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Organizational Update: Shared Services

A key challenge for ICT groups in the NGO community is that they are significantly underfunded, compared with ICT groups in industry often they are limited to “keeping the lights on,” with little left over for improving program delivery and innovation.

A key challenge for ICT groups in the NGO community is that they are significantly underfunded, compared with ICT groups in industry often they are limited to “keeping the lights on,” with little left over for improving program delivery and innovation.

After initial conversations with members pursuing shared services concepts within their own organizations, NetHope conducted a member “interest” survey that highlighted shared services as a high-priority common need. Members expressed that shared services could assist them with strategic cost management and capacity building. The goal was to deploy scalable technologies, common processes and standards to coordinate and reduce back-office spending. NetHope found a significant amount of interest by outside partners to fund this initiative, and both The Rockefeller Foundation and Accenture provided generous grants and expertise.

With help from Accenture’s nonprofit branch, Accenture Development Partnerships, NetHope created a compelling business case, governance and pricing models, service level agreements and an implementation plan for the initial two shared services — Help Desk and Procurement.

Thanks to an additional grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, NetHope conducted a Help Desk pilot in 2009 and 2010. That pilot included the following components: shared software platform, shared standards, shared support from Accenture’s IDC support team in Bangalore, India, and shared procedures for tracking incidents and problems. The experiences and lessons learned by the participating members and the steering committee are the foundation for sustaining the initial shared service as well as providing the “proof of concept” necessary to expand the initiative to other back-office functions. The grant from The Rockefeller Foundation also supported establishing a procurement community of practice.

In 2011, NetHope is looking to increase functionality and the scale of the Help Desk shared service, conducting additional pilot projects in several new areas, including procurement and infrastructure. We are also working with the I4D and Connectivity program areas to evaluate potential for various initiatives and pilot projects to evolve into shared services, and we are reviewing the Humanitarian Services Cloud initiative as a means to deliver shared services to members’ field locations.

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