Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise

Project Items

Shared Services and Public Sector Transformation: Processes and Outcomes

Shared services – the pooling of organisational functions such as Human Resource Management and their provision to internal and external operational units as an (ICT enabled) service – has been practiced by large corporations in the private sector for some time (SSBPOA) and has a long history (at least as an idea) within health services.

Following the publication of the Gershon Spending Review (2004), the UK government’s Transformational Government agenda, and more recently, the publication of the Dept. for Communities and Local Government’s working paper Developing the local government services market (2007), this notion has been strongly pushed by central government and has been increasingly taken up by some agencies in UK public services. However, there has been almost no research on this phenomenon in the private sector (Cooke, 2006 is perhaps, the only exception outside Health).

Within the public sector, where its implications for the organisation and long term structure of public services is profound, there is an almost complete lack of academic research.Implementation of shared services requires managers to distinguish between ‘core’ and ‘context’ functions, identify the appropriate organisations with which to ‘share’, manage a complex transition process and establish workable governance structures. With the focus on these important practical questions, less attention has been paid to the longer term implications of the take up of shared services for public services. At this level, there are both divergent forces – establishing new groupings of organisations on the basis of their shared functions – and homogenising forces –  as organisations are obliged to adapt to common standards.

This proposal would seek to begin to remedy this gap in the literature while developing a number of strands of SBI research and the research career of Mr Richter in particular.

Research Questions

What are the drivers and barriers to shared services in public services at both a policy and organisational level?

How, in practice, do public service organisations distinguish between ‘core’ and ‘context’?

How do organisations identify the organisations with which to share services?

How are shared services managed and governed?

What are the wider implications, intended and unintended, of shared services for the organisation of public services?


Cooke, F N (2006), Modeling an HR shared services center: experience of an MNC in the United Kingdom, Human Resource Management, 45(2): 211-227.