Value of support services

My thoughts have continued to develop, since a previous post’s conclusion, around the topics of workplace change and the influence on organizational design.  My latest thought is – perhaps we all need to take some responsibility for organizational design?  Every day, by interacting with someone in a work capacity or a colleague in a social environment, you are influencing the culture.  In your own big/small way you are influencing ‘how things are done round here’.

This came to mind again after attending a recent ‘Demonstrating your Value’ presentation, organized by CILIP’s Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group (CLSIG).  When I was in the session I know I was nodding along thinking ‘yes, very sensible’.  However, on reflection after the tube/bus ride home I thought again.  The feeling that overwhelmed me was how submissive the whole event felt.  Let me explain, firstly, by looking at some highlight notes from the presentation itself…

  • value = greater value add than your cost (depends on culture of organization and the credibility of your service)
  • credibility = utility (fit for purpose) / warranty / meets expectations
  • can influence credibility needs of organization
  • use user audits, ask people in detail what they need and how you are achieving it – ask ‘what else should I do?’
  • align headcount to roles, focus on wider value rather than niches
  • build story around budget, accurate numbers not enough
  • promote your value in language akin to firm’s advertising
  • learn from other support departments, scope for shared metrics, etc.
  • actively fill roles where the firm has previously used external consultants.

What came from my pork pie-fueled (appropriate for the venue) reflection/insight was that this all suggests support services are answerable to their masters and not enough influencers upon them.  This is of course understandable, as one presenter pointed out there are actually very few UK professionals left in areas such as legal research due to outsourcing, off-shoring, etc. but surely this is part of the problem.  I do not want to add to the stereotype of the ‘mousey librarian’, indeed most support staff leaders I have met over the years (including in library and information services) have tended to be outspoken.  Therefore, is there a better way to measure value?  User audits may identify what a business wants from its support services but not necessarily give the services scope for shifting expectations, as the support professionals pick up and develop ideas for the future of work.  Perhaps the below (aiming to be applicable to any support service):

  • A culture change survey: “In the last year my opinion of the x service has improved” (score out of 10, + to -).
  • An awareness survey: “Name of team member/service/offering” (worked with/used through to unaware).
  • An influence survey: “I have learned something from team member/service/offering this year” (agree through to disagree).

By all means, measure your service in financial terms but let’s not forget that every business is only as strong as its people and people need to influence the organization toward somewhere they would like to work.  That will change over time and simply working toward existing cultures won’t help move you forward.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader ( and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

5 thoughts on “Value of support services”

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