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Shared Services in the Government of Canada


June 27, 2011

Doug Hadden, VP Products

“I hope he doesn’t tell us that shared services is a good thing”, one exasperated public servant said to one of my colleagues. That didn’t seem to bode well. My presentation on shared software services in government at the FMI PSMW 2011 conference was slated for the last breakout sessions prior to closing. That’s not usually a good time slot to expect attendance. And, there were choices.

The room filled to capacity. There seemed to be hope in the air – hope that unlike the previous vendor presentation, it would not be about the vendor. And, hope on my part to get the presentation working. (Conference computer not able to read the more recent PowerPoint format, our computer not able to save in the old format  because of a registry setting, presenter view not working with wireless mouse on Vista, and AV system not set.)

As you can see from the embedded file, there was 83 slides and the presentation took around a half an hour.  (Notes pages included, so you can get the full benefit of the content.)

Shared Services Skeptics

No, it was not yet again a vendor presentation trying to convince a skeptical group on the benefits of ERP or GRP shared services. There’s something disturbing in that much of the advocacy of shared services comes consulting firms and software vendors. Evidence is anecdotal in most circumstances. The theme of reducing cost through reducing workforce seems to have the best evidence. Objectives of agility, efficiency and transformational power appear very hard to achieve. Many users find that the opposite happens.

Some speakers urged government organizations to consider shared services and other IT initiatives that could improve efficiency and citizen engagement.

What’s the Problem with Shared Services?

Shares services have dipped to what the Gartner Group calls the “the trough of disillusionment”. Technology analysts suggest that shared services can fail because of poor project governance. Frankly, I don’t buy the idea that shared services benefits can be resuscitated by project management 101. (Don’t get me wrong, governance is important to align needs across many government organization. But, this isn’t the magic pill it’s made out to be.)

We’re at the first generation of shared services in government. The second generation contrasts with the first similarly in how Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) of today differs from Application Service Providers (ASP) of the late 90’s. Examples include:

  • Gen 1: rigid systems, Gen 2: ease of configuration and change
  • Gen 1: client/server software with web front-end, Gen 2: web-native software
  • Gen 1: single tenant, Gen 2: multi-tenent

Shared Services Done Right

Most of our international customers use FreeBalance software as a shared service. These governments did not have rich functionality in the previous generation of software. So, migration has not been an important issue. However, change has been. These governments leverage GRP for reform, so systems modernize rapidly. That’s why the FreeBalance software overcomes many shared services technical limitations.

So, the presentation did show shared services support. Just not oversold.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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