The definition of ‘ shared services’ can be described as “the shared provision by more than one local council of a specified service in which aims and objectives are mutually shared and for which local people are the end customers.”. Shared services can be interpreted as many different things, however traditionally it can be seen as back office arrangements within operational and professional councils or other public services. More recently, the shared services approach has become common in the public sector and services are increasingly being shared not just between departments but across different organisations. A survey in 2011 found that 89% of English local authority organisations now share back office functions, front line services or a combination of the two with other local authorities or public bodies – (leadership foundation for higher education). Introducing a shared services agreement can be challenging and therefore demands strong leadership. Before investing in a shared services opportunity it is important the authorities are clear about their objectives and what they wish to achieve, this could include what service they are looking to enhance, their resilience to change and cost cutting. Or possibly the quality of service they are seeking in comparison to what the organisation is able to afford. Therefore councils ask themselves whether sharing is the right option for them, by identifying clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. Sharing services and management across public sector bodies is not new, but is receiving growing attention as sharing has been seen as an opportunity to make services more efficient. And although a shared services agreement will not suit every authority, the ones that exploiting it will be able to reap the most significant rewards. Some of these primary benefits include; the lowering of operating costs, improving service quality and also may improve organisational learning and innovation by facilitating knowledge sharing. However the implementation of shared services can also bring forward a number of pressing issues, if not designed and planned effectively the risk of poor management and bad structure could create concerns.
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