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Five things I learned at the Deloitte Shared Services Conference 2023

In a year of inflation and recessionary pressures, businesses have looked inward to take on the challenges coming from outside their four walls. Shared Services Centers, unsurprisingly, have been in high demand.

Aside from the obvious push for cost savings, I heard at the recent Deloitte Shared Services Conference that Shared Services Centers are focusing on quality automation, increasingly strategic roles, and getting more out of offshore services.

Here are my five takeaways from the event.

1. People productivity trumps headcount reduction

Whether it’s flight delays or restaurant closures in your local neighborhood, we’ve all seen the effects of not having enough people to fill the roles. In fact, the working-age population in Europe is expected to decrease by about 4% by the end of the decade, according to McKinsey.

Too often, the conversation around Shared Services Centers and optimization projects comes down to FTE reduction. But it’s wrong to have a singular focus on downsizing teams to find savings when there’s a war for talent going on. Optimizing working capital by reducing cash cycles, increasing friction-free integration, and removing process waste are more impactful ways to improve profitability and operate more resiliently in challenging economic cycles.

Organizations need to find ways of doing more with less – the key is to improve internal efficiency and productivity.

2. Teams want less transactional, more strategic jobs 

Connected to the above is the push for Shared Services Center employees to do meaningful work they enjoy so they ultimately want to grow and stay in their roles for longer.

I heard how people want jobs that demand judgment calls and intuition. Rather than trying to compete with robots performing mundane tasks, people want responsibilities for coming up with new ideas and partnering with the wider business to get to the desired outcomes. 

3. Interrogate the process first, automate it second 

With the rise of Robotic Process Automation I would frequently hear how organizations were on an all-out automation drive. Little consideration if a process should exist in the first place – or for how the process was working – before it was made to operate automatically.

At the Deloitte event, it was great to hear how teams were now starting by eliminating the inefficiencies in the process before getting to the automation stage. By getting complete visibility over an end-to-end process first, teams can see where manual work is focused, where the handovers aren’t working, and then optimize the steps before moving to automation. And with object-centric process mining, organizations can go into even more detail and see the interconnectedness of all their business operations.

A recent development that attendees also spoke about is making cost savings by removing friction in the process before sending it to be handled offshore, rather than simply asking offshore centers to take over faulty processes and operate with sub-optimal ways of working.

4. Outsourcing no longer the only option

Organizations want to balance the benefits of outsourcing with keeping a close eye on quality. Rather than automatically outsourcing processes to a third-party company that can resolve the immediate problem, organizations want to fix the root cause of the issue.

To do that, some are bringing processes back in-house, while others are working closer with their outsourcing partners to understand what’s creating process problems in the first place.

5. Moving to Global Business Services remains an end goal 

Ambition really shone through at the event. The shared services model has proven its worth and teams want a seat at the decision-making table. Some are achieving this by getting Shared Services Centers leaders promoted into SVP and EVP roles where they can showcase their team's achievements while pushing for more strategic tasks.

The more mature Shared Services Centers are still eyeing the move to Global Business Operations Services, where they take responsibility for end-to-end processes and drive digitization across the business.

It was interesting to hear that some teams want an organizational name change, so they are not seen as add-ons to the business, but an integral function – moving from SLA-driven business services to integrated business operations.

Discover more about process improvement and Shared Services Centers here: 

Diederick Badon Ghijben, Customer Transformation Advisor, Celonis
Diederick Badon Ghijben
Customer Transformation Advisor, Celonis
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