How to Successfully Implement a Shared Services Model

/ Christine Andrukonis

Undeniably, organizations and employees benefit when internal services are delivered through consistent, streamlined processes, often in low-cost locations.

According to a study conducted by Technavio in 2020, corporate organizations planned to grow shared services by 15 to 20 percent by 2024; 35 percent of that growth is planned in the U.S. While cost savings fuel this growth, ultimately, organizations want to improve business importance, speed of service delivery and service quality. Shared services improve internal integration and yield a reduction of errors and redundant information.

When shared services are implemented successfully, they’re an effective integral connector within an organization’s functions including finance, HR, marketing and operations.

Here are six ways to successfully plan and launch a shared services model:

Develop a design-focused mindset to integrate key stakeholders.

Key stakeholders are functional teams (finance, HR, marketing, operations, etc.), people managers (individuals with direct reports) and employees (typically all employees). Think about all stakeholders with a design-focused mindset from a customer standpoint to understand their unique experiences, perspectives and needs. Shared services have an internal customer: What do they need? Remain focused on this perspective.

Communicate what’s in it for them.

Make sure managers understand what’s in it for them, how this will help their functions and how their careers can be more successful if they use shared services. When you need to talk to managers about letting go of their teams, but don’t help them understand how to be more strategic or successful with fewer people, it’s an uphill battle. Instead, show them how their careers can continue to thrive once shared services are in full effect.

Also, communication is essential among the leadership team. The executive team needs to talk to each other, let go of control, trust the process and each other, while encouraging teams to manage up.

Work with a third party to remain objective.

It’s hard to see things objectively when you’re in the thick of it — it’s nearly impossible to look for opportunities for change when you own it. It could erode credibility and you’ll lose support, especially when you need to gain people’s trust along a path they have little certainty about. They need to trust that you understand what’s important to them and that you have their best interest in mind.

Engage a third party to hold up a mirror and call out what’s not working right in a safe, supportive way and help you take risks. Be willing to disrupt your comfort with the status quo to achieve long-term gains.

Integrate the organization’s culture.

Whether the enterprise is process-oriented, metrics-driven or super creative, shared services organizations need to take the culture into account. Start by asking questions such as, “How do leaders lead? What are the values in the company? What is the culture you’re trying to create? What does it look like to be successful, to thrive and grow as employees inside the company?”

Manage the change of the culture inside your company so employees can accept a shared services organization. An ideal culture empowers employees to take risks, make mistakes, own those mistakes and pivot without backtracking. You have to be able to say, “Okay, here’s what we learned. No one gets punished for it and we move forward together.”

Build change-management plans that see the big picture for reinvention.

It’s important for people to know how to use shared services, but it’s equally important for them to see a bigger vision for their career and their capabilities. Make sure those functions understand their potential: How can they grow their careers and reinvent themselves? Help them reinvent who they are as they transition some routine and transactional work they’ve been doing.

In addition, connect the shared services processes, tools and technology to your company’s structure and culture for the big picture. Continue to honor the needs of stakeholders, while driving true awareness, understanding, adoption and advocacy for the changes you’re making — only then can savings be realized and performance objectives met.

Factor in transition time.

Plan for a post-implementation time of three to six months and expect it to be bumpy. Set up a transition support team to work with teams and give them extra love. Clearly measure what success looks like: Stay on the pulse of where you are hitting those metrics, where you aren’t and why.

The support team needs to ensure that all voices are being heard by listening and following through with action. The team should be transparent by communicating to everyone: “Here’s where we did well, here’s where we didn’t and here’s what we are doing about it.”

When organizations embrace and implement a shared services model, it’s an ultimate win for the organizations, as well as key stakeholders. When you can see the potential for growth, innovation and sustainability of your business by taking some level of risk in disrupting how you’re working today, you’ll be better positioned to achieve long-term gains.

When you’re ready to plan and implement a shared services model, Notion is here to help.