Utilising Shared Service Organisations for dynamic service networks


  • Linda Ryan Maynooth University




Collaborative governance, shared services, user-centred design


Collaborative governance which repositions citizens as service co-ordinators - has become an increasingly visible methodology within public organisations. In this new model, service management is dependent upon a complex series of iterative interactions between multiple stakeholders, making the service network is notoriously difficult to manage.  Shared Service Organisations (SSOs) - unit(s) within an enterprise that deliver specialized, value-added services across the organization to multiple internal users – are uniquely positioned to understand and manipulate the complex, non-linear, relational nature of collaborative networks and fully harness operant resources for long-term impactful service delivery.  Despite significant potential for SSOs within collaborative governance, there is a surprising lack of insight best managerial practices and the effect on staff behaviour, and even more so on the potential of SSOs to manage these networks.  This research presents a single in-depth case study with the Project Management Office of an Irish national economic development agency using a Participatory Action Research (PAR) Methodology within a Design Thinking Framework.  This allowed the researcher to see and interact with the challenges faced by participants and hone their understanding of influencing factors and contextual considerations.  The research identified three key managerial implications.  Firstly, explicit actions to establish and maintain a service mindset - which recognises and values operant resources - must be formally implemented into SSO operations. It is not sufficient to for managers to assume staff have a service orientated mindset, particularly when existing organisational processes reinforce old practices through quantifiable, process orientated outputs. Secondly, critical reflection must be formally integrated into management processes and must support the questioning of current operations in an open and frank atmosphere.  Formalising time for critical reflection provides staff with opportunities and resources to question old practices and discuss and construct knowledge collaboratively.  Thirdly, relational user engagement and communication practices within SSO service strategies must be deliberate and strategic. Due to the integrated nature of SSOs and the collaborative nature of their operations, clear operational and interaction guidelines empowers SSO staff fully harness their strategic role, question high level management and support critical strategic thinking.