I attended the latest Strategic Technology Group meeting of JISC’s Flexible Service Delivery programme last week. The meeting was the first opportunity for participants in the fourteen new projects under the programme to meet and to brief others on their work.
In addition to the new projects, one of the projects in the first tranche was giving its final report. The initiative from North Herts College is already delivering significant savings but although shared services were an aim of the project, those benefits have yet to be realised. The College had made a strategic decision to move to a more commercial footing and to structure itself as a retailer of learning. One of the first consequences was that the college was restructured along the lines of a retail organisation with customer facing divisions, operations, delivery, etc. Having introduced a new ethos into the College, the next step was to analyse the processes of the corporate operations to assess their complexity and location requirements. The aim was to identify low skill, location independent processes that could potentially be moved to shared services. The analysis concluded that around 80% of the processes fell into this category. There was also the view that 90% of operations would be common to all further education colleges.
The College also looked at the major cost services to see how they could be made more efficient and streamlined them. This work alone delivered 20% cost savings in a number of areas and the College were looking to shared services to deliver a further 20% saving. The analysis stage of the project only took two months to run with the implementation phase (the streamlining) taking a further six months. But at the end of that process the College are in a good position to be a retailer, not just of learning to the community it serves, but also of finance, HR and IT services to schools in the area and to other colleges.
One of the key lessons from the project is that there are almost certainly significant savings to be made from streamlining processes. A number of higher education institutions are already taking steps to do just that deploying Lean teams to review processes and are seeing improvements in the processes and time savings if not the sort of cost savings identified here. But it does strongly suggest that an essential precursor to a move to shared services is to optimise the internal process. It may even put the institution in a position where it can generate income, likely to be much needed in the next few years, as a net provider of services rather than a consumer. What is needed is strong leadership to take institutions along this path.
Tags: shared services