Your shared service or collaboration vehicle has been up and running quite smoothly for a few years. Initial wrinkles have been ironed out and the agonies of change have been largely forgotten. Congratulations – you are already part of a success story. With such initiatives not famed for their longevity, you have done well to get this far.
But we are all operating in a rapidly changing world in which new demands to collaborate, reduce overheads and safeguard service delivery are a monthly, if not weekly occurrence. With so much happening and so many new challenges there to be grabbed, are you taking time out to consider whether the “old stuff”, that shared service that has been running quite happily in the background without fuss or controversy, is still fit for purpose?
Five years is a long time in the world of sharing. It’s quite possible that the initial drivers for setting up that service have been superseded by new imperatives. The desire to safeguard service quality may have been overtaken by the need to deliver savings on the back of a digital transformation - or perhaps the shared service is still being asked to deliver year-on-year savings and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do that without cutting staff, activities or both. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to take stock and sense check that you are still doing the right things in the right way?
This need not be burdensome. As a way forward, the six questions below should give you a quick “temperature check”:
- What were the key drivers for setting up the collaboration?
- Do those still hold true? Are you still expecting it to deliver the same benefits?
- Are you still measuring the success of the collaboration by the original metrics or by something different? If different, why the change?
- How is the collaboration perceived (both internally and externally)?
- Is the governance model still working well?
- What are the aspirations for the future?
As shared services or other collaborations mature, there is often a desire to “sweat the asset”. Should more functions be subsumed into the delivery vehicle (whatever that may be)? Should more partners be brought on board? Either gives you an opportunity to reassess the operating model to make sure it continues to be fit for purpose.
Let’s consider a couple of examples:
As partnerships expand, governance becomes more difficult to sustain, something that is particularly true if a joint committee, or similar arrangement, is in force. If that is the case, is it time to consider a lead authority model (although this type of contracting relationship can be uncomfortable for those who end up as the client) or should some kind of company structure be considered (useful if the shared service is wishing to contract with suppliers in its own right)?
Similarly, new areas of operation might lend themselves to a different operating model. Are there new opportunities to trade? In that case, re-examining the pros and cons of the company route (Teckal or otherwise) might be worthwhile. What didn’t make sense “back then” might be a more attractive proposition now. Or is something even more dramatic required, such as looking again at the case for outsourcing?
At the same time, take a look at your current organisational capabilities. Do you have the right skills, experience and capacity to scale up? Ask yourself:
If the answer to most of these is “yes” – congratulations and here’s to the next five years. If the answer is “no” – perhaps it’s time to go back to basics.