What Are You Selling?

"A-B-C – Always Be Closing" said Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross, the 1992 film about four real estate salesman in the sales contest of their lives. Can XYZ’s encouragement be applied to the world of shared services?

As a governor, mayor or key policy maker articulates the vision for shared services and cross-jurisdiction collaboration, their main argument will be the fiscal benefits that it can bring. But beyond cost savings are significant benefits and advantages that visionary leaders should highlight and SELL. How many of these value points are you closing with?

Generating Region-wide Economic Development

As many regions deal with global competition, revitalizing economies involves driving reform across areas such as infrastructure, transportation, education, citizen and business services, etc. Why not look to shared services as a vital component of economic transformation? Think about it – shared services can act as an "aligning mechanism" for policy and program goals across the enterprise – providing a foundation for agility and economic coordination.

The Commonwealth of Virginia, for example, factored economic development into its planning and built a data center in southwest Virginia – providing vitally needed jobs in a rural area while also gaining a secure and low-cost center for critical infrastructure and applications. Virtually every government has a region that could benefit from the influx of professional jobs that collaboration and shared services entails. In northern Minnesota, the "Iron Range" was once dominated by mining and foresting industries. But as the economy changed, the jobs did as well – leaving behind a swath of underemployed people. As Minnesota envisions its cross-jurisdiction options, state leaders could consider locating a shared services center in the Iron Range.

With good planning an economically challenged region can gain critical middle-income jobs, while the shared services center can gain efficiencies through paying less in real estate and wages than they would in a high-cost center of a major city.

Pursuing a Regional "Green" Initiative

Leaders around the world are looking to pursue environmentally conscious policies and programs. But a central challenge has been herding disparate organizations together to affect a measurable result. When a region is aligned through shared services, analysis can be conducted and decisions made enterprise-wide – providing a much larger impact on environmental initiatives. For example, innovative governments are tracking the carbon footprint of government fleet vehicles, buildings, and equipment – and setting reduction goals across jurisdictions. In Ontario Canada, leaders are realizing $1 billion in annual shared services savings and leveraging their collaboration to pursue game-changing innovations such as environmentally sustainable technology and procurement, dynamic fleet management (to lower emissions as well as save money) and green retrofitting.

The winner of this past year’s Harvard Public Sector Innovation Award (a business plan competition sponsored by Accenture for students that address public-sector challenges) is a start-up called OpportunitySpace. The brilliant research these students conducted showed that governments often don’t track well what facilities they own, decision-making about facilities doesn’t reflect true "externalities" – (environmental and social costs of facilities) and stakeholders can’t help offer solutions/uses for facilities as there’s no transparency. A shared service for facilities provides the engine for smarter and more sustainable utilization of government land and property.

Enabling Front-Office Agility

Citizens are increasingly demanding "one-stop government" as services that are tailored to their lives. As a result, public service organizations around the world are striving to design "citizen-centric" business models. Yet this is a challenge that often cuts across traditional organizational boundaries and necessitates creating solutions that are sourced from multiple areas of government expertise and services – a level of reform that often requires redesigning services from the ground up. Shared services can enable this type of reform, as "back-office" transformation drives resources and efficiencies to the "front-office" of the organization.

This movement is already gaining traction. In Canada, for example, the integration across levels of jurisdictional authority (federal, provincial, and local) drove efficiency to the front of the organization and enabled the creation of "Service Canada" – a citizen one-stop with online service, single window service, online portals servicing targeted groups and life events, and integration across channels (internet, phone, mail, and walk-in). As we look to the future, shared services will open up the possibility for new and combined citizen-facing services – directly improving outcomes and public value.

So what are you selling? Can enabling economic development, sustainability and front-office improvements help you close the deal?NEW BALANCE

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