What the perfect shared services manager looks like

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Shared Services - the perfect Shared Services Manager

By Stephen Mann on

Industry expert Stephen Mann shares the seven most important day-to-day responsibilities of a shared services manager and the personal traits that set apart those who thrive in this role.

If your organization is moving to a shared services model – consolidating various support capabilities into a single entity that serves the whole organization – then you’ll need a shared services manager role. But what does this entail? What will their day-to-day responsibilities be? And which personal qualities should your organization look for in potential candidates?

The difference between a service desk manager and a shared services manager

For example, could an existing manager from one of the service departments that’s now part of the shared services organization take on the new role? This could include employees from HR, facilities, finance, IT, procurement, security, and other business functions that serve the whole organization. Or does the role include such additional tasks and responsibilities that you need to find someone with additional experience, skills, and knowledge?

The answer is very much “it depends”: it could be a variety of roles in your shared services organization. For example, a senior role that spans functions – with overall responsibility for service and support across the traditional business-function areas of HR, IT, facilities, etc. For the sake of this blog, this definition is assumed.

A shared services manager must have an ongoing focus on providing improved capabilities that contribute to better business operations and outcomes.

The 7 responsibilities of a shared services manager

1. Designing and delivering the shared services vision

A shared services manager is, likely in conjunction with other shared services colleagues, responsible for designing and delivering the shared services organization’s vision. Of course, this is far from a one-time event – it requires ongoing evolution. They are also responsible for executing this vision via a long-term strategic roadmap and delivering against the associated strategies.

2. Meeting the expectations of key business stakeholders

A shared services manager needs to make sure that the services the shared services organization provides are in line with a number of key business stakeholders’ expectations. The key business stakeholders are:

  • the executive board
  • the business function leadership teams (i.e. Head of HR, Head of Security, Head of Legal)
  • the employees that they serve

This responsibility doesn’t only involve obligations related to service level agreements (SLAs) and the associated performance targets and metrics. It also has to do with factors such as the availability of suitably skilled resources, either internally or outsourced, as best fits business needs. This also includes effective communication, although some may see this as a separate responsibility.

3. Providing effective governance

A shared services manager (and their appropriate team members) must ensure that there are suitable governance practices in place to protect the business. This ranges from ensuring legal and regulatory compliance all the way to robust business continuity planning and management.

4. Leading and managing people

Optimized processes and technologies alone don’t make for a successful shared services organization: its operations will struggle without capable and motivated people. With the right leadership and management, employees are encouraged to be the best versions of themselves – not only in terms of day-to-day productivity, but also when it comes to their personal development.

A shared services manager needs to expertly lead and manage their teams and is responsible for employee retention and recruitment. They set the tone for all teams, creating a working environment that attracts and fosters employees of the highest caliber.

5. Ensuring the effectiveness of day-to-day operations

What’s the goal when you consolidate various business function support capabilities into a shared services model? To deliver higher quality and better value services. That’s why you need someone to find the optimal blend of skilled employees, best practice processes, and enabling technologies that meets the needs of the various key business stakeholders. Importantly, for the transition to a shared services model to truly be worth it, the new day-to-day operations and outcomes have to be superior to the previous status quo.

6. Providing effective financial stewardship and demonstrating value creation

This might seem like a “boring” responsibility that should be left to the corporate finance function. But we all have a responsibility for effective financial stewardship – no matter our role or whether or not we have direct control of or responsibility for a budget.

A shared services manager does have some form of budgetary responsibility. But in modern organizations, there’s also the need to look beyond costs to see the value perspective. The cheapest option isn’t always the best and return on investment is important for all spending decisions, not only for CAPEX projects.

7. Driving continual improvement

The great thing about continual improvement in a shared services model is that any improvements will make a bigger impact thanks to consistent operations and scale. As such, especially in ensuring that they consistently meet the needs of the key business stakeholders, a shared services manager must have an ongoing focus on providing improved capabilities that contribute to better business operations and outcomes.

Importantly, this continual improvement needs to cover a range of shared services attributes – for example people’s capabilities, service levels, service offerings, and technology exploitation – and not just the employed processes. For some organizations, the shared services team plays a key role in digital transformation efforts, showing the “art of the digital possible” and the associated benefits.

The personal characteristics of a shared services manager

You can’t expect all people who fill the role to be exactly the same. Still, there are various personal characteristics that make the role a success. In many ways, these traits map directly to the seven responsibilities outlined above.

A shared services manager has:

  • A focus on delivery and results. This might relate to planning and executing agreed-upon strategies, consistently achieving shared services goals, or the ability to look beyond the symptoms of operational issues to see the root causes.
  • Relationship, collaboration, and communication skills. These skills are crucial – whether they’re for internal team dynamics, dealing with other business functions, or communicating with the executive board. They also need to effectively manage a variety of supplier relationships.
  • Strong leadership and management capabilities. As outlined above, a shared services organization ultimately relies on its people and them doing the right things well, no matter the quality of the enabling technology.
  • The ability to drive change, including influencing skills. This goes all the way from the initial “birth” of the shared services organization (if appropriate), through the ongoing need for continual improvement, to the inevitable organizational changes caused by both internal and external factors (such as regulatory or legislative changes). Importantly, this also includes the ability to facilitate people change when the current ways of working are affected.
  • The desire to improve performance, services, and outcomes. In many ways, this is an “umbrella” trait atop the other personal traits – with improvement being a shared services manager’s ultimate raison d’être.

The list above is far from complete. But it’s a good starting point when looking for a suitable candidate.

Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at ITSM.tools