The concept of Shared Services is not new and there are now many excellent examples of sharing across the public sector. Shared Services implemented effectively, can enable an organisation and its partners (whether in the public sector or not) to sustain its services and embed continuous improvement which in the medium to long term can ensure real benefits are delivered both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. It is important to state from the outset that it is not a quick fix or a magic bullet and it has to be considered alongside a range of efficiency options available to the public sector.
Any transition to Shared Services is an undertaking that needs careful planning and execution. It requires from the outset a clear business reason and Change Management Strategy as difficult decisions will need to be taken and clear leadership and buy in at all levels will be crucial to success. It also requires a comprehensive understanding of the delivery process including customer requirements and the delivery objective(s). The real challenge is in developing a strategy and vision, identifying the most effective business models and selecting the right people and partners, whilst securing political and organisational agreement to be able to turn the strategy into reality and make the transition as planned.
It is important to breakdown the barriers which challenge traditional ways of working. The best way to make any meaningful change is to take the workforce with you; if they realise that improvements are for the benefit of all - customers and staff - then it is much more likely that they will take ownership of the process. This in turn will allow greater opportunity to shape the transition, allowing continuous feedback from all levels on what works and what doesn't.
In the public sector, local democratic accountability and concerns about the possible impact on the workforce when taking decisions over location will be important factors to consider. However, it is equally valid to take account of the potential for Shared Services to support the positive movement of public sector employment between areas with differing prevailing economic conditions, for example from fast growing urban areas to rural locations, or (with recent advances in the ICT infrastructure) from a real to a virtual office with all the benefits - financial, social and environmental - that can be realised from investment in flexible patterns of working.
We are in the process of reviewing the content of the Shared Services web pages and to this end, have taken the guidance and supporting documentation off-line whilst we consider the current requirements. The existing structure and content have been in place for some time now and we are taking this opportunity to re-evaluate how we can refresh the web pages and the information therein to better support the many facets of collaboration and shared services.