What does it actually mean when you see ‘Shared Services’ in a contact’s job title? What actual service is being shared… and by whom?
A shared services model is the sharing of back office functions. In the private sector this has traditionally existed in ‘head offices’ whilst in the public sector it has taken the form of the consolidation of various administrative functions of several agencies in one location.
Traditionally the shared service model has been sold on the basis of increased efficiency through cost reductions and added effectiveness through improved service delivery. It is often accompanied by benchmarking of various functions in order to identify best practice for the new standardised shared service. Functions included in shared services models include Human Resources, Finance and Administration, Procurement and Information and Communication Technology.
Moves to shared services models often begin with the rationalisation of government departments that often accompany a change of government or significant Cabinet reshuffle. Interestingly any associated staff reductions are often rebranded as movement of back room employees to front line service delivery. In reality, this may be difficult to achieve as the skill set of back room staff is often considerably different to those directly serving the public.
The use and extent of shared services models differs widely across the public sector in Australia. The Victorian public sector was an early adopter in the early 1990s with movement of the Human Resources and Information Technology functions. The ACT government is seen as having a largely positive experience with shared services implementation. Part of this success may be due to the small size and geography of the ACT and ability for users of the shared service to still meet and brief face to face with the providers. Elsewhere the implementation of shared service models has been plagued by cost over runs and delivery date blow outs.
Shared service models are seen to provide benefit in the implementation of whole of government initiatives. This focus on service transformation and integrated service delivery, not just cost reduction, is a current feature of the shared services model throughout Australia.
In NSW, the first of 18 ‘One Stop Shops’ opened last year in Sydney. The shop provides a range of government transactions under one roof such as renewal of driver’s licence and application for a birth certificate. Federally, Centrelink and Medicare Service Centres also provide extended services under one roof. Similarly the Federal government provides the option to ‘tell us once’ about changes to income, address details and other personal information which can then be updated across all Department of Human Services programs.
Throughout Australia various government departments will continue to implement various shared service models. Some may have started to ‘grow back’ various functions to an individual agency. Whatever shared services model is implemented A-ZGovBIZ specialises in government, education and health marketing contact lists.
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