Success Factors for ICT Shared Services in the Higher Education Sector

Success Factors for ICT Shared Services in the Higher Education Sector

Suraya Miskon (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia), Wasana Bandara (Queensland University of Technology, Australia), Guy G. Gable (Queensland University of Technology, Australia) and Erwin Fielt (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/jitr.2012070101


Shared services is a prominent organizational arrangement for organizations, in particular for support functions. The success (or failure) of shared services is a critical concern as the move to shared services can entail large scale investment and involve fundamental organizational change. The Higher Education (HE) sector is particularly well poised to benefit from shared services as there is a need to improve organizational performance and strong potential from sharing. Through a multiple case study of shared services experiences in HE, this study identifies ten important antecedents of shared services success: (1) Understanding of shared services; (2) Organizational environment; (3) Top management support; (4) IT environment; (5) Governance; (6) Process centric view; (7) Implementation strategy; (8) Project management; (9) Change management; and (10) Communication. The study then develops a preliminary model of shared services success that addresses the interdependencies between the success factors. As the first empirical success model for shared services, it provides valuable guidance to practice and future research.
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Universities are looking to ‘shared services’ as a means of improving organizational performance (Wagenaar, 2006). This paper reports a multiple case study of shared services success factors in the higher education sector.

Shared services is an organization redesign option that gives primacy to the efficiency of corporate functions and can be seen as an alternative to outsourcing (Sako, 2010). Traditionally, shared services entails the consolidation of replicate business functions; predominantly support functions like Finance, Human Resources or Information Technology (IT), into a separate unit which provides customer oriented services to the originating business units (e.g., Bergeron, 2003; Schulman, Harmer, Dunleavy, & Lusk, 1999). Nowadays, we see a broader conceptualization of shared services to also include sharing across organizations (e.g., Janssen & Joha, 2006b; Wang & Wang, 2007) and sharing without a separate unit (e.g., Bækgaard, 2009; Gibson & Arnott, 2005). For the purposes of this paper, we adopt the more contemporary and inclusive definition of shared services: “a collaboration strategy of multiple organizational units for providing and using services”

Information Systems (IS) have dual relevance to shared services as both a support function amenable to the shared services arrangement and as a key enabler of shared services across other support functions. The adoption of shared services for the IS function is growing rapidly (Lacity & Fox, 2008; Peters & Silver, 2005), though it is not as widespread as in Finance or HR. Shared services has the potential to amplify IT related benefits through faster, more accurate process coordination and execution, and greater accuracy of and visibility into organizational data (Seddon, Calvert, & Yang, 2010). However, shared services may also require (radical) change to the IS applications and infrastructure because, for example, of the need to balance corporate-wide standardization with business unit specific customization.

There have been numerous reports in the practitioner press of successful private sector shared services implementations, and related potential benefits (Bergeron, 2003; Deloitte, 2009) – e.g., General Electric (Lacity & Fox, 2008), Digital Equipment Corporation (Lacity & Fox, 2008), and Reuters Asia (Business Intelligence, 2005; Lacity & Fox, 2008). Leading research firms such as Gartner (Gartner, 2008) provide a range of reports that describe shared services in different industries, stating that “many enterprises are looking to shared services to support efficiency goals and to enhance business integration and agility” (p. 2). Sharing typically aims to gain benefits of scale, including: (1) reduced duplication of effort, (2) improved cost control, (3) leveraging solutions to common problems, (4) leveraging expertise and advanced technology, and (5) improved services with limited resources (Dove, 2004; Miskon, Bandara, Fielt, & Gable, 2010; Yee, Tan, & Chan, 2009).

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