Majority of Government Executives Believe Shared-Services Functions Help Them Achieve Strategic Goals, Accenture Study Finds

WASHINGTON; Feb. 14, 2005 – The vast majority of government executives believe that shared services are important to helping them achieve their organizations’ strategic goals, according to a study released today by Accenture.

As part of the study, “Driving High Performance in Government: Maximizing the Value of Public Sector Shared Services,” Accenture interviewed more than 140 senior executives at all levels of governments across 13 countries in Europe, North America, the Asia Pacific region and Africa. The goal was to identify their views on and use of shared services — which Accenture defines as the consolidation of administrative or support functions (such as human resources, finance, information technology and procurement) from several departments or agencies into a single, stand-alone entity to provide services as efficiently and effectively as possible.

More than three quarters of respondents — 85 percent — said they believe that shared services are playing or will play a role in supporting their organizations’ strategic goals. In addition, two-thirds (66 percent) of the government executives reported that they had already implemented, or were in the process of implementing, shared services, while only 6 percent of respondents said they would not even consider a shared services model. The most common processes found in government shared services are related to information technology, finance and human resources.

The study also found that moving to a shared services model gives organizations the opportunity to shift budget from administrative activities to front-line, citizen-facing services, helping to drive out significant cost reductions while at the same time improving government services.

“Governments around the world are facing similar challenges focused on improving public sector value. For most, meeting efficiency targets, reducing costs, and responding to citizen demands for improved services are at the top of their list,” said David A. Wilson, managing partner of the Finance & Performance Management service line in Accenture’s Government practice. “In response, more and more government agencies are gravitating toward shared services models, which allow them to focus limited resources on high-impact activities that are core to their missions, rather than on administrative functions.”

The top three objectives for shared services identified by respondents were to help meet efficiency targets, facilitate cost reductions, and address citizen demands for improved services. The respondents also acknowledged an array of other value-oriented shared services objectives, including strategic benefits (e.g. through standardized processing environments and improved systems) and improved service quality and speed of delivery.

Among other key findings:

  • Most governments in-source their own shared services centers, although many rely on outside expertise during planning.
  • The unique nature of governments sets up some very specific challenges to shared services, such as a lack of the necessary managerial skills to tackle a transformational change program or a lack of clear leadership support or top-level commitment to change.
  • While two-thirds of the government executives interviewed said they have started to implement some key components of a true shared services operating model, few have implemented them all; thus few have realized the full potential of their shared services strategies.

Despite the challenges, some government leaders have already begun achieving significant benefits from implementing shared services. Government leaders in Australia, Singapore, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States reported having already reduced costs and achieved greater efficiency in certain areas.

Another aspect of the study involved more extensive interviews with government executives that Accenture considers shared-services “innovators” at 11 different agencies around the world. These government leaders spoke about the rationale behind their decisions to implement shared services, the stages of their journeys, the challenges they encountered, their measures of success, their critical success factors, and lessons they learned. Among the leading practices these innovators identified were:

  • Defining a clear vision, business strategy and operating model;
  • Building a strong, detailed business case based on measurable returns;
  • Conducting a detail-driven approach to planning;
  • Identifying full budgetary requirements at the outset;
  • Creating the shared services organization as a stand-alone entity; Creating a strong governance structure that includes user departments and service-level agreements;
  • Managing workforce issues closely;
  • Ensuring that the right enablement capabilities are in place;
  • Transforming the internal culture; and
  • Measuring performance.

About the Study
For its study on the use of shared services in government, entitled “Driving High Performance in Government: Maximizing the Value of Public Sector Shared Services,” Accenture interviewed 143 senior executives at all levels of government across 13 countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. The interviews were conducted via telephone from September to November 2004 by an independent polling firm.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 100,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$13.67 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2004. Its home page is