In July, the Center for Digital Government released the results of its 10th annual digital counties survey. Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that county governments are focused on using technology to cut costs and improve service delivery. One key strategy for achieving these goals is implementing shared services.
A shared service is one that is used by multiple parts of an organization but purchased and supported by one area of the organization. For example, rather than having different departments select and support their own enterprise content management (ECM) systems, the IT department purchases, implements and maintains one system that all departments use.
The digital counties survey revealed that 78% of the counties surveyed are pursuing joint service delivery, an increase of eight percent over 2011. But the trend toward shared services isn’t limited to government: Deloitte’s 2011 Global Shared Services Survey revealed that “shared services is increasing its reach into the ‘middle market.’”
These findings certainly reflect what we’re seeing among our customers. When you implement ECM as a shared service, you minimize support and maintenance costs while also gaining the opportunity to:
Rather than implementing ECM on a departmental basis, many organizations across industries have implemented ECM as an enterprise-wide shared service. For example, Texas A&M notes that the benefits of offering a “centrally supported, enterprise-level document management system provides many benefits,” including:
Computing and Information Services (CIS), the central IT department for the Texas A&M University System, supports the ECM shared service offering across 11 System universities, seven state agencies and a comprehensive health science center.
Looking beyond the walls of the enterprise, many government organizations are teaming up to offer ECM as an inter-agency shared service. For example, Loudoun County, VA, and the Loudoun County Public School District came together and are implementing a shared ERP system with ECM integrated on the back end.
According to Bill McIntyre, Division Manager of Enterprise IT at Loudoun County, VA, “Laserfiche Rio provides the enterprise document management functionality we need in our ERP system, along with standalone benefits for a number of county departments—including a cost savings of $51,000 a year on office supplies in the Department of Family Services alone. By deploying ERP and ECM as a shared service, we’re leveraging economies of scale and making more efficient use of our IT resources.”
Canada’s Essex County, meanwhile, teamed up with seven county municipalities to purchase and use Laserfiche WebLink as a public information portal. Wendy St. Amour, Essex County’s IT Manager, explained, “The ability to share knowledge and expertise with each other has proven to be very beneficial. By taking a shared-service approach, we can develop a process once, and with a few small changes, eight different organizations can benefit from it.”
Law enforcement agencies, too, are getting in on the shared-service action. According to Renee Lura, Professional IT Services Manager for the City of Fargo and an IT liaison/lead for the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, “In the realm of public safety, sharing resources across agencies allows everyone involved to get more bang for their buck. Multi-jurisdictional agencies allow participants to pool their funding so that they can invest in more sophisticated technology and provide better, faster service to their communities.”
According to Deloitte’s 2011 Global Shared Services Survey, “Every organization approaches shared services differently and regardless of the approach organizations are delivering year over year incremental value to their bottom line.”
As you consider implementing ECM as a shared service within your organization, keep in mind that following a maturity model such as the one outlined below can provide a roadmap to success.
1. Localize your best practices. Analyze the processes conducted by your business units. Calculate their lowest common denominator. Figure out which process is most efficient—and then make it repeatable so you can roll it out to the entire organization.
2. Thoughtfully standardize across business units. Look at your metadata models. Consider implementing a master model like the Dublin Core Set. On the delivery side, develop a standardized skill set for your staff.
3. Consolidate. Standardize the central system and customize the delivery. Deployment-wise this means consolidating all of your content into one ECM system and integrating to allow the users to access content through any application.
4. Cost benefits. This is where the economies of scale kick in. You’ve developed your service level agreements and are rolling out a menu of ECM functions in terms of head-count. At this stage your focus is no longer just internal optimization. You are actually creating value for the organization through your service offerings.
5. Continuous review. Constantly refine your menu of offerings through continuous and proactive auditing. Quality improvements are implemented using formalized change management processes like Six Sigma.
For an expanded version of this maturity model, see Agile ECM as a Shared Service.
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