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The Surge in Shared Service Management

By August 4, 2015Article

The recent report on shared service management by SDI got me thinking about why it is only now becoming a topical subject. If you think about it, the benefits are very clear, both for the supporting departments as well as the end users or clients. And even though the report shows 55 percent of service desks are planning for shared service management, still there must be some reasons why this is perceived as a new thing and why not all service desks are there just yet. 

Service management 

First of all, when we look at the term “service management,” it is relatively new, especially for those supporting departments that are not IT. The concept of it is, of course, not new as those departments have been delivering services to their clients or end users for a long time. It’s just that using a framework and the term “service management” is relatively new. Especially because of this fact, shared service management is often perceived as a way for the IT department taking over the facility or HR department with their ITIL processes and terminology; but that is not what it is about. 

Why now? 

Shared service management is now more topical than ever because of new technology. In the past, it was pretty straightforward – who to turn to in an office environment. Problems with a desktop computer were for IT, phones were mostly for facilities, etc. But with technology evolving quickly, all of a sudden we have created some grey areas: phone subscriptions are still mostly a facilities or HR responsibility, whereas the phones themselves moved to IT because of their complexity. And looking at what is happening with the Internet of Things evolution, it will only become more confusing. 

On the other side, the workforce is changing, too. Millennials have different expectations when it comes to being supported. The Google effect, where they are used to looking for the information at one place rather than having to think about who to turn to is having a clear effect in the work environment. 

A third reason for shared service management being topical now is the mind shift of organizational leaders toward workforce enablement. The economy is pushing us toward ever increasing effectiveness. What is a better way to achieve that than to take away as much hassle as possible from the workforce by enabling them to do their core job, which is what they are good at? 

There is a clear shift from a passive support approach to an approach where leaders consider service management as delivering technology and services to the people who drive their business. In that frame of mind, shared service management is an important factor. 

Benefits of shared service management 

The reason why a lot of companies move to shared service management are diverse, but the benefits are usually very clear to see. Think, for instance, of the amount of hours that are lost because of calls that end up at the wrong service desk within an organization. Or the benefit of having one service desk or one tool overseeing the process of new hires and people leaving the company instead of having to move around different checklists and hoping they don’t get lost along the way. 

From the end users’ point of view, shared service management takes away the hassle of having to think about which service desk to turn to. Instead they always know where to go and are sure they will get help, dramatically increasing the customer satisfaction. 


Most perceived hurdles for moving toward shared service management are human related: different cultures and ways of working of the departments, and fear of change and politics. 

The supporting departments all have their own focus and approach, which is logical from what they support; for HR the focus is the people, for FM the focus is the experience and for IT the focus is technology. Because of this, the way they deliver support is very different. Where IT is more used to working in a process-driven way, facilities has more experience in working with external suppliers. Bringing their knowledge and experience together brings a lot of benefits but, of course, takes a step-by-step approach. 

I have seen success stories with clients and all have many of the same things in common, especially that there was a very high focus on the human or people factor in the implementation, taking small steps and getting people involved throughout the entire process. Making it fun or adding a bit of humor can really move people away from the fear of change. 

For example, one client created a fictitious character around which all communication was done. They used posters and gadgets to get everyone involved in the project of working together. Another client made a video that was kind of a commercial to the end users telling them about the new shared service desk. By doing this, they achieved a double goal: The operators from the supporting departments thought of it as a fun project, rather than scary, and the end users knew who to turn to. 

In the end, I believe shared service management is a shift in the market rather than a trend. Whether it is driven by the benefits it brings or the necessity of moving towards it is in the eye of the beholder. 

Nancy Van Elsacker is president of TOPdesk, a global provider of service management solutions.