Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Shared Services at the Conservatoire

Today I spent the morning at the Leeds College of Music, talking to the Executive Management Board of Yorkshire Universities about Shared Services. The college is a lovely building - it has a superb performance auditorium with some beautiful Steinway pianos. The college also has Apple accredited training status, so that every student who goes through the conservatoire not only has a music education but a digital one as well. Very nice venue.

So, what did I say about Shared Services? Well, that it's not anything new to us - we've been doing it for years with JANET, UCAS, etc, but we've just not called it shared services. Now there's a big drive to increase the amount we do - for reasons of economies of scale, efficiency, cost avoidance, improved service, resilience and shared or reduced risk.

The Diamond report highlighted the need for sharing and collaborating, but emphasised that  simplification and standardisation was a real pre-requisite, and would in itself lead to real efficiencies. Something we're trying to achieve with our LEAN implementation.

A commonly identified barrier to shared services is competitiveness, but there are many good examples of shared services in other sectors where there is real competition. The Justgiving website in the charity sector, and the Amadeus airline booking system in the private sector being two good examples. You have to look for a common function which has no competitive edge to it.
 It's also important to go down a level from the whole system. Don't look to share a finance system for example but a transaction such as invoice processing.

A couple of other important things - know your numbers. Know how much things cost, or how can you make decisions.  And most important of all - don't outsource a problem - fix it first!
After I'd done my bit there was a presentation of a real live shared service - the YHMAN Shared Virtual Data Centre, which we're part of. I think that might be worth a separate post - will work on it!

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