Guest Column | October 4, 2016

Shared Service Management Required In The Era Of "The Google Effect"

By Nancy Van Elsacker, president, TOPdesk USA

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 human resources, facilities management, and IT departments. This is why it is time for supporting departments to combine their strengths to meet the business’ high expectations in the future. It’s time for shared service management.

A quick glance at the current trends shows how the largest supporting departments within organizations are working to become more professional when it comes to service management. This focuses on delivering better quality for lower prices. IT integrates new technologies and management models to make services easier to manage and faster to change. More and more platforms are cloud based, and ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is still popular and there is growing demand for ISO certification.

Facilities management has been professionalizing services using a facility management information system for a good bit. This lets end users easily reserve meeting rooms and request lunch, among other organizational tasks, via a simple-to-use portal. In recent years, human resources have switched to eHRM, supporting HR services using service management software.

This also uses frameworks and best practices developed specifically for the HR market. It is notable that these individual departments are primarily acting on their own initiative, and each takes their own approach. The HR, facilities management, and IT managers play a big part in this. After all, it is these people who determine the strategy for their departments, which is currently too focused on their own services. However, the user has ever-growing expectations. Previously, people understood 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, facilities management 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 internally focused 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, facilities management or IT). It is obvious the situation described here is not easily changed. It is up to HR, facilities management, and IT managers to reach a strategic solution: working together to improve services where they truly overlap. The solution is shared service management.

Service Management Is Better Shared

Shared service management 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 toward more shared services:

  • collaboration on tools
  • collaboration on organization
  • collaboration on process management

The shared service management 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 shared service management. 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.

  • 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. Employees focus on their own department. This phase’s greatest challenge is to share the information streams with other departments when necessary. An example: employee changes that require the various departments to swing into action. Each department also uses its own service management tools.
  • Phase 1: shared tool — a shared service management tool is used to improve the information stream. This also results in considerable savings when it comes to license costs and management. 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. With the exception of agreements about how calls are registered and routed, each department processes calls in their own way. However, the collaboration does intensify, because operators from various departments must collaborate at the shared service desk. This leads to a considerable improvement in quality for the end user, as well as reduced costs resulting from sharing resources at the service 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. Call management and employee changes are the most obvious examples with which to start. This will happen gradually, and will not be equally relevant for all processes. After implementing this new shared process, the process management must also be centrally sourced.

The Right Ambition

Recent research (performed by TOPdesk) among 210 respondents indicates that many organizations have taken the first steps towards phases one and two and three, but few have attempted phase four. The probable explanation for this is that the cut costs become smaller and less visible the further one progresses in the growth model. As long as IT managers focus only on saving money, organizations will not progress much further than phase two. 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 the right one, 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.


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.

Nancy Van Elsacker is the president of TOPdesk USA, currently responsible for leading the division’s business development, client acquisition and customer services efforts. Prior to launching TOPdesk’s North American division in 2015, she led the organization’s expansion efforts in Belgium for eight years and was responsible for the startup and expansion of TOPdesk’s operations there.