Saving on Administrative Costs through Shared Service Agreements: 2 Case Studies

Writing a check

Given depleted funding sources and scrutiny over the costs of higher education, institutions across the country are recognizing that traditional modes of operation are not sustainable; many are instead looking at more efficient models of shared operational and administrative services. The reality of established cultures and organizational structures at nearly all institutions make generating these efficiencies a sincere challenge. However, several institutions have successfully navigated these challenges to create shared delivery models that generate efficiencies and guarantee much-needed funding for the academic mission.

Wright State University in Dayton, OH has developed a unique model for funding operational and administrative services. Here are two case examples illustrating their approach — and highlighting what you can learn from their model.

Example 1: Enterprise Print

Wright State was facing rising costs across its print production and office print footprint resulting from antiquated equipment, an outdated capital expenditure model, declining print production volume, idle capacity with heavy investment in fixed costs (i.e., labor and equipment), and decentralized, non-strategic deployment of print devices.
Wright State led the development of a consortium for enterprise print services across multiple institutions that would leverage pricing and generate economies of scale. The key elements for deliver were quality, service, value, and financial performance (cost savings) to the clients and stakeholders of this important auxiliary, with an annual budget of nearly $4 million and an employee-to-print-device ratio of nearly 1:1.

The vision of this shared service model is as follows:

  • A shared services print production shop headquartered on Wright State’s campus, serving all of the digital/off-set printing needs of the three partners, with logistical fulfillment/delivery to Central State and Clark State from the facility located on our campus
  • Set/leveraged office print click pricing across all three partners with customized solutions developed to meet the respective needs of the partners; and,

After a rigorous competitive selection process, Xerox Corporation was selected as the industry partner to serve the needs of the consortium. Significant savings of nearly $700,000 annually are projected as a result of a simplified per-impression pricing structure, right-sized user to device ratio (approximately 5:1 upon full implementation), and optimization of technology and capacity. Existing printing services personnel will be re-assigned to value-added functions and student-facing activities.
Collaboration and effective use of networks and relationships is a critical key to success:

  • Use mutually agreed-upon guiding principles to develop desired end results.
  • Rely on industry-leading strategic partners to deliver service in an efficient and effective manner to drive savings and performance.
  • Engage stakeholders in the request for Proposal (RFP) Development and Review Committee process. Once the vendor is selected and the contract has been executed, re-purpose the Committee into an implementation team.
  • Manage client expectations through communications and effective change management planning and delivery.

Example 2: Road Salt Storage

Current salt storage capacity is inadequate when faced with frequent winter storms, and additional salt can be difficult to obtain during high demand periods. In addition, inventory management practices required ineffective cash flows: purchasing in bulk and then carrying costs (averaging $38,000 annually) of nearly 500 tons of salt supply on an ongoing basis.

Finally, campus planning necessitated relocation of the current salt storage and grounds maintenance facilities.

Wright State developed a salt storage shared service model with the Ohio Department of Transportation, two local municipalities and an adjacent Air Force base. The site, currently under construction, will occupy nearly two acres and house all of the university’s grounds equipment as well as a salt dome constructed at a capacity to meet the needs of all shared services partners. This model leverages partner capital resources for site construction, capital equipment for site operations, and inventory management practices to the mutual benefit of the consortium.
Cost savings result through state-term pricing, reduced carrying cost, and contributed capital. Risks of salt shortages are mitigated. Grounds facility relocation is subsidized by partners. Annual economic benefit to the university exceeds $100,000 annually over a 30-year term.


  • Use legal representatives from each of the partnering entities to assist in navigating challenges, especially when dealing with multiple jurisdictions.
  • Leadership buy-in and support from the executive-level is imperative and serves to eliminate barriers to success in developing and implementing the model.
  • Engage stakeholders in a meaningful way on the front-end while the model is being developed. This leads to a more seamless implementation. (For example, engage biology department faculty in the site location process, with an emphasis on stewardship of the environment and natural habitat.)