Shared services in the Irish public sector, January 2014


Arthur Cox’s Pearse Ryan and Aaron Boyle discuss some of the key issues to consider in implementation of a shared services programme in a public sector environment.

Shared services in a public sector context typically consist of a service delivery arrangement internal to the one or more participating public sector organisations. Participating organisations tend to be relatively proximate in organisational functions.

While a relationship of proximity is not an absolute necessity, it does tend to be the case that organisations, in order to achieve meaningful cost savings and operational efficiencies, must at least be similar in terms of business processes utilised, if not the actual software supporting these business processes. While business processes and underlying software can be changed, the less organisational change required to participate in a shared services project, the more likely it is to succeed.

Shared services in the public sector are a material component of the public sector reform agenda. We are all aware of the overall scope and schema of public sector reform. We assume here delivery of shared services by a form of shared services centre (“SSC”), whether a corporate entity, statutory body or contractual type joint venture. The structural aspects of shared services delivery are something the public sector and, in particular the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (“DPER”), will require to deal with as part of large scale implementation of shared services.

Implementing shared services

We are aware that DPER is leading the shared service initiative and has expanded the competency of its reform delivery group. The personnel within that group are experienced in matters relating to shared services and external service delivery procurement, implementation and management, having private and public sector experience.

Within the overall public sector, the shared services delivery model has to date been little utilised, with a few exceptions. Accordingly, what we are seeing within the public sector is the early stages of a large scale organisational reform, consisting of a number of programmes, with individual projects or engagements below that.

Effectively, this programme is being implemented in what is not that far off a green-field site. Whilst this does increase the burden on the shared service delivery vehicle and on participating entities in terms of knowledge and competency levels, it does assist in terms of achieving meaningful results, given that there are limited incumbent suppliers and incumbent contract relationships to contend with.

This article first appeared in Eolas Magazine on 16 January 2014 and is reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.