Shared services – whereby common support functions are consolidated into a single, shared service across a number of organisations – requires an underlying shared IT infrastructure.

Shared IT is key for supporting a shared service environment and is a great way to cut IT complexity and increase efficiency in cost-constrained times. Public sector bodies, in particular, can really benefit from a shared services approach to technology.

Take East Dorset District Council and Christchurch Borough Council, which have worked together to implement a financial management system. Three Rivers District Council and Watford Borough Council, meanwhile, have created a shared approach to include electronic procurement, budgeting and forecasting functionality.

The benefits of working in unison, rather than separately, are clear. First, cost cutting – sharing services allows multiple organisations to only pay for one infrastructure. The joint approach to finance for East Dorset and Christchurch has been cheaper to implement and will generate savings for both councils.

Second, the streamlining of processes. By using Advanced’s budgeting and forecasting solution, Collaborative Planning, up to 400 council staff at Three Rivers and Watford can update budgets and forecasts in real-time, eradicating the tedious production of spreadsheets and the duplicate handling of data.

Third, the increased opportunity for standardisation – one single finance system means that the 120,000 purchase invoices received by Three Rivers and Watford are processed in a single payments function.

Finally, the improvement of customer service through best practice procedures. East Dorset and Christchurch’s decision to implement a functionality-rich and user-friendly financial management system means customer queries can be dealt with efficiently and quickly.

With the continuing demand to cut public spending, estimates that suggest £500m could be saved if the 150 top-tier local authorities were to follow best practice in sharing corporate services, cannot afford to be ignored. Add in other benefits around streamlining, standardisation and customer service and you can see why a shared services approach delivers a compelling proposition.