What are Shared Services and Their Impact on Business?

Finding ways to save expenditures and increase efficiency is an ongoing goal in the present-day business environment. One strategy that has gained considerable traction in recent years is the adoption of shared services.

But what are shared services exactly, and how can they help organizations streamline their operations? In this guide, we will delve deep into the concept of shared services, exploring their benefits, implementation, and much more.

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The Basics of Shared Services

Shared services represent a method that businesses use to improve their internal workflow. This approach combines essential administrative tasks—like human resources, finance, and IT—into single, centralized divisions.

Instead of each department handling their responsibilities independently, they collaborate and streamline their operation, which can be hosted internally within a company or outsourced to third-party providers, depending on the organization's goals and resources.

Why Are Shared Services Important?

Now that we have a basic understanding of what shared services are, let's dive into the compelling advantages they bring to the table.

As businesses continue to evolve, shared services remain a vital tool for achieving operational excellence.

How Shared Services Work

Shared services operate through a well-defined framework that revolves around several fundamental principles. These include the following:


The core concept of shared services is centralization. This approach combines different functions or processes under one centralized unit, aiming for improved efficiency and coordination.


Another key aspect is standardization. It involves creating uniform processes and procedures throughout the organization. This uniformity helps in maintaining consistency, reducing errors, and simplifying training requirements.


The efficiency of shared services is significantly boosted by automation. This approach leverages technology to automate repetitive tasks, thereby minimizing the need for human intervention.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs in shared services function as formal agreements. They outline clear expectations and standards for service delivery, aligning all parties towards shared objectives and ensuring accountability.

Continuous Improvement

Finally, continuous improvement is an integral part of shared services. It involves consistently seeking and implementing ways to enhance processes and services, similar to regularly updating tools and methods to stay current and effective.

Improving operational efficiency, service quality, and performance—all while fostering a growth mindset and innovative ideas—is possible with these five elements of shared services.

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Types of Shared Services

A wide range of organizations can find a shared service that meets their specific needs owing to its flexibility and adaptability, which allows for a tailored approach to streamlining various business functions. Some common kinds of shared services are as follows:

Back-Office Shared Services

Finance, accounting, and human resources are responsibilities of back-office shared services, which concentrate on internal processes. They handle payroll, invoice processing, and onboarding, letting other departments focus on their primary roles.

IT Shared Services

IT shared services deliver crucial technical assistance, software development, and infrastructure upkeep. Their role is to maintain the organization's digital framework, ensuring smooth and uninterrupted business operations.

Customer Service Shared Services

Shared services in customer support bring together various customer interaction activities under one roof. This centralization aims to deliver consistent and efficient service, thereby boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Procurement Shared Services

With a focus on sourcing, vendor relations, and supply chain logistics, these services strive to acquire resources effectively and economically. Their goal is to enhance the organization's procurement strategies, balancing cost with quality.

Knowledge Shared Services

Data analytics, research, and knowledge-sharing platforms are all examples of services that fall under this category. They are essential in providing decision-makers with critical insights and information.

Choosing the right shared service approach can have a significant impact on overall organizational success and effectiveness, ultimately leading to better resource allocation and optimized organizational performance.

Implementing Shared Services Successfully

To successfully implement shared services, a structured and strategic approach is essential. This involves several critical steps, each contributing to the seamless integration and functionality of shared services within an organization.

Step 1: Assessment

The first step is to conduct a thorough assessment of your current operations. Identify processes that are suitable for integration into a shared services model and determine where the most significant value can be added.

Step 2: Planning

Next, develop a comprehensive plan. This should detail which functions will be centralized, the methods for standardizing these processes, and the technology needed for automation. The plan must be clear and realistic, setting achievable goals and timelines.

Step 3: Execution

Gradually put your plan into action. It’s important to ensure clear communication so that everyone involved understands their roles and responsibilities within the new shared services framework.

Step 4: Monitoring

After implementation, continuously monitor the performance of the shared services setup. Regular assessments help identify any issues early and make necessary adjustments to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the services.

Step 5: Feedback Loop

Bring all parties involved in the process together to establish a feedback mechanism. This feedback is crucial for identifying any challenges, pain points, and areas where improvements are needed, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

It's a strategic move that, when executed well, can significantly contribute to the overall growth and competitiveness of the organization. Still, nothing beats thorough planning, flawless execution, and never-ending improvement.

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Challenges of Implementing Shared Services

Despite the many benefits, companies must effectively overcome the hurdles that come with integrating shared services. Below is a deeper look into these challenges and considerations for dealing with them:

Resistance to Change

One of the biggest issues is employee change resistance. New systems can disrupt workflows, causing staff stress. Effective communication and training are needed to facilitate this shift and secure employee buy-in.

Initial Investment

The establishment of shared service centers demands a considerable initial investment. This includes costs for technology implementation and infrastructure setup, which can be substantial but are critical for long-term gains.

Data Security

With the centralization of services, safeguarding data becomes more critical than ever. Implementing robust security protocols is essential to protect sensitive information from potential breaches.

Cultural Shift

In most cases, a change in company culture is necessary for the adoption of shared services. It necessitates a move towards greater collaboration and a unified vision, which can be challenging to instill across different departments.

Measuring Success

Finding out how well-shared services work is not an easy task. To monitor the shared services model's efficacy and influence, businesses should establish clear KPIs and evaluate their progress on a regular basis.

While the journey to establishing shared services can be challenging, understanding and proactively addressing these hurdles paves the way for a profitable transformation.

Is Shared Services Right for Your Business?

The decision to implement shared services in your organization is not one to be taken lightly. To determine if shared services are the right fit for your company, consider the following factors:

By carefully examining the aforementioned, you can determine whether shared services are the right choice for your business. It's not just about following trends; it's about making an informed decision that aligns with your organization's unique needs and objectives.

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Shared services are a strategic approach that can help organizations operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. By centralizing support functions and streamlining processes, businesses can focus on what truly matters – delivering value to their customers.

Yet remember, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but with careful planning and execution, shared services can be a game-changer for your business.


Are shared services the same as outsourcing?

No, shared services and outsourcing differ. In contrast to outsourcing, which typically entails the use of third-party suppliers, shared services involve the organization's own internal centralization.

Will implementing shared services lead to job losses?

Not necessarily. Implementing shared services doesn't always lead to job cuts. Instead, it can open up opportunities for staff to engage in more strategic and value-adding roles within the organization.

How long does it take to implement shared services successfully?

Typically, the duration of the process might range anywhere from a few months to a year or even longer, depending on the overall scope and scale of the implementation.

What are some key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring the success of shared services?

Effective KPIs for measuring the success of shared services include cost savings, service quality improvement, customer satisfaction rates, process efficiency (such as reduced processing times), and employee engagement or satisfaction within the shared services center.

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