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One Size Does Not Fit All

Many of your institutions are implementing service models such as shared services and out‐sourcing. Unfortunately, these solutions don’t always deliver real savings & can have unintended consequences. HOW you go about putting these solutions together is the key to delivering real savings, mitigating consequences & ensuring long term success. Let’s review Shared Services first.

Shared Services in Higher Education

A shared service center is an organizational model striking a balance between local services and “commoditized” practices and activities. Successful implementations balance economies of scale and standardization with the deep relationships with and knowledge of the customer’s unique attributes. Many different models can generate excellent financial and organizational benefits. A variety of implementation options can and do occur within these models:

  • A single shared service center is the most efficient model. Knowledge of the individual units’ unique attributes is traded for expertise in specialized transactions, functional areas and/ or institutional policies and procedures. The single shared service center is often a “transactional” processing entity for a central office. Roles are distinct: the central office is a policy‐ setting, training and auditing body. The shared service center is the processing and customer‐facing entity.
  • A network of regional centers offers a balance between the efficiency gained by consolidating staff expertise with the opportunity to maintain relationships with the units served. The uniqueness of the different departments served is acknowledged. Shared service center staff is often assigned to specific departments, may attend department meetings and meet regularly with unit leadership and colleagues. Cross‐training, combined with the standardization of processes and procedures, allows for back‐up of staff members who are absent.
  • Service pods operate in individual departments and groups of departments. Staff members at the unit level have been organized around functional tasks, with responsibility for a narrower span of tasks than generalist peers. Multiple departments are served. Service pods typically emerge in response to staffing challenges, driven by unit leaders seeking the benefits of staff with deeper expertise. This model focuses on the unique needs of each customer and is typically found with reporting relationships to the unit.

Expected Benefits

Shared Services should generate cost savings and higher service quality. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Why not? Our experience shows that you need an effective design and change management method to successfully implement shared services. We’ll illustrate a design method that reduces cost and delivers higher quality  services in our next newsletter.


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