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Five tactics to navigate shared services

Published on: 13 Sep 2013

Gill Kelly, offers practical advice for employers as they continue to grapple with the complexities of shared services.

A prolonged period of reduced funding is driving rapid change in public, private and third sectors, with the concept of shared services increasingly on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  Partnership arrangements can result in the type of savings that help an organisation to survive and continue to deliver services when funding is tight.

Finding the right people to drive those partnerships and put in place shared services arrangements whilst maintaining resilience, skills and a finance function that is fit for purpose, is at the heart of the matter.

1. Unlock potential Assets

It is no secret that human resources impacts business outcomes, but in today’s economic and social climate this phrase rings evermore true. One important strategy for HR and recruiters to get right is to ensure that new appointments to senior management posts have the ability to identify and unlock potential assets.  People who can unlock previously untapped assets and resources will help to secure the future of an organisation by generating revenue streams previously thought unavailable. Or, in the case of local authorities, using those new revenue streams to offset the impact of having to find over £9bn of savings by 2015*

2. Embrace cultural change

Transition to shared services and partnership arrangements involves a cultural change. Whilst there are examples of successful shared services in some local authorities and the private sector, there is still a great deal of work to be done to help many public and private organisations embrace the concept.

3. Transfer talent and knowledge in newly merged teams

A recent report from the National Audit Office draws attention to the point that, “nearly one in eight councils (12%), including Birmingham city and West Somerset district, are at risk of being unable to balance their budgets and nearly one in 10 are under high financial stress”**.  Shared operations, such as finance, procurement, HR and IT, can result in cost reductions and savings.  When two finance departments, for example, fall under one roof there are immediate savings to be gained.  HR must ensure that skills are transferred and retained within the newly merged department.

4. Communicate

For shared services to work communication must be clear and transparent. So often organisations gloss over communications, yet the move to shared services or functions will result in changes to; how an organisation is structured; employees and their roles; locations; and procedures. Make sure communication is at the forefront of planning when rolling out a shared services agreement. Good change management practices should also be embraced and applied across the organisations.

5. Use interim support

Service reform requires transformation, and employees with highly specialised skills.  If your organisation lacks these skills it may be necessary to consider using interim help to deliver transformation projects.  Advanced project management skills and public finance modelling are areas where interim teams made-up of skilled specialists will generate long term gains for an organisation.

As well as shared services and functions, it is likely that some organisations will also share management teams. Chief Executives, Chief Financial Officers and senior management teams may provide strategy, vision, and direction for more than one organisation in the future; articulating leadership strategies across more than one board.

Again this type of sharing requires clear communication, strong change management processes and cultural change across more than one organisation and employee.

Working in partnership, if done successfully, can result in a reduction of costs and the transformation of more than one organisation to suit leaner times.

Successful sourcing and recruitment of talented individuals with a specific skills set to drive these transformation can prove a challenging task.  Utilising some or all five strategies will help to you to focus your attention on key requisites and to tackle the complexities of shared services.

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* According to the National Audit Office, source The Guardian online Friday 7th June 2013.

** As noted in The Guardian online, Friday 7th June 2013.

With a reputation for providing the highest standards of professional counsel, CIPFA-Penna is the industry’s leading authority on all aspects of recruitment in public sector finance.  Uniquely, CIPFA-Penna  is able to draw upon its relationship with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), the world’s only professional accountancy body to specialise in public services, including quality training and governance.

The CIPFA-Penna team has over 20 years industry experience and access to the very best candidates via its extensive network of close and established associates. CIPFA-Penna’s core experience lies in placing candidates into interim positions within the public sector. It also works to place the best people in permanent jobs and interim assignments in finance, corporate services, HR and beyond.