Communication, Subject-Matter Expertise Key to Shared Services Implementation, Study Finds

Communication, Subject-Matter Expertise Key to Shared Services Implementation, Study Finds

Tysons, Va., October 29, 2015 — LMI’s Research Institute partnered with the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) to conduct a new research study on how government employees view shared  service implementation during all stages of implementation. AGA’s press release details the key findings of the study. 

(Alexandria, Va. – Oct. 28, 2015) Improving the quality of communication between shared service providers (SSPs) and government clients could greatly boost outcomes during and after shared service implementation, according to respondents in a new research study by AGA and LMI Research Institute. The study, released Wednesday, captured the opinions of AGA members in all levels of government and at various stages of shared service implementation, including those not planning to use an SSP.

Respondents were far more vocal this year than last, which LMI’s Carol Christian attributes to increased attention to the issue and more people finding themselves “in the trenches.” One of the things that surprised her most, she said, was the focus on communication and need for subject-matter experts to be involved in each step of the SSP transition process.

“Communication is important everywhere, but in accounting, especially, it’s about using the right words the right way,” she said. “Commitment and obligation, for example, may mean the same thing to many people but in accounting they are different transactions — they can’t be used interchangeably. When going through highly technical implementations, conversation is good but only when everyone is speaking the same language.”

The study examined user experiences in terms of planning, transition, costs, benefits and service offerings. Among the findings:

  • Of current SSP users, 40% believe short-term costs are higher but long-term costs are lower, 14% believe their overall costs are higher than they were before moving to an SSP, and 17% believe they are lower. SSPs were more likely to believe the overall costs were lower, about the same, or lower in the long run. The ongoing cost of work-arounds concerns current users most about SSPs, cost-wise, but they also worry about being charged for unused services and lack of control over future-year costs, among other concerns.
  • Current users largely believe that organizations don’t realize cost savings because shadow organizations duplicate provider activities (30%); but people not being reassigned, inability to decommission technology; the necessity of an ancillary system to handle exceptions, and the need to perform additional activities and to correct provider errors also hinder cost savings.
  • The benefits of implementing shared services aside from cost savings are many, with most respondents agreeing that having a better system (37%) is the biggest draw, followed by improved internal controls, quicker response to new requirements, getting or keeping a clean opinion and easier budget justification. Additionally, users said they are better able to focus on their organization’s missions and that SSPs increase access to expertise, leverage best practices, increase flexibility and provide value-added financial services.

All levels of government could benefit by taking a few key points to heart, the study concludes. First, potential customers don’t hear success stories from current users, but do hear concerns. Second, cost savings are not being recognized, though savings could come later. Third, few SSPs are ready to take on state and local governments, leaving a gap in the market. Fourth, dramatic shifts in staff roles and responsibilities can add trauma to SSP migration. Finally, it is difficult to create long-term plans in political environments, so many projects are “chunked” into 18-month segments, under the assumption management could change.

SSPs could focus on technology advancement and innovation to automate and improve processes rather than simply a shift in responsibilities; and offer a solution that supports common feeder systems so all customer functions are integrated. A marketplace should be created in which SSPs are rewarded for successful implementation as well as penalized for failing to deliver. These are some of the many ways researchers suggest improving SSP transitions and results across all levels of government.

“AGA’s most recent study proves there is more work to be done by both government offices and SSPs to successfully implement shared services government-wide,” said AGA CEO Ann Ebberts. “Through increased collaboration and conversation, I feel confident the parties can work together to reach a solution that is manageable, meets the needs of the financial management community and is cost-effective for taxpayers.”

For More Information: Anna Schumann | Communications and Marketing Manager 800.AGA.7211, ext. 308 | 

About AGA

AGA is the member organization for financial professionals in government. We lead and encourage change that benefits our field and all citizens. Our networking events, professional certification, publications and ongoing education help members build their skills and advance their careers.

About LMI

LMI is a mission-drive consulting firm committed to improving the management of government. With more than 1,000 consultants, we design and implement practical solutions to some of the toughest problems facing federal leaders in logistics, management, and information technology. For more than 50 years, we put our customer’s interests first.