Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Final Futures session, shared services.

Final session at the futures forum today was a panel sesion on shared services. Looking forward to this, as it's an area we're very interested in, and I'm on the HEFCE Steering Group for Shared Services and Cloud Computing with one of the panel members, Chris.

Malcolm Gillies, VC London Metropolitian University.

Talked about London Higher , an umbrella organisation for the 40 or so publicly funded bodies or Universities in London. In itself a success story for a shared service.
One of the issues they face is that the heads of institutions have more of an appetite for shared services than other senior managers such as Finance directors.
A recent survey of London Higher members showed that the interest in shared services was not about cost cutting, but about improving quality and share risks. At the moment, popular areas for sharing are audit,compliance and procurement.
HR, training, ICT, and Finance are all areas where shared services will be all developed over next few years.
Teaching and learning and research not high, because these are areas where we are differentiated.
Private sector being used to help in development of shared services.
HEIs must come together to discuss their objectives, and this may require a neutral space. Shared services will not happen overnight, quick wins vs long term gains, will require a long standing process.

Andy Westwood, Chief Executive, Guild HE

There is a willingness in HE to consider change. It's only the term shared services which is strange to us. We've been doing it for a long tine. Many organisations are delivering on behalf of the collective rather than individual HEIs, eg UCAS, JISC, JANET.
A Culture shift needs to take place. At the moment there's a fear of what others will think. If 2 or 3 VCs get together for a stragic discussion, they must be talking about a merger. if it's more than 3, then it's a new mission group!
As a sector we are normally very happy to collaborate and we need to capitalise on that.

Chris Cobb, PVC Roehampton University

Definition of terms is one of the main issues in the barriers to shared services. Is it outsourcing, sharing collaboratively between instititutions or centralising within an institution? Can be any.

Can be very important where a critical mass is needed, but one HEI can't justify having a large team but one person is a risk. Coming together builds capacity. (Roehampton and Kingston Universities share a procurement function.)

Also economy of scale. This is the one government beating us over head about, want us to come together to save cost. Have been initiatives in the past, but often gets stuck at high level.
Have to talk at a process level. Transactional in nature, not about decision support or quality.
Need to dispel myths. The VAT issue should be solved soon, but it will still only be about collaboration between institutions, it won't cover outsourcing. Have to look at our cost base. We already pay VAT on non staff items, it's only staff we don't pay it on and our staff costs are much higher than rest of public sector. So, VAT may not be solid argument against shared services.

Also mustn't outsource a problem. Processes need to be made more efficient first, then outsource or share.

A good Q and A about what models might work, and whether we should consider sharing VCs!

So, last blog post of day. It's been a bit of a marathon, and I might have broken my own record, but I hope it's been useful. It's been so much easier to blog - I've written everything straight into blogpress and hardly done any tidying or rewriting up at all.

I think its because all of the talks today were just that, talk. No powerpoint. No screens full of bullet points to distract. Just listening to what people were saying. I much preferred it.

All in all a very useful day, and great to be with a mixture of senior managers, VCs, Directors, PVCs, instead of my normal peer group of IT Directors.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Ajay said...

Sounds like it was a good session, and I agree that shared services is much misunderstood in the sector. Was there any discussion about the role of organisations like JANET and Eduserve? They are after all already effectively delivering shared services to the sector.