Realising the benefit of integrated shared services: the change challenge

Many large organisations are turning to integrated shared services as a model for providing business services across the whole organisation. Integrated shared services offer significant benefits, including optimising end-to-end service delivery, improving customer experience and controlling and reducing costs, but the change involved is dramatic and proactive change management is essential.

The problem is that, in implementing a shared service model, many businesses use a change management approach that focuses only on the tangible elements of change. They concentrate on defining the new operating model, the organisation design, the service catalogue – as these are easier to see and influence. They rarely adopt a high-profile drive to address some of the cultural and behavioural shifts needed to establish an integrated services organisation, especially in such a period of intense activity.

Our experience of working with some of the leading adopters of integrated shared services shows that the companies that make the transition most successfully adopt a change management approach that focuses attention on both the cultural, behavioural and structural elements of change.

There are five important areas of focus for bringing about cultural and behavioural change as part of a broader change management strategy:

Help your people explore the changes that shared services will bring for them

Use the vision of the new shared services organisation to help functions, teams and individuals understand what being part of an integrated shared services organisation will really mean for them. Work with these groups to explore where they are moving from and to, and describe what will need to change in terms of day-to-today behaviour. This process will encourage employees to make a conscious psychological shift required for the transformation and enable them to articulate clearly what they, and those around them, will do differently.

Make your organisation’s leaders ‘agents of change’

To lead change successfully, your organisation’s leaders will also need to make a conscious change in their own behaviour. Help them establish ‘what’s in it for me?’ to encourage them to adopt a position where they feel secure, and are able to act and lead the creation of a very visible change in the organisation.

Adjust performance management to reinforce desired behaviours

Tackle deep-rooted behavioural norms – left untouched they have the potential to undermine change. Align your performance management system and reward mechanisms to reinforce the desired behaviours. ‘What gets measured gets done’ so even a small addition to an existing performance and reward structure will produce results.

Beyond performance management, make sure that all your systems and policies, and support for leadership and organisational development are pulling in the same direction. Aim to create an environment where your people feel supported to achieve the change they have committed to, and to resist the temptation to go back to their ‘normal ways of working’.

Get the right capabilities for shared services in place

The full range of capabilities required for an integrated shared services organisation may not exist within your staff – so you will need to develop, buy or borrow the capabilities you need. Manage this process carefully to secure both the right technical capabilities and the right mix of styles. Choose and nurture people who are accountable and committed to developing the shared services organisation, and make them visible role models of the change.

Recognise the influence of every function on cultural change

A dedicated change team may be responsible for creating the conditions for a successful transformation, but changes in IT, procurement, business process design and financial and governance arrangements will have as much influence over the evolving culture as changes to HR and finance systems and processes. Make sure that decision-makers in these areas are aware of the potential cultural consequences so that they can deliver successful change that meets the wider business objectives.

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