At University Transformation 2015 day one, there was a lot of discussion in the room about best practice in shared services. In the final session of the day, attendees were asked to brainstorm key strategies that resonated with them when it came to planning or implementing shared services.
They were asked by conference chair Joanne Austin, Faculty General Manager Business and Law at Swinburne University: what do you have to think about when launching shared services? What are the major pain points, and, how do you overcome them?
Below is a summary of the discussion, highlighting 10 key things to consider when launching shared services in higher education:
1. Culture and people
University transformation involves moving people from different functions into a new service or team. And the reality is, there are some people who will come into a shared service and it won’t be right from them. It’s important to be clear from the very beginning to define shared services and how people can fit into it. It is equally important to give people the opportunity to move on if they don’t fit – one bad apple can spoil the barrel.
2. Avoid the ‘big bang’ approach
Transformation is not a quick-fix journey. It can seem like a reasonable option to take a ‘big bang’ approach to transformation, but change needs to be incremental and happen over time for it to be most effective. Make sure you road map what you want to achieve out of your transformation before you begin.
3. Break down silos
Transformation, in any sector, requires change. For the higher education sector, this involves moving people from different functions or faculties into on centralised service. This means it is important to look at processes and functions end-to-end. Do not change processes within departments – best practice would be to talk to people who are on the ground, listen to what your people are saying and make the change from the ground up.
4. Be agile
If a new process is not working, move on. Give it a chance, try to be innovative but be prepared to move on quickly if it fails. Listen, learn and adapt.
5. Change leadership
Without effective leadership, it is hard to determine a future view of what an shared service should be. Transformation requires a change leader who knows the vision and has the skills to move things fast, but at an incremental level. The world around us is evolving and organisations have to move quickly to keep up. If you have the right leadership, it will help with moving ahead with your shared service or vision. It will also make it easier to communicate that vision throughout the organisation.
6. Bring people along with you
Bring people along with you – talk to people, find out their ideas. Bring your people along the journey: work together with them to avoid an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. Emails or town hall meetings are not enough. Talk to people and find out what they know.
7. Measure as you go
Some of the changes getting made during transformation are done with the absence of data – which makes it hard to know: is the change for the better? Sometimes you have the feel for it, but sometimes you don’t. Where possible, collate and collect data as you go to track your progress. This will also make the second phase of your journey a lot easier. Monitor everything as you go along and shift things when they are not working.
8. Understand the business at all its different levels
Transformation requires a consideration at how the business functions at all levels. Sometimes, one function might think they do know the business at different levels and will try to impose their own ideas on how things should be run – but this will not work. You need to understand change and how the business works from a holistic business level.
Consider the impact of scalability – can you scale up your shared service? Consider that as you go. Plan for the future.
Where are you going to locate your staff? Do you locate them in a central area? Or where the client is? Be smart in your provision for shared services so internal customers can find what they need easily.
If you found this post interesting, check out SSON’s upcoming Planning and Launching for Shared Services Conference, taking place in Sydney, in February 2016.
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