Wednesday, January 17, 2007

And ODE to Shared Services

Continuing from last week's article, we will explore some of the management models that can govern a content management practice. There are really two main flavors of management approach with many shades of gray in-between.

The first, and the one I advocate the most, is the "shared service" model. While this management structure applies to many more disciplines than content management, it can be an excellent approach for large organizations with similar needs amongst the functional groups. This model is not without its' pitfalls as well. Shared services are often pitched to business by IT executives as a cost control and cost dilution mechanism. Many IT organizations present this model as a Utopian society in which the needs of the business are met consistently and economically by IT through the shared service model. While the roots of these ideals are generally admirable, in practicality many IT organizations fail to pull the model off as proposed. All to often the business is left with a service that meets some but not all of its needs. I've even bore witness to an IT shared service organization that blocked business sponsored initiatives because they did not fit into the shared service model. This is an extreme case, but a valid one to consider nonetheless.

So the million-dollar question is: how much shared service is practical for my business? I say million dollar because for some organizations this is a problem that can cost millions or more annually if not solved correctly. If your organization has more than one constituent group for content management or for any technical need really, then a shared service model should have entered someone's head at sometime. Any time you begin considering sharing resources (personnel, software, hardware), you should be considering HOW to share those resources. This is the beginning of a shared service model. How far it goes from here depends on many different factors, primarily; how many people need to be served, what budget must I adhere to, and what are the needs of the business constituents.

A common example of this is a medium to large sized organization with several internal uses for content management. To illustrate this idea, our fictional organization has an internal newsletter production team, a corporate intranet team, and a corporate Internet presence. Let's also say that this corporation produces revenue streams from their Internet presence. Do we apply a shared-service to this model? At first glance, this would be a good fit for a shared-service as long as we can gather a few facts to reinforce the concept. Firstly, the two internal groups would probably benefit from the shared-service approach. Cost dilution in the solution occurs because more than one business team is using the same hardware and software licenses, and even use the same support team to handle issues and outages. However, I would proceed with caution with respect to the third group.

The third group represents a revenue stream into the organization. To answer the shared-service yes/no question for this group we must analyze their needs and usage patterns. Are they a fast moving group? Do they change or improve their technology often to meet consumer demand? Is the Internet technology similar (platforms) to the internal teams? Can this group afford the trade-off between a one-size fits most approach, at a lesser cost, and a cater to my every need at a greater cost? If the answer is yes to one or more of the questions above or no to the last two, you will probably need to consider placing that group outside of the shared-service model. Typically, shared-services aim for roughly an 80% coverage of any one business groups needs to keep costs down, and reusability up. Sometimes this is ok, but be aware that a shared-service model is not something that should be force fed to the business (see extreme example above), but should be applied with thought and where appropriate.

Back to our Internet team example. On a few occasions, I've advocated the creation of a Business IT team to buttress the shared-service model in instances where there is not an exact fit. This group is structured as an overlay to the current shared-service model but provides extra attention to the teams that need, and can make a case for paying for it. In this way you have the cost savings inherent in the base shared-service, with the personal attention that revenue generating business groups deserve.

The second type of governance model is tied to the departmental implementation discussion. In this day and age it is pretty hard to advocate the cost of content management software, hardware, and personnel to be dedicated to the needs of one group or department. For some organizations, who do not intend to extend content management capabilities beyond one group, this may be the only option.

Thanks for reading, I'll post again soon!

Brent Kastner

1 comment:

Malcolm Teasdale said...

An issue I have hit is that the budget is for a departmental solution and there are then obstacles in changing the budget or timeline. Have you any advice for building a departmental solution with the hope of moving it to a Shared service model in the future?