede the progress of shared-services initiatives, to contrast them with the realities that make this model worth implementing:
Myth: Shared services equals centralization
Reality: Shared services partnerships empower providers and customers
Shared services is not the centralization of functions into one component. While the focus for centralization is generally on cutting cost and shoring up control, shared services places significant emphasis on partnerships, as not all elements of a particular service will necessarily shift to a shared-services delivery model. The shared-services operating model is focused on partnerships between the shared-services providers and their customers, where the key performance targets are excellent service delivery and continuous improvement. Shared-service partnership agreements create platforms for innovation and savings and the opportunity to improve staff utilization for organizations leveraging this operating model.
Myth: Sharing services results in unique needs being ignored and unaddressed
Reality: A shared-services model flexibly balances efficiency and scalability
Shared services is not a “one-size-fits-all” model. No one configuration can achieve efficiencies and effectiveness without some degree of flexibility regarding the uniqueness of partner organizations. Instead, the shared-services provider model seeks to be a long-term solution for the delivery of non-core, and administrative/professional customer-centric activities. The goal of shared services is to balance the need for standardization and process efficiency with the desire for optimal flexibility and scalability of service.
Myth: Shared services means service satisfaction will decline
Reality: Partnership agreements drive service satisfaction
While shared-services customers play an important role in helping to clearly outline their needs in the form of service-level agreements, shared-services providers are committed to meeting–and whenever possible–exceeding those requirements as part of the formal and social contract to provide exceptional service delivery. To effectively implement a model that meets the expectations of all parties, it is essential for both parties to agree upon requirements, terms, conditions and recourse for non-performance. Even more importantly, both parties must agree to function as partners prior to the launch of the shared-service delivery model. Agreeing upon these key requirements in advance drives transparency and collaboration, that ultimately results in happier customers.
Myth: Shared services results in unhappy employees
Reality: Sharing services provides an opportunity to better leverage talent
When organizations lose their “down the hall” access to in-house support capabilities, the disruption to routine can feel daunting. However, when organizations are at a place where they can philosophically commit to the shifting of administrative tasks away from their core staff, they can expect to more fully leverage their staff’s talents and resources to directly support mission delivery—often the very tasks that these staff were originally hired and trained to perform.
The directives to reform the way that government organizations function, in addition to the operational pressures to sustain mission—all in the face of declining financial resources—are clear calls to integrate shared-services operating models within government agencies. These initiatives are part of the solution to gain greater reliability of outcomes and ultimately, greater cost efficiency. Agencies can resolve their concerns by working directly and collaboratively with shared-service providers to ensure the providers understand their most critical needs. When implemented properly, the shared-service model empowers agencies to focus their constrained resources on their core mission.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Shared Services can drive efficiencies at your organization, contact us to continue the conversation.