For those who have not read my previous post, “Moving from Shared Services to Global Business Services,” let me provide a quick summary. Shared Services (SS) is an operating model that has been around for decades. It enables function-specific resources (i.e., HR, IT, Finance, etc.) to be leveraged across an entire organization, resulting in lower costs with agreed-upon customer-service levels. Around the time of the 2008/2009 recession, greater demands were placed on the SS operating model and what evolved was Global Business Services (GBS). The GBS operating model offers better efficiency, wider geographic reach, and broader scope coverage, to handle greater regulatory scrutiny for the same or even lower costs. However, there are some obstacles to overcome to ensure the full value of the GBS operating model is achieved… which is the focus of this post.
State of GBS
Multiple surveys and commentary have been published indicating the widespread and increasing trend of companies moving from SS to the GBS operating model. An annual survey by the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON), one of the largest communities of shared services and outsourcing professionals, stated that nearly 70% of the respondents operate as a GBS or multi-function model. Although GBS adoption continues, we have also heard of examples of GBS initiatives not delivering the “promised” return on investment (ROI). In the first year, most initiatives seem to deliver a respectable 7-10% ROI, but what is concerning is that according to Genpact, a global leader in business process management and technology services, “as many as one-third of all such transitions fail to ever achieve anticipated cost savings.” Unfortunately, from my network of peers in this space, I personally know of examples where this has occurred. There are several reasons for this occurrence, so let’s discuss a few of the major ones.
Fundamentally, there are a few main reasons why a GBS transformation may fall short:
1. Aligned Strategy and Governance – Many companies do not take the time to have ALL key stakeholders agree to an overall GBS strategy and governance upfront. Executive commitment is key.
2. Direct Linkage to Desired Business Outcomes – Misalignment between GBS Leaders and Business Clients on priorities, and/or not being able to adjust quickly as market conditions change. Alignment to client priorities is key.
3. End-to-End Scope Coverage – Only portions of an “end to end” process like Order to Cash are moved into GBS, without accountability (or a voice) to influence the balance of the “end to end” process not moved into GBS. “End to End” process accountability is key.
There are a myriad of other operational, process and technological constraints that impact success. Some of those areas include limited technology investment, an unclear talent management and acquisition strategy, under-resourced service and client management capabilities, to name a few.
So, what can you do to ensure that your GBS is positioned to get to the next level? As with most any enterprise transformations, it is critical to have executive commitment prior to moving forward. However, for a successful GBS transformation it is even more critical to have the CEO/COO and all the business and functional executives onboard, due to the potential enterprise impact. Obviously, there may be situations where select businesses or functions may be deferred (or even excluded) due to business model conflicts, but these need to be managed carefully so as to not encourage others to “opt-out.” Other improvement areas include:
1. Strategy – Alignment upfront and on an ongoing basis between GBS and Business Clients is critically important to creating value. If that is done, GBS is off to a good start. Some key strategy elements to “hash out” include short/medium term vision, value proposition, roles and responsibilities, decision rights, and governance structure.
2. Governance – Many companies prefer to not have a separate governance structure for GBS, but rather to add the responsibility to an existing structure. I think that is a mistake in the beginning because it is critical to get this right at the outset. Good governance establishes a clear mandate for GBS, removes board members from operational issues, and develops a separate “client voice” when business complexity requires doing so. In addition, as the GBS/Client relationship matures the concept of an enterprise process owners board could be considered, to help drive even larger areas of business value.
3. Scope – The discussion of scope is a topic that is covered upfront as part of the strategy dialogue, and remains an ongoing discussion at the Governance Board. It should be clear what migrates to GBS at the start, over time (as long as ROI and business value commitments are achieved), and what scope still needs further dialogue. There needs to be continual dialogue to ensure alignment, and to minimize any strategy changes especially as executive changes occur.
4. Service Management – Experienced GBS operations (of a decade or more) all seem to have a well-developed service management capability and view it as critical to their success. This team is initially focused on driving a consistent service delivery strategy across GBS, communicating operational performance and business value in a consistent/branded fashion to clients, and coordinating all the behind the scenes KPI measurement activities efficiently. However, as the GBS matures, this team shifts to more of a “services marketing accountability” driving services strategy, design, M&A migration, and new service offerings jointly with operating leaders and business clients.
If the above items are implemented, the chances of a successful GBS transformation are significantly enhanced.
A few years ago, I attended a conference made up of Fortune 500 companies interested in trends and best practices for functions and SS organizations. A large Fortune 50 company who implemented GBS over 10 years ago delivered the keynote presentation. I was “blown away” by how GBS had transformed their company, and how its scope had grown from Finance and IT to non-traditional areas such as Logistics and Joint Venture support, as well as delivering tremendous business value along the way. When you see the potential of GBS in action, it can be a tremendous motivator! Please take advantage of the learnings from others to help accelerate your ROI. For me personally, I did leverage the learnings from select conferences but, I also proceeded to do plenty of targeted benchmarking. We engaged more than 25 companies, with many outside our home industry. The primary focus was to share best practices, but also to get a deeper understanding of GBS optimization methods, and exchange learnings on similar “pain points”. If you are trying to improve your GBS, in addition to the above recommendations, I wholeheartedly suggest utilizing the concept of benchmarking to get some “fresh” ideas.
In this article, I have only “skimmed the surface” in how you can take your company’s GBS to the next level. So, in my next post (3rd in the series), I will focus on one of the key improvement areas and do a deep dive on the “Importance of Strategy and Governance.”
Arthur Anderson is a Senior Business Management Executive with 20+ years of experience in the industrial and specialty chemical industries. He has specific expertise in optimizing commercial