Innovation and changeDigital TransformationShared Services: Mutually Assured Construction

Shared Services: Mutually Assured Construction

Chris Bartlett, Business Unit Director – Public Sector at SoftwareONE discusses around the value that public sector bodies can gain from shared services

Digital transformation has been a huge driver of change across the public sector – and while the process of transformation is a relatively new development, many of the benefits and challenges experienced along the way are not. As such, many public sector colleagues find themselves encountering an almost identical set of challenges. This shared experience has meant that public sector bodies are increasingly looking for ways to work together and are far more open to providing advice and guidance to their peers.

Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council, for instance, already share a large section of their leadership teams and plan on expanding the partnership to encompass a whole host of other services in law and governance, finance, HR, communications, policy, consultation, research and regulatory services. There are many benefits to be had from shared services, including cheaper and quicker IT procurement and more flexible IT infrastructure that streamlines the taking-on of new users. And, as funding cuts continue to impact the public sector, we can expect to see the popularity of this approach grow. So, how can public sector bodies get the most out of their shared service strategy?

Engage from the Get-Go

To get the most success from shared services, public sector organisations need to ensure they are engaging with peers and partners effectively from the very start of that journey. Government bodies and other public sector organisations need to recognise that the success of any project begins at the planning and discovery stage, and a shaky start to a partnership would only serve to hamper future success.

It is therefore vital that public sector organisations adopt a transparent approach to working with each other, as well as fostering a readiness to provide crucial advice and support – shared services means shared success. Additionally, organisations need to be able to demonstrate challenges and benefits to each other via tangible, real-world scenarios.

Embrace Understanding

Bringing multiple services and resources together will inevitably result in a mix of different working practices, cultures and knowledge. It’s important that public sector organisations take these differences into account, as they are a critical component when aligning themselves closer together and key to ensuring a smooth transition. This will also allow stakeholders to properly grasp the internal needs and requirements of both their own and their partner organisation.

Understanding the differences between organisations and being complementary to the individual skillsets and overall visions, will provide far greater opportunity for integration and collaboration.

Having that full knowledge ahead of time will make project management, timelines and the eventual alignment, significantly more rewarding.

Measure to Improve

Public sector organisations should always take the approach that if something cannot be measured, then it cannot be demonstrably improved. In order to truly know whether a shared service strategy is actively improving affiliated organisations, they must each define the targeted metrics that are most valuable to their specific area.

Measuring how many tickets raised with an IT department were answered may be a useful metric, but it only shows half the story – the ticket may be closed but is it really a success if the customer’s problem has not been resolved to their satisfaction? To help with this, public sector organisations should define key performance indicators (KPIs) to reflect the role each department plays in the organisation, and use these metrics to improve customer service management. Additionally, service level agreements (SLAs) should be put in place to set out each organisation’s relationship to the project and the criteria they should be meeting.

Public sector organisations are increasingly leaning towards this model of shared services. For instance, Orbis, a partnership between three councils in Southeast England, recently embarked on a joint project to create a centralised view of its security, compliance and IT operational needs. The goal was to improve each council’s ability to protect their data and defend against cyberattacks.

Other groups are beginning to take their first steps in shared services; bringing together their respective talent and specialisms to reduce costs, improve integration, and forge stronger working relationships. This will then create a more refined and valuable experience for citizens that interact with these organisations. Over the coming years, we can expect to see more public sector bodies follow this example, in pursuit of the greater mobility, modernisation and knowledge sharing that shared services has to offer.

For instance, in case of data sharing between police forces, both IT systems and attitude towards this needs to adapt in order to better tackle prevalent crimes such as modern slavery and county lines drug dealing.

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