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Knowledge Retention in Shared Services


Making the transition from decentralized processing for back-office processes to Shared Services, where teams support many different company operations that are often long distances and multiple time zones away, requires process standards and consistency.  While it’s been decades since an employee making a change to their withholdings, or processing a requisition for office supplies, could walk down to HR, Purchasing, or Accounting to talk to someone, the importance of maintaining high quality and consistency doesn’t go away once a service center reaches maturity.  Ensuring documentation and desk procedures are accurate, and that process changes are appropriately recorded as defined steps in a process, is increasingly important as the pace of change accelerates.

It may not be your top priority, but if your Shared Services organization has a long list of key people at various job levels that you can’t do without, it’s likely you should dedicate more effort to the issue of knowledge retention.

iPollingTM Results Review

Recently, Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used by a Peeriosity member to get insight into this issue.  The following background comments were provided when the poll was created: 

“Together with a growing number of more complex roles in Shared Service Centers, and the fact that a certain attrition rate is inevitable, it’s critical to make sure the knowledge about the business and processes is not lost together with people leaving the company. We would like to see how other companies are addressing this topic.”

The first question in the poll asked about how structured and complete the knowledge retention process is within Shared Services operations, with 46% responding that they have a good knowledge retention process and confidence that knowledge is not lost from their organization.  For many, this is an issue that needs attention, with 50% reporting that they have some basic processes in place, but that they should be improved.  Here are the details:

iPolling: how structured is your shared services operation in various solutions

When asked about the mechanics of knowledge retention practices, 53% report that they have desk procedures and process maps in place and that they are kept up to date using a formal tool such as ServiceNow or SharePoint.  An additional 35% report that they have desk procedures process maps, but they are not governed through any tool.  The remaining 12% have less structure in place.

iPolling: Knowledge Retention in Shared Services

Here are many of the additional comments from members:

  • We have strong governance around documentation. There are two levels. We maintain Visio process flows, with associated SOPs outlining each process and these are supported by job aids, aka work instructions. The global process owners own this. As the global process owners are independent of operations there is an expectation that the latter group would also hold softer knowledge gathered in business knowledge transfer sessions on their own internal sites. The GPO doesn’t govern this.
  • We have good documentation in some areas and less so in others. We are working to standardize.
  • We have robust desktop procedures that are standardized and updated regularly when changes occur, and they are also reviewed/signed off annually. We also maintain process and control documentation with flow charts. We maintain a strong partnership between our retained shared services groups and our BPO providers.
  • We keep all process flows and work instructions on SharePoint and continually update instructions based on system and process updates, and review them twice per year.
  • We have desktop procedures documented and updated on a regular basis at both our outsource provider, as well as our internal Governance function. The documentation at the task level is strong. More of a challenge, as with any function, is to document the more nuanced troubleshooting skills necessary to efficiently run the organization.
  • We have specific efforts focused on “Knowledge Management“. The program tracks that documentation exists, in a consistent way, for our processes and is updated at least annually. These documents also include job aids and process flows. The global process owners own the documentation (though it can be completed by operations with a sign-off from the GPO). There are training sessions/handovers as employees change assignments. Though the program is solid, there is always room for improvement!
  • We store our documents on SharePoint, but do not really use it to manage the process.
  • We currently use the ServiceNow knowledge base where we have process flows, as well as step-by-step instructions on processes. We have also started to load video format training for end users, as well as for internal instruction.
  • We are in the infancy of our knowledge management strategy in our business service organization. We have now provided a few standard approaches, but they are not being consistently used just yet.

Closing Summary

Knowledge retention is an infrastructure process that is critical to the long-term health of every Shared Services organization.  These work activities may not be as glamorous as other projects on your priority list, but they are every bit as important.  Being able to reach out to peers to compare approaches and share ideas is an excellent way to see clearly how you compare, and the likely steps you need to take to make improvements.

What is your process for knowledge retention in your Shared Services organization?  How complete are team members’ desk procedures and do you have accurate process maps detailing individual work steps? 

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?


“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

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