Shared-services is a form of “internal outsourcing” that allows enterprises to achieve considerable cost benefits by utilizing a single group within the organization to create and manage specific IT services.
The main benefits of shared-services are cost savings and rapid deployment of new applications by leveraging access to centralized expertise and infrastructure.
Despite these benefits, many companies have been slow to move toward a shared-services infrastructure because they are confused about how to do so. This article examines what a shared-services infrastructure is, who should consider evolving to one, and best-practices for launching such an initiative.
Increasingly, large enterprises with multiple lines of business are under pressure to consolidate infrastructure, reduce costs, and ensure governance across the enterprise. In such companies, however, most business units have their own IT groups and run their own core processes, resulting in duplicated effort and hence additional costs to develop and maintain applications.
A shared-services group works to centralize business processes and IT infrastructure in order to reduce this duplication.
Business processes that benefit several lines of business (e.g., human resources, training, finance, accounts payable, and accounts receivable) are perfect candidates for being moved to a shared-services group. Furthermore, as the number of applications hosted by the group grows, common themes and patterns emerge, enabling the group to identify still more processes that can be encapsulated as “services” and reused within other applications.
For instance, an “employee background check process” might be a widely used service that the shared-services group hosts and maintains. By leveraging the “reusable service,” the shared-services group can develop and deploy new applications faster and at less cost.
8 Best Practices
Moving to a shared-services infrastructure requires an investment of time and money. To maximize the opportunity for a successful initiative, adopt and adhere to the following best practices:
Find a champion. Find a high-level executive with credibility and enthusiasm to help fund a Center of Excellence (COE) and back an initial project. Choose a project that will deliver the greatest value in the shortest time.
Look for lower investment, lower risk of failure, less business disruption, faster time to deployment, and faster time to proving benefits. Success with the first application is paramount to being able to deploy more applications.
Establish goals. Do not bite off more than you can chew. While it’s important to choose a development tool that addresses every phase of the process lifecycle, it should be flexible enough to let you choose the phases you want to focus on initially.
For instance, you should have the option to establish your initial goals around capturing and refining the business process model; or you might want to expand your initial goals to include the automation of this captured process while leaving the analysis and process optimization for a later date.
Select the right BPM offering. Some of the key criteria to consider while evaluating a BPM (business process management) offering include the company’s financial strength and stability, its adherence to standards so you do not get locked into a single platform, the breadth of functionality that the product offers, and pricing.
“BPM” means different things to different people, so determine what it means to you:
Every vendor has a sweet spot. Choose wisely. Test-drive what you see in a demonstration. Make sure what you see is really what you get. And choose a BPM vendor that is committed to being your long-term partner.
Set up a BPM Center of Excellence A Center of Excellence needs to bring together the right blend of business and IT expertise from across the enterprise to ensure alignment of ideas, define what can be shared, and prioritize projects.