The IT industry landscape is constantly changing, and with that comes increasing expectations and demands. Due to a range of obstacles — including economic downturn recovery and resource mismanagement — IT department personnel are experiencing resource strains, forcing them to cut costs in vital areas while also maintaining high innovation standards. Today’s IT environment has stretched teams thin, creating expectations that these professionals must do more with less. In many cases, these “minimalist operations” cause productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction to plummet.
As a result, one major challenge IT leaders face is efficiently allocating resources. To accomplish this, more IT leaders are turning to “as-needed” or shared service providers to better augment their in-house IT services with a diverse pool of resources available as they need. Skill augmentation is a major advantage: By utilizing shared services, company leaders are able to outsource specialized business functions and harness new technology without having to hire full-time employees. In other words, IT leaders can obtain the support they need when they need it.
Different models for different needs
The breadth and versatility of shared services makes it a difficult concept to summarize. Many shared services models entail a wide range of engagement options designed to fit specific business or industry needs. For example, some offer models for clients who require resources only when they need them. In fact, a Time and Material model features no down payment and makes services available as necessary while Block Support models typically require small down payments and include discounts for blocks of hours as well as support available for a specified period after contract receipt. Look for options that complement these services such as customized support teams, regular communication, and flexible plans to fit any budget.
Although the full potential of shared services is still emerging, many benefits are already clear. Information management (IM) shared services, when implemented as needed, can bolster company leaders’ abilities to make decisions by improving organizational responsiveness and identifying healthy business opportunities. When accompanied by well-coordinated IT services, such as infrastructure management and quality assurance, these shared services may help business leaders solve many of the aforementioned resource management problems they face.
Align solutions to your strategies
Be sure any shared service solutions you’re considering align with your overall business strategy. This requires managerial support as well as regular communication with supervisors and clients to help ensure employees are using assets responsibly, feel confident and clear in their roles, and are executing projects on time and as planned. Throughout the process, request clear and frequent reporting, quality assurance checkpoints, and ongoing resource management surveys to smooth integrations between shared and existing IT services.
Some company leaders have encountered pitfalls when organizing their shared service implementation plans — pitfalls which often mirror the very problems they aimed to solve. They may underfund teams in charge of shared services, making expectations difficult to meet. In other cases, they might underprepare for change management challenges associated with adjusting to shared services.
Others respond to IT challenges by outsourcing services entirely. The cloud revolution has disrupted traditional outsourcing practices, enabling cooperation and collaboration among outsourced IT workers and as-needed service providers. Service level agreements (SLAs) between IT providers and their clients define which services providers offer when clients need them. No matter your approach, implementing shared services can be beneficial when you have the guidance of an IT solutions provider with expertise in flexible as-needed services.
In short, the key to implementing shared services is to allocate time and resources responsibly and ensure that all team members involved are adequately prepared for processes changes. Balanced, careful approaches to shared services will likely result in greater rewards for business leaders than hasty approaches. By providing services as needed and offering on-demand project assistance, company leaders can save on staffing costs, increase efficiencies, and improve client satisfaction.