How to Achieve True Benefit Realization from a Shared Services Implementation

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, Feb 04, 2016 @ 11:26 AM

Transitioning to a Shared Services model is one of the most common transformational changes we see in our Change Management Consulting work. The rationale for this type of enterprise-wide change is clear-- why support redundant services such as IT, Human Resources, Financial and/or Legal, in each organizational silo when there can be one corporate-wide resource that is shared? But… the question is… are organizations achieving true benefit realization from their Shared Services implementations? Shared ServicesAt the heart of these cross-functional changes is the desire to have the organization operate more collaboratively. But building a collaborative culture is difficult, and it will not happen simply by having people attend a single workshop or complete an online course on “becoming collaborative.”

One World Needs One Methodology

What's especially surprising is that organizations often attempt to implement a Shared Services model without a common implementation framework. So, while there is one destination point, you will find multiple approaches, methods, tools, and vocabularies employed for getting there. If the organization seeks standardization and process optimization, it just makes sense to have one best-practice implementation approach. 

For this reason, there is great value in following a single change management methodology such as the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM).  AIM is a flexible, but business-disciplined change management methodology that provides project management for the people-side of implementation. It offers one vocabulary and a common set of deliverables, principles, strategies, and tactics to be used across all business units affected by the change.


Common Barriers to Change for Shared Services

Based on our work helping clients who are implementing Shared Services, we know there are some common and predictable barriers to change. Here are a few tips on how to apply the AIM principles that we teach in our change management training to ensure you are on the path to true benefit realization.

Poor scope or project definition

Barriers to ChangeT
oo often, we hear words like "collaboration" or operating "cross-functionally" thrown around without truly defining what that would look like behaviorally.  Then we expect people to just do it.  Defining what you are seeking behaviorally is critical.  If you walked into your organization in three years, and it was transformed into a collaborative organization, what would that look like?

TIP: Make sure you create a well-defined AIM Business Case for Action that clearly lays out the business motivation for this change, and importantly, what it will mean for each of the Target audiences.


Ineffective Sponsorship

Barriers to ChangeLeaders often "talk" Shared Services, but continue to act as independent business units. The traditional silo, top-down culture is extremely powerful.  Leaders who’ve been reinforced for individual success won’t shift to a collaborative Shared Services model without different reinforcement. {Tweet This}  This is one reason why Shared Services is such a difficult transformational change to implement.

TIP: Plan for building the required Sponsorship in all the areas impacted by the Shared Services implementation. Sponsors must demonstrate personal commitment through what they say, what they model, and what they reinforce.


Lack of cultural fit

Barriers to ChangeChange is hard enough when it is within the existing vertical power structures.  But when you are looking to implement cross-functionally, you are essentially attempting to move horizontally across these vertical power structures. In other words, you are asking leaders to “give up power and control” of areas they’ve managed potentially for years. This “silo” culture has to be overcome in order to have a successful implementation.

TIP: Shared Services works best in a collaborative culture where "everyone is on the same page."  One of the best ways to make that happen is by creating joint executive accountability and reinforcements for success. Reinforcement is the power lever for culture change.

Ineffective communication planning

Barriers to ChangeThere is a common belief that just getting a message out to an audience is enough to get buy-in, eliminate resistance, and even drive behavior change.  As a result, too many organizations singularly invest in top-down, one-way communications that don’t motivate people to move from the status quo to the desired state.

TIP: Create a communication strategy that relies heavily on face-to-face communication, with messaging designed in the varying "frame of references" for Targets of the Shared Services implementation.

Reinforcements that are aligned with the old operating model

Barriers to ChangeOrganizations will automatically be reinforcing the status quo rather than transformational behaviors unless there is an intentional effort to align new reinforcements with the implementation.

TIP: You will need to create reinforcement systems that align with the Shared Services implementation.


Enterprise-wide change such as Shared Services transitions are complex. On the business side, they require changes to strategy, structure, operations and technology. On the people side changes in expectations, perceptions, behaviors, and skills are all required. These transformational changes are also more often than not wrought in politics, emotion and resistance. But, by managing these factors with a common, structured approach like AIM, you will be one step closer to achieving true benefit realization.

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Topics: Barriers to Change, Enterprise-wide Change, Value Realization/ROI, Shared Services