Shared Services: A lot like my snowblower

Ok, so this is a little bigger than ours

A few years back a couple of neighbors and I decided to band together and buy a snowblower. After years of pushing snow around on frigid mornings and nearly breaking an ankle the previous winter I was easy to convince. Anything that was going to keep me from pushing a shovel up and down my sidewalks and driveway seemed like a good idea. Plus, because I would only be using it part time it made sense to share the cost of the item with some like minded neighbors. I will admit that I occasionally still take the easy way out on particularly cold and snowy mornings.

When I get the knock on my door from the inevitable group of young men shoveling driveways comes, I am sometimes more than willing to part with a little cash rather rather than trooping out into the snow even with a snowblower. For the most part though our purchase has worked out nicely. I store it and reimburse my neighbors for gas and maintenance. We came to this arrangement once it was discovered that despite being a farmer’s son I actually have no mechanical ability whatsoever. Since our initial investment a few other neighbors have come to use the snowblower and it has worked nicely for our little section of the street.

While some might thing of this as simply an example of good friends and neighbors working together I like to think of it as our own little neighborhood shared service. We’ve come together to share in the costs of delivering snow removal for our neighborhood. This has included some process improvements over time– for example a few years ago we decided it was important to have a designated coffee getter– someone who knew ahead of time that their only job was to ensure that the brave souls running the snowblower would be adequately caffeinated while fighting the elements. We’ve also developed and standardized on equipment and fuel reserves (ok, I was the guy who was holding an empty gas can during the last snow storm). For the most part our snow removal service has worked out fabulously – I only wish we could figure out where else we could take this approach. The lawns are an obvious example, but what about transportation or gardening? The possibilities might be endless. The problem is I don’t know enough about my neighbors to figure out who I might share these problems with and I’m guessing I might get some funny (funnier) looks if I started going door to door asking them about the inner workings of their households.

Of course organizations face these same challenges and while the idea of shared services has been around forever it seems that in most organizations there are only a few shining examples of success despite ample opportunity. I believe part of this is that there is no systematic approach to finding and taking advantage of these opportunities. For example:

  • One of the real problems organizations often have with implementing and getting the most out of shared services is that they do not have an approach to looking across the organizations capabilities and identifying areas (Payroll, etc) that might be great candidates for share shared services.
  • Organizations often struggle to develop the business case for creating a shared service. How much potential savings are there? What is the complexity of the effort?
  • Prioritization is another critical area where analysis is difficult and information is lacking. How do you rack and stack your opportunities in order to identify the best candidates?

As a consulting services provider we often find ourselves walking organizations through these types of questions and helping them develop internal approaches that enable them to identify these candidate opportunities and capitalize on them. This week there is a great opportunity to learn more about successful approaches in this area from two thought leaders in the space. Bill Cason is the CTO at Troux with more than 40 years of experience in providing business focused technology software and services. I’ve heard Bill speak on a number of topics around the intersection of business and technology and I’m looking forward to his take on Shared Services Planning. For those of you in the public sector he will be joined by Ted Reynolds–Troux’s Vice President Federal Sector. Both of these gentleman understand the challenges facing organizations as they look to implement successful shared serves and whether you use Troux’s software or not I think you’ll find a lot of value in listening to them talk about having the right approach.

If you are interested in attending the details are below:

Date: Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Time: 10:30am CT/ 11:30am ET

You can register at the following link:


I’ll be there – I hope you are too.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply