2.8.2 How can Shared Services (SSs) help?

Since the Gershon Review17 government strategy has included the use of SSs. All of the funding councils are committed to supporting their sectors in seeking cost savings through shared services.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) commissioned a report from KPMG18 into Shared Services in the Higher Education Sector that found that there is potential for HEs to secure sustainable efficiencies including both economic benefits and service improvements.

HEFCE believe there are real opportunities for institutions to benefit through the use of shared services. Figure 13 overleaf is extracted from the HEFCE Circular 20/200619. It illustrates the different types of services and resulting benefits that can be realised.

HEFCE Shared Services
Figure 13 - HEFCE Circular 20/2006, extracted

Opportunities to benefit from SSs can be found wholly within an institution or by the collaboration and delivery with another organisation or joint venture organisation.

The argument for successful SSs is that by the convergence or streamlining of an institution's or institutions' functions, including technology and business functions, the services can be delivered more effectively and efficiently. Such savings allow the opportunity to redirect resources to student and partner facing activities. Further benefits may also accrue where integration or synergy can be achieved within SS solutions, such as may be found between Student Management and Finance Systems.

Given the sectors strong collaborative approach, the process of review and business change as part of the design of the SS, can also add further value through consultation with other institutions.

Although the models and possible business solutions for SSs are extensive the competitive nature of the HE sector may limit future SS solutions. More obvious opportunities are seen to be available in, for example, administration and those areas less critical to the market position of an institution than the areas of research and teaching and learning.

As we consider the opportunities within an institution the shared services approach may also be relevant to the sharing of functions, rather than applications in line with service oriented approaches (soa), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and the e-Framework Programme led by JISC. The e-Framework Programme aims to co-ordinate service-related work in other programmes and share the developments using a knowledge base. More information can be found at JISC e-Framework Programme for Education and Research20.

JISC have published a number of reports21 on SSs and the findings confirm that about a third of responding institutions have at least one shared service with benefits being sought through:

  • Continuity and resilience of service
  • Raising quality and adding value to existing services
  • Securing cost savings and sustainable efficiencies
  • Releasing staff time for more customer facing activities
  • Improving system scalability
  • Ensuring improved and more up-to-date systems
  • Gaining competitive advantage
  • Ability to offer otherwise unsustainable services
  • Levering transformation
  • Collaborating with other institutions and improved cooperation