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February 8, 2024

Listening is the Magic Ingredient for Shared Services Success

By Jason Cox ,Summary by IT Revolution

As leaders of large enterprises, we often implement shared services teams to drive efficiency and enable innovation across business units. However, these centralized groups frequently struggle to provide real value and earn the trust of the teams they aim to support. 

According to Jason Cox, Director of Platforms and SRE at The Walt Disney Company and coauthor of Investments Unlimited, listening is key. By understanding each business’s mission, challenges, and needs, shared services can transform from unwelcome overseers to true partners in driving outcomes. Cox and his colleague Amy McCain shared three vital lessons from revolutionizing Disney’s shared services:

1. Listen to Know the Mission and Team

The number one complaint Cox hears about shared services groups is that they don’t comprehend each business’s unique objectives and pain points. As a result, the “help” they attempt to provide is misguided or irrelevant. 

Cox stresses this begins by building personal relationships, earning trust, and embedding with teams to observe their actual workflow. As Nick Cannon, Head of Technology for Walt Disney Animation Studios, told Cox, “Shared services teams need to support and amplify the value of the teams they partner with.” Listening is the starting point to understanding how to provide that value-add.

2. Work With, Not For the Businesses

Too often, shared services come across as overlords rather than collaborators there to streamline operations. The mindset shift required is from doing work “for someone” to “with someone” across organizational boundaries.

As Cox put it, it’s moving to the same side of the table via “proximity-powered empathy engineering.” His teams strive to share daily challenges and wins by being on location to co-create solutions. This earns goodwill and allows for more creative problem-solving tailored to users’ needs.

3. Actually Help Teams Accomplish More  

Earning trust and empathy matters little if a shared services team fails to move the needle on outcomes. As Amy McCain relayed, their assistance in integrating neglected infrastructure recently allowed a business unit to meet a critical application launch deadline. By jumping into the trenches alongside engineers, they broke down knowledge gaps and barriers to cut migration time from months to hours.

As Cox summed up, aim to “build trust, build community, build the magic together.” Shared services works when the focus stays on amplifying capacities across the businesses you support. This requires not just understanding and collaborating with users but quantifying how you further their goals.

The Magic Results 

By embracing these three pillars—deep listening, true partnership, and driving shared outcomes—Disney’s shared services organization has wholly transformed its reputation and impact. Leaders across the company now describe Cox’s team as “innovative,” “creative,” and “awesome partners” in shipping products and experiences. They appreciate how embedded SREs identify friction and toil to handle or automate, unlocking more time for quality and innovation.

As your enterprise looks to scale new solutions, take Cox’s advice to heart: “If they don’t look forward to seeing you—in fact, if they avoid you—you may not be helping.” Shared services works when the focus stays squarely on enabling business outcomes through joint success. This comes down to listening, collaborating, and driving value—not edicts. When your centralized teams can say they helped cut months into hours or opened new doors, you’ll earn the trust and appreciation every leader craves.

To watch the full presentation, head over to the IT Revolution Video Library here:

- About The Authors
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Jason Cox

Director, Global SRE @ Disney | Speaker | Co-Author of Investments Unlimited

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Summary by IT Revolution

Articles created by summarizing a piece of original content from the author (with the help of AI).

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