Nancy Van Elsacker

Nancy Van Elsacker


Nancy Van Elsacker is the president of TOPdesk US, currently responsible for leading the division’s business development, client acquisition and customer services efforts. Prior to launching TOPdesk’s North American division in 2015, she led the organization’s expansion efforts in Belgium for eight years and was responsible for the startup and expansion of TOPdesk’s operations there. TOPdesk develops, markets, implements and supports standard user-friendly service management software for IT, facilities management, HR, maintenance, complaints registration and the service desk for all sized organizations.


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Commoditization of Shared Service Management Published: July 20, 2015 • Service Technology Magazine Issue XCI PDF


A report by SDI and TOPdesk reveals a lot of interesting findings about shared service management. More than 90 percent of respondents indicate they have more than one service desk and it proves to be an emerging topic of importance for the organizations. Streamlining processes and improving the quality of organizational services were marked as the greatest benefits of a shared service model.

Where service management is becoming a commodity, shared service management is very relevant in these days of a focus on work force enablement, bringing it back to corporate or director level. That is confirmed by 83 percent of respondents who believe that key decision making around shared services will take place at that level.


Even though the term shared service management is not always on everyone's radar, it is remarkable how topical it is. In the report, 55 percent of respondents indicated that they are at various stages of moving toward shared service management.

While 45 percent indicated that they do not have any plans to merge services currently, 44 percent of service desks advise they have plans to merge services from other desks within the next three years. It is reasonable to argue that the shared services model has become a serious development in the industry and the adoption of the model is becoming widely implemented.


According to the report, 62 percent of the service desks say more than 3 percent of their calls are intended for other desks. This can result in a significant business impact, requiring more staff and resources for no real benefit, let alone the impact this has on the customer experience of the service desk. The impact of calls needing to be redirected can easily add up to multiple "lost" working days per year.

Not surprisingly, more than 80 percent of respondents consider improving the quality of services for the customers as the biggest reason for adopting a shared services model. Streamlining processes and cost savings are two other big reasons with more than 50 percent of respondents selecting these.

A remarkable observation is that fewer than 25 percent of respondents selected "meeting customer demands" as the reason to move toward shared service management. A reasonable explanation for this low percentage could be that given the strategic level on which decisions on shared service management are made, meeting customer demands may feature little in the short term planning. It remains remarkable, though, as in our experience when implementing shared service management, we see that a key success factor is to: Think about what the customer wants and try to organize it that way.


Given the obvious difference between the different departments, it is not surprising to see that the report shows the majority of respondents answered the question about how difficult it would be to merge desks between a five and eight out of 10 (10 being very difficult). Where IT departments tend to focus on keeping systems up and running, facilities departments are more oriented toward people and deadlines. For instance, where people complain to IT when a system is down, they complain to facilities when it is too cold or when their catering for a meeting is not delivered on time. Next to that, the language can vary as well; an "incident" is a very normal term in IT, but for facilities the same term usually means something like the building is on fire.

Interestingly, not being on the same site and budgetary reasons are not identified as obstacles by any of the respondents, and tool features are hardly of any importance either.

Conversely, different ways of working and politics are seen as the main obstacles for shared service management, receiving, respectively, 39 percent and 30 percent of the respondent's votes. Culture differences have been identified by 13 percent of respondents with another 13 percent choosing for fear of change.

So, in fact, all hurdles respondents identify are person-related.

4 Stages

The report talks about four stages in shared service management: Nothing shared, shared service management tool, shared service desk team and shared processes across the business. Taking the "nothing shared" stage as a baseline, the results revealed a surprising level of collaboration between desks as only 44 percent of respondents indicate they share nothing with other departments. As the stages are not exclusive, this leaves 56 percent of respondents participating in one or more stages of collaboration.

These growth stages form the shared service management model as we have observed it in the market. Supporting departments join forces to improve the quality of services while cutting costs. It is important to acknowledge the strength of each department while searching for the areas where the services overlap and can be improved. This has a synergetic effect: Expertise is better shared.

The order of the stages is based on experiences in the field, but we have seen successful growth steps where the order of the stages was different. The order we take on creates a logical step-by-step change process, with each stage focusing on one of three areas: Tool, organization or process management. Each following stage naturally brings together supporting departments' services, increase the maturity of the departments and results in both increased quality and lower costs.

Baseline/Stage 0: Nothing Shared

In this stage, the different supporting departments within the organization have their own procedures and processes and they hardly work together, there is a strict division of tasks. In this stage the people working in these departments hardly know each other, despite working in the same building and being involved together in some activities, such as on- and off boarding of employees. In companies in this stage, you will typically see that for employee terminations different checklists exist per involved department: HR for payroll-related activities, facilities management for workplace activities, such as an office that is becoming available, and IT for email/account related things. As there is little interaction, the risk of untimely communication is high and in many cases companies realize too late that the employee still has company owned items that have not been returned.

Stage 1: Shared Tool

The first step organizations take toward shared service management usually is to start sharing one tool. The supporting departments work in one tool but still have their own procedures and processes. This step provides significant savings, as it reduces the amount of applications being used. Within this step, organizations usually start by first creating a shared portal.

Another advantage of this stage is that calls are more easily transferred from one department to the other.

A challenge of getting to this step is that the departments have to get to know and trust each other. Working in the same tool means that the departments have to be more aligned as changes to the tool impact them all. Having a structure of key users who have meetings about further improvements is important to continue going through changes together.

Companies in this stage usually have a portal where employees can register all their questions, requests and problems, in a way they create a virtual single point of contact. The employees however still have to choose what department to turn to for a specific request.

Stage 2: Shared Service Desk and Team

This is the stage where a big step towards a higher customer satisfaction is made. In this stage a shared service desk is set up with representatives from all the supporting departments. There is a true shared front office where the agents understand and know each other. This stage offers a real single point of contact for the employee that is not only a virtual portal. It helps employees find their way more easily towards the solution they need and this professionalization means the customer is helped more effectively in a more customer-friendly way.

Companies in this stage tend to offer the employees one portal, one phone number and/or one counter where they can turn to for all their requests, issues and problems.

One of the challenges of getting to this stage is that representatives from specific supporting departments are put together in one front office which means they will encounter questions and requests that are not in their direct expertise.

Another big advantage even improving customer satisfaction, is that questions are not routed to the wrong department.

The report shows that 9 percent of respondents are already collaborating with other desks to such a high extent.

Stage 3: Shared Processes

This stage will get you the highest increase in customer satisfaction and the best cost efficiency. Supporting departments will align their processes so the employees know what to expect and their experience is the same at all times. In stage 2 the customers did not notice anymore that their questions and problems are processed by different departments, however they still were and always will be. And as procedures and cultures develop that can differ between departments, this leads to a different experience for the customer. For instance when IT picks up a call, they may often send updated via email, whereas the HR department may only email the final answer.

Organizations that are in this stage have interdepartmental work groups that align and continuously improve work procedures, regardless of whether they are shared (like onboarding of employees) or not.

A big challenge in this stage is that in order to align the different departments into using the same processes and procedures, concessions have to be made.

Everything Shared?

An important fact to stress is that the shared service management model does not mean that everything is shared. Specialist departments and functions such as network administrators, HVAC specialists, payroll specialists, etc. will always exist. As they do not have a direct impact on the service delivery, their systems do not have to be shared either; in reality they will be integrated with the service management tool instead of being replaced by it.

Workforce Enablement

In the survey, 83 percent of respondents believe the key decisions around shared service management will be taken on a director or corporate level. That is a very interesting fact, knowing that because of the commoditization of the service management market the decision making tended to be taken on a lower level.

A reason for this is the focus shift toward workforce enablement, which is about rethinking how to deliver technology to the people who drive your business. Where for instance in the past a portal was introduced to cut down on helpdesk traffic, the main focus when implementing it now is more employee or customer oriented. The focus now is on how to create an environment where employees can access the technology they need to enable them do their best work. In that perspective the customer is very important and pushes organizations to a more customer-centric thinking. Thus, it makes shared service management very relevant.

In fact, where commoditization of service management pushed the topic down in the decision tree, the trend is reversing to a point where service management leaders can play a very important role in influencing the workforce enablement strategy. In an environment of agile workforce enablement, making things easier for the organization is the most important for enterprise IT leaders, making it easier for the employees to get supported is more important than ever.