Higher Education Institutions must look beyond implementation challenges of Shared Services

We’re all familiar with the term “red tape” used to describe excessively complicated administrative procedures. It originated in the 16th century during the reign of Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who started the practice of using red tape to bind important administrative dossiers that required discussions by the Council of State before they can be processed. While red tape in the literal sense is no longer used today, the figurative “red tape” is still highly associated with the public sector (both higher education and government) for the multitude of oppressively complex and time-consuming processes. Due to the large scale at which the public sector operates, coordinating multiple departments and consolidating information continues to be a challenge. Shared services provides a possible solution by leveraging both infrastructure and technology to optimize workflow, reduce approvals and increase institutional compliance.


Shared Services has long been demonstrated to benefit the private sector, with growing evidence indicating that Shared Services can also be effectively applied in the public sector. However, a study by SSON Analytics in August 2018 found that out of 2369 Higher Education Institutions in the US, only ~3% have started on their Shared Services journey. Why is the rate of Shared Services implementation in US Higher Education Institutions so low? Oftentimes, it is because sector specific challenges for Shared Services implementation in Higher Education are too complicated. Challenges include a risk averse landscape, fear of loss of autonomy, consensus driven decision making slowing down timelines, fewer levers to incentivise people, competing priorities, and a longer payback period.


While Shared Services implementation risk is real, benefits are also substantial. With thorough planning, learning from the mistakes of others and careful implementation, Higher Education Institutions and reap the benefits of Shared Services while avoiding pitfalls. Read top tips for successful implementation in this SSON Analytics report. Implementing Shared Services in Higher Education Institutions brings 4 main benefits:

1.     More effective service for staff, faculty and Principal Investigators

2.     Increased compliance and accountability

3.     Staff retention and talent development

4.     Cost savings


Figure 1: Benefits of implementing Shared Services in Higher Education Institutions


Here are some tips for successful implementation of Shared Services in Higher Education Institutes that SSON Analytics has gathered from case studies:

1.     Assess and reassess frequently as implementation results are difficult to accurately predict

2.     Align people, processes and policies

3.     Evaluate multiple options for structuring services – one size does not fit all

4.     Measure success in more than one way

Read more on page 3


As of August 2018, the Higher Education landscape in the US stands as such: California has the most number of Higher Education SSCs even though it ranks third by number of Higher Education Institutions, Florida has the most number of Higher Education Institutions and ranks second by number of Higher Education SSCs, and East Coast states have ~1.5x as many Higher Education SSCs as West Coast states. Click here to view statistics on page 1. By learning best practices from success stories and bearing in mind potential pitfalls, more Higher Education Institutes can start on their own Shared Services journey and benefit from increased quality and efficiency of services.


SSON Analytics Data Tools Banner

Stay in touch

User Area

Blog Archive

April 2021

February 2021

September 2020

June 2020

February 2020

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

July 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

December 2018

November 2018