“Atos Consulting research in public sector reveals success factors and obstacles for Shared Service Centres”

Utrecht, 1 December 2006

Shared Service Centres (SSC) are booming within the Dutch government. The need to increase the quality of service is a major reason for this. Public organisations are especially hampered, however, by a large amount of internal resistance, reveals research by Atos Consulting. Despite some obstacles there are already more than 50 shared service centres operating within the public sector in the Netherlands.

According to Atos Consulting, there is a need to accelerate this positive development, because SSCs can contribute to a more effective and efficient government. Atos Consulting believes that work which is being performed in several places on a small scale can often be combined in a SSC, provided that primary emphasis is put on the quality of the service.

Room for modernisation
Atos Consulting has performed research into SSCs at municipalities and ministries. Following the example of the profit sector, the Dutch government too has discovered the benefits of the concept. Optimising business management is an important condition for improving the quality of service to the public and between organisational units. There are now more than fifty SSCs operating within the government and many initiatives to develop more. It is mainly ministries and municipalities which are embracing the concept, which is being employed especially for functions such as IT and HR, as well as purchasing, facility management and finance. Many municipalities are too small to develop their own SSC. More than three-quarters of the existing municipal SSCs are a product of alliances between a number of municipalities. Because of their size, ministries are often enough able to achieve benefits of scale with their own SSC.

Improving the quality of the service is the most important driver for setting up an SSC. This can be achieved by increasing client focus, innovation and knowledge-sharing by combining and/or having employees who work across the organisation work together. In general customers of active SSCs seem reasonably satisfied with the way in which services are delivered. Municipalities emphasise above all the importance of sharing knowledge and experience quickly and efficiently in order to be able to fulfil the ever more rigorous demands of citizens and central government. Ministries attach more importance to the standardisation of processes and products which is entailed in setting up an SSC. Cutting costs is the second most important driver for setting up an SSC. Because ministries are larger in size, they can realise more profits from benefits of scale.

But the research does show that by no means everyone is convinced of these benefits. The most significant obstacle is the lack of conviction about the usefulness and necessity for an SSC. The sometimes drastic changes in the way the business is managed lead to uncertainty.

“Setting up an SSC often involves combining very different organisational units. Differences between processes and the use of different IT systems are obstacles which frequently arise”, says Wilco Bothof, Partner at Atos Consulting. “It's important to look for the common ground and to put less emphasis on the differences. You also have to focus hard on delivering the benefits of an SSC, which in practice are not always obtained.”

The most important stumbling block which has to be overcome whilst setting up an SSC, is resistance within organisational units which have to hand over responsibilities to an SSC. “Organisational units often feel that they have to give up their autonomy. This is not entirely correct, because within the concept the units involved are jointly responsible for the responsibilities which are placed with the SSC”, explains Paul Poels, senior business consultant at Atos Consulting.

Success factors
Atos Consulting believes that, despite the resistance, as few concessions as possible must be made to the concept of the SSC, in order to be able to achieve the desired results. One element of the concept is that an SSC is responsible for results. It emerges from the research that more than 60 percent of the SSCs which are operational is responsible for results. Another important success factor is that the management of the SSC is clear; which responsibilities does the manager of the SSC have, and how and by whom is this manager managed. One of the most underestimated success factors is the cultural change which is required to achieve an employee attitude which is customer-focussed and based on responsibility for results.

About Atos Consulting
Atos Consulting, the global consulting practice of Atos Origin, is a leading provider of business, process and technology consulting services. With more than 2,500 staff globally, it focuses on delivering proven, pragmatic solutions to the telecom, manufacturing, financial services and public sectors.

About Atos Origin
Atos Origin is an international information technology services company. Its business is turning client vision into results through the application of consulting, systems integration and managed operations. The company's annual revenues are EUR 5.5 billion and it employs over 47,000 people in 40 countries. Atos Origin is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic Games and has a client base of international blue-chip companies across all sectors. Atos Origin is quoted on the Paris Eurolist Market and trades as Atos Origin, Atos Euronext Market Solutions, Atos Worldline and Atos Consulting.

For more information:

Marianne Hewlett
+ 31 30 299 50 06
José de Vries
+ 33 1 55 91 24 53