It is Time to Realise the Gains from Shared Services; Build Common Interfaces, Workbench and Portals

Arvind Mehrotra
6 min readJan 13, 2021

Despite the proven benefits of establishing shared services in an enterprise, companies continue to witness sprawl and fragmentation as a necessary fallout of scaling. One might even argue that 2020 moved the needle in the wrong direction, as enterprises were forced to increase the autonomy of decentralised, grassroots entities in the absence of the traditional channels of control that rely on in-person presence/communication.

When shared services should have come into their own, we saw fragmentation at an unprecedented scale, revealing a lack of agility and challenges in maintaining centralised control.

Therefore, 2020 should be a period of consolidation and planned growth to harmonise processes and service delivery across the enterprise. Shared services are integral to this vision, generating maximum value through standard interfaces that reach the most crucial, frequently accessed organisational assistance to the entire workforce in a frictionless manner.

Shared Services Influence Business Activity Experiences in Unexpected Ways

Shared services have long been touted as a magic bullet for the organisational bottom line. It would reduce your service footprint, thereby reducing FTE requirements, to bring down the operational costs of service delivery as you disburse them at scale. But the benefits go well beyond a dent on the bottom line, transforming how employees, business leaders, and partner stakeholders experience your operational landscape.

It is easier to right-source for every position

Right-sourcing entails finding the best person for every job and resources don’t spend time on value-added tasks or effort duplication. Without shared services, you will likely have a standalone HR person/team for every business unit or location, even if not formally designated. Several people across the organisation perform the same task, but due to low volumes at each business unit/location, there is significant resource waste. Shared services let you right-source for every position and enhance the service consumption experience.

Processes are more straightforward and more transparent

Under a shared services model, the same process map and workflow configurations are made reusable across the organisation for different service consumption “clients.” These reusable maps and workflows can be documented as part of organisational knowledge to introduce simplicity and reduce the learning curve. Also, as these processes become more entrenched, both the client and the shared service provider understand the precise goals, expectations, and delivery parameters — increasing transparency.

You can outsource to benefit from expert skills

Building a shared service organisation lets you create opportunities for outsourcing service fulfilment to an external, expert provider. It dramatically improves how clients within the organisation experience that particular business activity. For example, in-house HR personnel can look after essential records keeping and compliance — but for something more advanced like legal counsel, employees would have to consult a third-party. A shared HR service provider, on the other hand, can outsource fully or partially to an external expert who brings a holistic set of skills.

Scale Shared Services without causing fragmentation

In the absence of shared services, each business unit fulfils all functions and scales independently, making it almost impossible to achieve a consistent business activity experience across the enterprise. Over time, as specific teams scale up or down, this fragmentation intensifies. As a result, employees working in different locations, roles, or departments will have widely diverging experiences, which isn’t a good sign for your company’s culture. By opting for shared services, it leads to standard work practices and centralised teams.

Shared services also need to modernise and standardise their employees’ productivity. The way forward is to build standard workbenches or build common micro-applications for enabling independence of tools and systems. It is essential to think big, but start small and then scale. Start with aggregating and simplifying incident approvals and service request for simple tasks like new user onboarding, then move on to deboarding. Provide a more user-friendly interface for ITSM & ITOM platforms, Cloud Monitoring platforms, ITAM platform, and ERPs like SAP, Peoplesoft, and Workday. By allowing IT teams to build micro apps that give employees the ability to take action in any system, from any device, modernising these systems becomes a significant next step.

System changes and new client acquisitions can result in old, replicated legacy systems that make it difficult for employees to accomplish tasks that are rendered useless. Shared Service teams must build easy-to-use micro and micro-flow flows that integrate with all existing systems and are open to integrating with newer platforms/systems. Besides, the security of business management and productivity tools can prove to be a challenge. It is often an objective to maximise protection; the system should have the ability to be deployed on-premises, behind the firewall or in a company’s private or public clouds that are already secure.

You will unlock more room for standard interfaces

Shared services are the first step to process unification, ultimately enabling standard interfaces that can be utilised by the entire enterprise (including non-payroll employees, third-party vendors, etc.). These standard interfaces gradually give way to task automation so that the service experience becomes more seamless, and the organisation gains from eliminating unnecessary efforts. Common interfaces/service portals are crucial to delivering an almost “consumerised” experience that attracts, engages, and retains users.

Companies would do well to keep in mind these five experiential impacts of shared services, in addition to the more frequently discussed bottom-line benefits.

Building Shared Services Portals so They Will Come

Unfortunately, the “build and they will come” adage does not apply to shared services quickly. Research suggests that resistance to change (60%), limitations of existing systems (44%), lack of executive commitment (40%), lack of executive champions (36%), and unrealistic expectations (32%) are the five most common deterrents to shared services implementation.

Therefore, before building a shared services portal, you need to take stock of your enterprise and initiate a comprehensive change management program spanning people, processes, and technology. Some of the fundamental tenets of a standard interface that drives shared services delivery to improve the overall business activity experience include:

● A marketplace-like catalogue where service requisitions raised through a journey similar to that of buying products

● Powerful middleware to support a wide variety of integrations with enterprises systems, service fulfilment centres, and data sources

● Persona-based access to reveal the most relevant and value-adding products/services

● Content resource personalisation to deliver “stickier” experiences that ensure users return over and over again, without resorting to external/third-party help, which usually leads to shadow IT

● Simple automation to streamline the most common tasks and user pathways, reducing the burden on the shared services provider by building micro-apps or standard workbenches

● Adherence to application design best practices for a frictionless user journey, basis personalisation, and a quick learning curve

These six principles can help convert your shared services centre into a technology-led powerhouse that can support your company’s growth trajectory. IT, HR, finance, and procurement are the four most common places to start this transformation (converting these to shared services helped NASA save $20 million annually) — paving the way for more specialised functions like email automation, facility management, etc.

Thank you for reading! If these ideas sound interesting

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Arvind Mehrotra

Board Advisor, Strategy, Culture Alignment and Technology Advisor