Shared Services Benchmarking: Scoring IT Success at Bowne & Co., Inc.

Posted: 07/09/2012

Shared Services Benchmarking


Ensuring the quill pens were sharp, the parchment was dry, and the horses pulling the delivery cart were better fed than the competition's - that was shared services benchmarking in 1775, the year Bowne & Co., Inc. was founded. Today, as the world's largest financial printer and the leader in providing high-value document management solutions that empower client communications, Bowne requires maximum performance from each business unit and the infrastructure of services they share.


For the Bowne Information Technology Platform (Bowne IT), that means continually moving beyond productivity, quality, and cost-reduction to measurable agility, growth focus, and innovation. Meeting these demands requires fresh measurement tools which track information in support of management decisions, utilization, productivity improvements, infrastructure construction, and delivery. Simultaneously, Bowne IT must respond to complex new regulatory requirements including financial reporting, accelerated filing, foreign filing, customization, personalization, and growth.

Balanced Scorecard Meeting these requirements has enabled Bowne IT to evolve into a key strategic partner that has earned the full support of senior management. This evolution was accomplished with the Balanced Scorecard - the compass enabling Bowne IT to locate its own true north of success (see Figure 1). The scorecard is mapped directly to Bowne's IT strategy and has five primary categories:

  • financial
  • project performances
  • operational performances
  • end user satisfaction and
  • talent management

Each category contains a list of objectives, clearly defined metrics, a description of how those metrics are measured, owners of each metric, and most importantly, a list of initiatives IT must undertake to accurately measure performance in each category.

For example, the "project" category includes several metrics that highlight the direct link between IT project work and corporate benefits. These include measurements of both competitive and IT value creation, and of external partnership-building. Competitive value-generation gauges collaboratively developed, technology-enabled solutions that differentiate Bowne in the marketplace. It is measured by development investments that will ultimately result in new corporate products or services. Likewise, the IT value-generation metric assesses the potential business impact of new technologies as measured by the percentage of technology research and development investments which lead to new IT operational services.

Finally, external partnership-building tracks IT's collaboration with technology vendors and industry experts to identify business users for specific technologies. This is measured by the percentage of vendors on Bowne's partner "ecosystem" map with whom IT has existing partnerships. The map also documents additional relationships, current spending levels, and contacts at other organizations Bowne wants to partner with.

Additional scorecard categories are measured in similar ways. Financial performance assesses the annual percentage of operational savings for specific IT services, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of IT products and services compared to industry benchmarks, and the percentage variance in actual returns versus business case estimates.

Operational performance measures system availability, the number of help desk calls per application, and the percentage of existing systems conforming to architectural standards.

Talent management evaluates the percentages of individual training objectives met, employees with individual development plans, and product/customer knowledge based on surveys of performance. Finally, user satisfaction metrics include both business-sponsor and end-user satisfaction scores.

Accurate Measurement

In all of the categories, specific initiatives are prescribed to enable accurate measurements. Under talent management, for instance, one objective is to recruit and train a diverse, high-performing workforce. A related metric is "regretted turnover," and the initiative is an assessment of management needs for new hire selection skills. Initiatives in other categories are structured similarly.

Each initiative and its measurement has a designated owner to ensure accountability for execution and data collection; initiatives are thoroughly delineated to enable accurate reporting; and the results are posted in clear, nontechnical language. Thus, the value creation IT provides for Bowne business strategies in its contribution to more efficient operations is clear.

Scorecard Lifecycle

This success continues to build because the Bowne IT scorecard is a process, not a document. Initiated in 2000 as part of a corporate-wide scorecard initiative, the IT annual scorecard lifecycle involves seven steps:

1. kick-off meetings for the IT staff, emphasizing the alignment of unit and corporate strategies;
2. ongoing strategy mapping in which IT develops its strategies based on the corporate strategic plan;
3. metrics selection to track IT's progress against each strategic pillar;
4. metrics definition, including measurement technique and tracking;
5. assignment of metric ownership to individuals involved directly in scorecard creations and updates;
6. data collection and quality assurance, the frequency of which depends on the individual metric; and
7. scorecard revision and review undertaken by the CIO and other Bowne corporate officers every six months.

In addition, the applicability of the metrics is reviewed annually by the CIO and her team. This closed-loop balanced scorecard process, combined with an umbrella model of external shared services benchmarking, has allowed Bowne IT to enhance its value as a credible, breakthrough strategic partner.

Integrating Corporate Strategy - Organizational Impact
Indeed, as a "business-within-a-business", with ownership of its own scorecard, Bowne IT now uses its performance to help Bowne business units leverage their technology investments. Within IT itself, the scorecard cascades strategies to all levels of daily operations, enhances employee initiatives, and allows IT to promote technology as a strategic investment based on the ongoing release of competitive features, application of best practices, product development, anticipation of future needs, and other advantages.

More importantly, as IT is not a traditional profit center, its results are often considered intangible. The scorecard dramatically alters that. It integrates Bowne corporate strategy throughout the IT organization; supports partnerships with business units, operations platforms, and corporate services; creates extraordinary productivity improvements; promotes breakthrough growth, high performance, and integrated, superior quality solutions with unsurpassed speed and efficiency. The result is that IT has become a true strategic partner in Bowne's value-driven quest for success.

About the Author

Ruth Harenchar is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Bowne & Co., Inc. She is a corporate officer reporting to the Office of the Chairman. As CIO, Ms. Harenchar directs all strategy and operations of Bowne’s Technology, Information Security, and Knowledge Platforms. It is her responsibility to see that all four of the company’s business units and their customers have access to the most effective and advanced technical capabilities and solutions. Ms. Harenchar joined Bowne from Ernst & Young LLP, where she served as Director of Information Technology Account Management Services. Previously, she served for 17 years in a wide range of management positions with Electronic Data Systems, the leading global information technology services

Posted: 07/09/2012


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