Supporting departments within organizations have traditionally focused on managing and continually improving their own services. However, end users are becoming more and more critical and demanding of services supplied by HR, FM and IT departments. Part of this is because they now can find out many problems themselves through search engines. How do we combat this? The Google Effect teaches use a lesson in the value of shared services.

More and more platforms are cloud-based, ITIL is still popular and there is growing demand for (ISO) certification. FM has been professionalizing services using a facility management information system for a while now. This lets end users easily reserve meeting rooms and request lunch via a portal. In recent years, HR has switched to eHRM: supporting HR services using service management software. This also uses frameworks and best practices developed specifically for the HR market.

Previously people understood that it takes time before a software package can be installed, and that it is complicated to launch a web page or implement a change in a staff management system. Now end users are less and less patient, but also less and less understanding. This is a result of the Google effect.

Google effect vs. Compartmentalization

The Google effect is people’s tendency to forget information that is easy to find online using search engines like Google. This is the conclusion of a joint study performed by the universities of Columbia, Wisconsin and Harvard in 2011. You can also see the Google effect in the service management field. People are now used to a fast, central and even cost-free way of having their questions answered. Employees are gradually coming to expect this at work as well. Common feedback can be attributed to the Google effect:

“I want to be able to do things easily, without using complicated portals or forms.”

“Why do I have to choose whether to take my question to HR, FM or IT? I want to use a single desk for all my questions.”

“Why does everything have to take so long? I would have been done by now if I had used Google!”

It will be difficult for organizations with supporting departments using only internally focused strategies to stand up to this new commentary. The reason supporting departments are so focused on themselves is the compartmentalization that has developed since the departments’ creation. They are used to resolving the challenges they face within their own department.Each field has its own frameworks, standards and methods (ITIL, ISO, NEN, etc.), the schooling is strictly separated, and the knowledge platforms, shows and magazines all focus on a specific audience (HR, FM or IT).

It is obvious that the situation described here is not easily changed. It is up to HR, FM and IT managers to reach a strategic solution: working together to improve services where they truly overlap. The solution is Shared Service Management.

Shared Service Management

Shared Service Management (hereafter referred to as SSM) is a new strategic trend. Supporting departments join forces to improve the quality of services while cutting costs. It is important to acknowledge the strength of each department while searching for the areas where the services overlap and can be improved. This has a synergetic effect: expertise is better shared. We can see three categories among the projects observed to include steps towards more shared services:

• Collaboration on tools
• Collaboration on organization
• Collaboration on process management

The SSM growth model has been developed to help organizations achieve shared services. This growth model, based on experiences in the field, comprises four phases that can be seen as maturity phases within SSM (see figure 2). The way these steps are ordered creates a logical, step-by-step change process, with each phase focusing on one of three areas: tool, organization or process management. Each following phase naturally brings together supporting departments’ services, increases the maturity of the departments and results in both increased quality and lower costs. We have written more on the different steps in shared services before, but here is a quick breakdown:

Phase 0: Nothing Shared

Each department uses its own tools to support its processes. This can be anything from a professional service management tool to sticky notes. The processes are not coordinated and vary greatly in terms of maturity.

Phase 1: Shared Tool

Here, the various departments still use their own work methods, based on their own culture. Nevertheless, agreements must be made about the tool’s terminology and set-up. The first signs of project-based collaboration are visible.

Phase 2: Shared Service Desk

The end user can now take all questions and requests to a single digital and/or physical desk.

Phase 3: Shared Processes

The processes and procedures that require the departments to work together, or feature a considerable overlap in activities, are designed in collaboration.

The right ambition

We did some research at TOPdesk among 210 respondents that indicated that many organizations have taken the first steps towards phases 1 and 2, but few have attempted phase 3.The probable explanation for this is that the cut costs become smaller and less visible the further one progresses in the growth model (see figure above).

As long as IT managers focus only on saving money, organizations will not progress much further than phase 2. Optimal results can only be achieved when managers not only focus on saving money, but also the quality of services (regardless of the phase). It is essential to look beyond costs: the quality must also improve. If you wish to achieve this, the ambition must always be right, namely continuing to meet the growing demands of the business by combining the strengths of the supporting departments. And saving a lot of money while doing so. Not the other way around.

This is what the role of a shared services manager entails


The business continues to ask for more against lower costs. They want to do things faster and more easily, while having to think less and receiving consistent service. This is not something that every supporting department can resolve individually. This is why it is up to the manager to adjust the strategy accordingly and consciously choose to collaborate with other supporting departments to improve the quality of services.

To achieve Shared Service Management, strengths must be combined when it comes to the tool, the service desk and the processes while each department maintains its own expertise. The goal is realizing more collaborative services with considerable savings. This lets you guarantee customer satisfaction for end users in the future.

You can also learn more about the Scare-Free Benefits of Shared Services here.