ICT shared services in the higher education sector : foundations, benefits, success factors and issues

Miskon, Suraya (2013) ICT shared services in the higher education sector : foundations, benefits, success factors and issues. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Universities are more and more challenged by the emerging global higher education market, facilitated by advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). This requires them to reconsider their mission and direction in order to function effectively and efficiently, and to be responsive to changes in their environment. In the face of increasing demands and competitive pressures, Universities like other companies, seek to continuously innovate and improve their performance. Universities are considering co-operating or sharing, both internally and externally, in a wide range of areas to achieve cost effectiveness and improvements in performance. Shared services are an effective model for re-organizing to reduce costs, increase quality and create new capabilities. Shared services are not limited to the Higher Education (HE) sector. Organizations across different sectors are adopting shared services, in particular for support functions such as Finance, Accounting, Human Resources and Information Technology.

While shared services has been around for more than three decades, commencing in the 1970’s in the banking sector and then been adopted by other sectors, it is an under researched domain, with little consensus on the most fundamental issues even as basic as defining what shared services is. Moreover, the interest in shared services within Higher Education is a global phenomenon. This study on shared services is situated within the Higher Education Sector of Malaysia, and originated as an outcome resulting from a national project (2005 – 2007) conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) entitled "Knowledge, Information Communication Technology Strategic Plan (KICTSP) for Malaysian Public Higher Education"- where progress towards more collaborations via shared services was a key recommendation. The study’s primary objective was to understand the nature and potential for ICT shared services, in particular in the Malaysian HE sector; by laying a foundation in terms of definition, typologies and research agenda and deriving theoretically based conceptualisations of the potential benefits of shared services, success factors and issues of pursuing shared services.

The study embarked on this objective with a literature review and pilot case study as a means to further define the context of the study, given the current under-researched status of ICT shared services and of shared services in Higher Education. This context definition phase illustrated a range of unaddressed issues; including a lack of common understanding of what shared services are, how they are formed, what objectives they full fill, who is involved etc. The study thus embarked on a further investigation of a more foundational nature with an exploratory phase that aimed to address these gaps, where a detailed archival analysis of shared services literature within the IS context was conducted to better understand shared services from an IS perspective. The IS literature on shared services was analysed in depth to report on the current status of shared services research in the IS domain; in particular definitions, objectives, stakeholders, the notion of sharing, theories used, and research methods applied were analysed, which provided a firmer base to this study’s design.

The study also conducted a detailed content analysis of 36 cases (globally) of shared services implementations in the HE sector to better understand how shared services are structured within the HE sector and what is been shared. The results of the context definition phase and exploratory phase formed a firm basis in the multiple case studies phase which was designed to address the primary goals of this study (as presented above). Three case sites within the Malaysian HE sector was included in this analysis, resulting in empirically supported theoretical conceptualizations of shared services success factors, issues and benefits.

A range of contributions are made through this study. First, the detailed archival analysis of shared services in Information Systems (IS) demonstrated the dearth of research on shared services within Information Systems. While the existing literature was synthesised to contribute towards an improved understanding of shared services in the IS domain, the areas that are yet under-developed and requires further exploration is identified and presented as a proposed research agenda for the field. This study also provides theoretical considerations and methodological guidelines to support the research agenda; to conduct better empirical research in this domain. A number of literatures based a priori frameworks (i.e. on the forms of sharing and shared services stakeholders etc) are derived in this phase, contributing to practice and research with early conceptualisations of critical aspects of shared services. Furthermore, the comprehensive archival analysis design presented and executed here is an exemplary approach of a systematic, pre-defined and tool-supported method to extract, analyse and report literature, and is documented as guidelines that can be applied for other similar literature analysis, with particular attention to supporting novice researchers. Second, the content analysis of 36 shared services initiatives in the Higher Education sector presented eight different types of structural arrangements for shared services, as observed in practice, and the salient dimensions along which those types can be usefully differentiated. Each of the eight structural arrangement types are defined and demonstrated through case examples, with further descriptive details and insights to what is shared and how the sharing occurs. This typology, grounded on secondary empirical evidence, can serve as a useful analytical tool for researchers investigating the shared services phenomenon further, and for practitioners considering the introduction or further development of shared services. Finally, the multiple case studies conducted in the Malaysian Higher Education sector, provided further empirical basis to instantiate the conceptual frameworks and typology derived from the prior phases and develops an empirically supported: (i) framework of issues and challenges, (ii) a preliminary theory of shared services success, and (iii) a benefits framework, for shared services in the Higher Education sector.

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ID Code: 61034
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Bandara, Wasana & Gable, Guy
Keywords: archival analysis, benefits, case study, content analysis, higher education sector, information systems, issues, nvivo, qualitative research, shared services, success factors
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > Information Systems
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 01 Jul 2013 01:53
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:19

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