Last month marked the tenth anniversary of the government’s Next Generation Shared Services Strategy, so it’s an opportune time to review progress via the thoughts of a man at the heart of delivery. David Morris is CEO of Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), the joint venture set up by the Cabinet Office in conjunction with Sopra Steria to deliver one of the largest parts of the government’s back-office business support services. I spoke with him recently to get a feel for how things have moved on.
Morris joined SSCL last year after six years leading NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), Sopra Steria’s other JV which provides similar services to organisations across the NHS. His first task in the new role was to ensure that the safe and secure move of SSCL’s 3,000 staff to remote working because of the coronavirus pandemic had transitioned smoothly and effectively, while not impacting customer satisfaction.
Morris is rightly proud that the move went “very, very well” adding that “it is amazing what can be achieved when a crisis of this sort” forces a change. Since then, upgrades to hardware and software have enhanced the home working experience, and the focus now is on the future working model, which is being designed with both business needs and user preferences in mind. Morris envisages a hybrid environment where staff work 2-3 days in the office and the remainder at home; encompassing “everything we had before the pandemic, social interaction, and combining that with everything we’ve learned during the pandemic around flexibility and tech enablement”.
We also discussed how SSCL has progressed since 2013 and Morris’s aspirations for the company. Continuing to advance the Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a key priority, and customer feedback and NPS improvements are now a feature in every staff member’s objectives and rewards package.
The shared services framework contract that was the founding of SSCL is up for renewal in 2023 and Morris is very cognisant of the challenges he faces in earning a renewed term. However, individual call-offs with departments are being extended and he is keen to point out that SSCL is more now than just a supplier of central government back-office services. He points to successful campaigns winning contracts with the Metropolitan Police Service (which has also recently been extended) and providing payroll, pensions and compensation services for military personnel and veterans within the Ministry of Defence. The latter was successfully onboarded in the middle of the pandemic and involves a three-year transformation programme, moving infrastructure into the cloud and modernising processes.
In a further diversification, the company is helping the government’s economic recovery by providing resourcing platforms such as the one used to enable DWP to rapidly take on work coaches facilitating getting people back into work. Morris talked enthusiastically about the 10,000 people recruited between last September and April 2021 and how he hopes it will help other parts of government with similar requirements using the agile digital service that has been developed.
Morris is also keen to demonstrate that the core service, provided to the ‘Delivery’ cluster of the government’s latest Shared Service Strategy has not stood still either. SSCL has developed a strong multi-supplier ecosystem that enables users to access multiple back-end systems via a common front-end, myHub, with single sign-on capability. This is being further enhanced to include access via a mobile app, expected to be launched soon. Meanwhile the Single Operating Platform (SOP) has now migrated onto Oracle’s cloud infrastructure (OCI).
Morris is confident that SSCL, while not pre-empting any decision on the shared service centre re-let, is in a strong position having undertaken significant transformation and already delivered around £400m of savings to the UK government. In his words: “We’re a strong business; we’ve diversified, we’ve got some major programmes underway. We’re a growing business, we’re really focused on delivering the best service we can today and setting out a roadmap for the future.”
His final comment, “I think if we keep focusing on delivering great service to our clients, we will always be in that strong position”, will resonate with many in public service. So, the future looks bright for SSCL, and indeed bright for shared services in government and its adjuncts.
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