Bringing Metrics to Life
SSON: Joanne, can you start by providing an overview of what Unisys was looking for in terms of improved governance and SLA performance which lead you to look for a new SLA solution?
JG: Unisys has a robust governance process in place, reviewing our performance as defined in our SLAs, with our clients, on a regular basis. Our challenge focused more on deriving meaningful metrics and reporting them clearly to drive improvement in the services delivered. The number of transactions processed doesn’t really mean a lot – however measuring and achieving a high quality output for the processed transactions is essential.
SSON: What do you and Unisys understand by the term governance?
JG: Governance is the process of ensuring compliance and delivery of the SLAs between the Global Shared Services Centers and our clients; making sure we are doing what we are asked to do, in the expected timeframe. It also encompasses a good communication mechanism to share results, communicate successes and resolve disputes.
SSON: And from your own experience at Unisys how well was governance been managed before considering a solution to assist?
JG: Our governance methodology works well. Our need for assistance was not on managing the SLAs, more to managing the reporting of metrics. We wanted to be able to clearly link performance metrics to the specific elements of the SLAs to which they relate, managing them without service level owner input.
SSON: How were you measuring that quality?
JG: We were measuring quality with a view to the impact of what happens if the transaction is incorrectly processed. We focus on the large value items and rated our performance on the prevention of errors. This doesn’t mean we neglect the smaller transactions – however you just need one transaction of significant value to go wrong and it gives our organization a negative perception to our client.
SSON: Do you believe governance is something that can be benchmarked against, if so what other organizations did you look to?
JG: I’m not sure governance can be benchmarked. I think you have to find the right method that suits your organization and the audience you are looking to target. Your metrics should be a continual progression of metrics that are meaningful to the client, look at the underperforming metrics and then identify the root cause. Put together an action plan to resolve the issues. Once that issue has been addressed, you should monitor it for given period, maybe 3 to 6 months, to ensure that relapse doesn’t take place. Once the issue has been addressed, revisit your metrics. It shouldn’t be one set of metrics that you keep forever. There is nothing worse than reporting on those items you excel at but are meaningless to our clients and showing a dashboard of all green metrics, because that won’t tell you where you need to focus your resources or give our clients a good indication of our service quality.
SSON: Some organizations will agree a governance structure with their partner when they draw up the initial contract, but then they put the contract in the drawer and don’t look at it again. Have you experienced that attitude and what are the detriments of that?
JG: We have certainly experienced that. If you deliver ahead of your SLAs then regardless of what is in your contract, that track record will become the perceived contract. So if your contract says that you should produce reconciliations by 15 working days after month end, and you consistently deliver them within 10 working days, as soon as you run into 11 working days, it’s "why are the reconciliations late?" Actually it wasn’t late; it’s just that clients were used to receiving a higher level of service. While it’s still within the terms of the SLA there is a perception that your service level declined when actually it didn’t. Their perception is changed based on your delivery.
SSON: Is governance something that needs to be addressed within Unisys on a global scale?
JG: We have a strong governance methodology - from accounts payable to accounts receivable, through to an overall accounting flow. There are numerous areas of focus within our governance structure and it tends to be the SSC initiating the governance with the client. After all, we are responsible for delivery. We have to demonstrate that we are doing what they’ve asked us to do. We also provide feedback if we encountered problems with transactions, this helps drive continuous improvements to prevent that problem from happening in the future. We are always looking at how we can improve, so that we provide the best service to our clients and the service level that is important to the client.
SSON: Why does the ServiceFrame offering appeal to you? Did you look at any other solutions available on the market?
JG: ServiceFrame appealed to us; we liked how it brought our metrics to life. The way our information was displayed, we could see more meaning to our metrics. Almost as if they became 3 dimensional, instead of flat graphs. ServiceFrame enabled us to see exactly what our metrics were and if we had over or under achieved against them. ServiceFrame also enables us to determine whether we got the right metric, what the metric tells us, whether we’d get additional time in our process and where we could add value to our processes. We did look at other offerings, but we didn’t get to the negotiation stage.
SSON: How easy was it to get buy-in from the main stakeholders?
JG: We had buy-in straight away. We were managing our metrics in Excel and it was a highly intensive and manual process to generate the metrics and charts. ServiceFrame did this for us in a blink. ServiceFrame isn’t providing something that we didn’t already have - it’s just doing it in a much more efficient and professional manner.
We already had our SLAs defined, we were already measuring and tracking our SLA performance. We had gaps in what we were doing; it wasn’t that easy to see how we performed on the metrics in the previous month and get a good comparison. In ServiceFrame we could see trends as soon as we loaded our data; this generated a clear picture for us.
SSON: You can just download it on your computer straight away…right?
JG: Yes, you can. You go in and get your dashboard, you can then see how you performed last month versus this month, and you can track where you made progress.
We kind of stumbled upon ServiceFrame at one of the shared services conferences and the group promised to do exactly what we had been struggling with. It helped us review where we were and what we were doing and it also enabled us to do it in a manner that clearly displayed our progress.
SSON: So when do you hope to fully integrate the solution and how long do you think it will take to see immediate results?
JG: It won’t take long. We’ve already been through the due diligence with ServiceFrame. Given that we set our SLAs annually, we need to get our new service level and metrics in place for 2011. So we are aiming to continue as we are and hopefully have our new metrics ready to go when we implement ServiceFrame.
SSON: Do you think post recession that governance will grow in importance across shared services teams and in relationships between outsourcers and their clients?
JG: I don’t think the recession has anything to do with governance, provided you have an active process currently in place. For me, the governance should have been there in the first place. As a shared service center organization if you weren’t performing a governance function with your clients, how did you know if you are reaching your targets or performing to their expectations?
If companies didn’t have a robust governance process, then now is the time to start. The recession has focused companies’ attention on value for money. If they don’t know or can’t value the service, how can they know if the cost base is realistic?
SSON: Can you give us a picture as to where Unisys is today and make some projections for the next few years?
JG: Shared Services has been part of Unisys since the mid 90’s. We continue to expand and develop services to our clients in the Business Units and Corporate Finance, looking to see where we can add value and continue to move services into the shared service environment. We will continue to evaluate potential activities to determine the best location for the specific tasks they contain. For example, does the task require specific language skills, does the current statutory or regulatory framework permit activities to be performed outside the country’s border? At Unisys, we are constantly looking at for ways to improve our performance and services within our Global Shared Services Organization.
SSON: So what is next Joanne? What is next for shared services? Is it more automation; is it moving to lower cost areas? I guess cutting the costs further…
JG: Well, there is only so far that you can cut the costs. Automation is part of the answer in reducing overall costs in the long term. By handling the transaction once and utilizing your ERP to do the rest, either using workflow or using direct interfaces, decreases the time to complete the overall process, and reduces the cost of capture. We continually evaluate how our ERP can help us to complete transactions more efficiently. We are also improving the knowledge and skill levels within the SSC, enabling us to provide our clients with a value added service. We spent a significant amount of time not just training our staff on the number of keystrokes required, but to consider what happens before the transaction or process comes to them and where it goes afterward. This makes them part of the whole value chain within the organization.
About Joanne Gavigan
Joanne Gavigan has worked in Unisys for just over 20 years after graduation from Liverpool University, in 1990. During her time at Unisys she has held a wide range of roles in Accounting and Systems Implementation. These roles have included managing Accounts Payable, implementing Oracle Financials, and managing the accounting function in the Asia Pacific Shared Services Centre. Joanne’s current role is Global Process Owner for Account to Report.
ServiceFrame is an Evidence Based Governance Tool for Outsourcing and Shared Services. ServiceFrame provides a unique ‘Software as a Service’ solution to enterprises public and private around the world. Easy to implement, simple to manage, and at a compelling price point ServiceFrame delivers insight into Performance, Issues, Risks, Value and Relationship Health.