How to succeed in Business Services
History isn’t necessarily obvious when you’re involved in it. But my hunch is that we’ll look back on the SSON events this year and see that they marked an inflection point.
This is the year when things came together. A shared vision of the future is rapidly emerging. The alignment of buyers, vendors and advisers around that common vision will accelerate the pace of change. By the time of the Rio Olympics in 2016, we’ll look back on this as the year when we realised just how big the tidal wave of change called "Business Services" would be.
In the enterprise of the future, all support activities are set to be delivered through a Business Services unit. "Support" meaning everything outside of core operational activities: Finance, HR, IT, Procurement, Facilities, Legal, even Supply Chain in some circumstances.
Some of the Fortune 1000 have Business Services units in operation already. Others have nascent units. Most are scrambling to define their Business Services strategies.
So the future will be far more multifunctional. Existing functional organizations will continue – most people will still work in HR or Finance teams, for example – but there will be far more organizational fluidity. The sharp demarcation lines that define existing functional silos will become blurred.
The future will also be characterized by far more hybrid service delivery models. Up to now, most organizations have opted either for shared services or for outsourcing. The future – and many organizations are already well down this path – is about continually optimizing a mix of shared services, outsourcing and retained activities.
Hyper-competitive global markets will drive the need for business agility, another reason why the Business Services future will be far more complex and dynamic than today:
- There will be rapid and continual churn in sourcing: long-term mega outsourcing deals are already being superceded by multisourced contracts with shorter terms.
- Cloud-based services, and other innovations from service providers, will reduce the friction involved in change, accelerate automation and increase complexity across the systems landscape.
- Continuous improvement will be widely embedded in corporate cultures, driving continual incremental change.
- Risk, controls and compliance will become ever more important – and more directly linked to operational processes - in an increasingly regulated world.
Optimizing a hybrid service delivery model across Business Services is inherently complex. But everything points to a faster pace and greater complexity in the future.
Not An Easy Journey
Every organization is unique. Everyone starts from where they are, and moves at a pace dictated by their circumstances. But, overall, the direction of travel is clear: we are on a journey towards a Business Services future.
It’s a journey over challenging terrain. Building a multifunctional, hybrid delivery model is hard going; but that’s just reaching the base camp. The real challenge comes in making it work – in realising, in practice, the benefits set out in the business case.
It’s a transformational journey in every sense. It requires the development of new capabilities. Today’s tools and techniques are simply not enough to optimize the complex, dynamic and multifunctional hybrid service delivery models of the future.
What We Need To Succeed
The foundation for success, the best provision for this journey - wherever the start point and however rapid the progress - is effective collaboration.
Building and optimizing a Business Services organization hinges upon effective collaboration across functional, organizational and language boundaries. It is the essential underpinning for transformation on this scale: client, provider, business, IT, outsourcers – all have to be working together.
How do we do this? Effective collaboration starts with a common language. Luckily we have an emerging consensus on the universal business language: end-to-end process.
Business process is the language that can provide complete visibility, make clear responsibilities, show dependencies and interconnections, and enable collaboration on change.
But using the language of process is not sufficient. There has to be a process platform, a collaborative framework, which can continually orchestrate the actions of all the stakeholders.
This is where things begin to fall apart for most organizations. Many "manage" their processes as a collection of process fragments, overlapping and conflicting, in different formats and through various tools, and with no real version control.
Others do have a complete enterprise process model – but it’s in the language of IT, intended to drive automation and understood by only a handful of people.
Everything points to four essential properties for the process management platform that will underpin Business Services success:
(1) …based on the common language of process.
(2) …holistic - incorporating the entire enterprise; providing visibility of end-to-end processes; providing different perspectives of one reality to meet the needs of the various stakeholders; enabling the optimization of all activities, whether manual or automated.
(3) …real – it’s live on every desktop and delivering value across the enterprise, not an offline artificial construct.
(4) …governed – it’s wrapped within a robust but easy-to-use governance framework (that also incorporates risks, controls, and compliance) – otherwise it’s not sustainable.
Without these, it's not enabling effective collaboration. It's sub-optimal. It's possible to garden without tools or compost - but it's sub-optimal, it's not effective. It's possible to feed a family without an oven or fridge or even a flame - but it's sub-optimal, it's not effective. Delivering the business case for Business Services is possible without a process management platform of this sort. But it’s sub-optimal, it’s not effective.
The rapid growth in Business Services initiatives represents a tidal wave of change. [We might count ourselves fortunate to be engaged in an industry set to grow so rapidly].
Every organization will progress in its own way, and at its own pace, but our common future will be more multifunctional, more complex and more dynamic. And the pace of transformational change is accelerating.
Process is becoming the universal business language. A process management platform – holistic, real and governed – enables the effective collaboration that orchestrates the actions of the many stakeholders across the enterprise.
It’s going to be possible to build and optimize a Business Services program without a process management platform. But it’s difficult to see why any organization would want to. It’s the key to realizing the full benefits of Business Services, and properly managing the risks.
Mike Gammage is VP Product Marketing at Nimbus. His blog Sourcing Shangri-La focusses on process management, sourcing and transformation. Mike has worked in performance improvement consulting, and more recently in business process management (BPM), for more than two decades. He has worked at Nimbus since 2003 in various sales and marketing roles. He is currently VP Product Marketing - Sourcing and Transformation. His focus is on business transformation at the overlap between two very dynamic worlds: 1) BPM and performance improvement: the drive across all industries to standardise, improve and automate; and 2) sourcing and the virtualisation of the enterprise: the drive to create more flexible and lower-cost global services solutions leveraging outsourcing, offshoring and shared services.
Nimbus is a global software company with offices in San Francisco, London, Beijing, and 10 countries.
Nimbus Control software enables organizations to capture and deploy their operational processes, business controls, and supporting information to all of their people - across the Web, or to a mobile device. It provides an enterprise-wide collaborative framework that underpins effective process management and sustainable performance improvement.
Founded in 1997, Nimbus has worked with over 700 organizations including AstraZeneca, Barclays, Chevron, Cisco, HSBC, JP Morgan, Nestlê, RBS, Sara Lee, Sony, ThyssenKrupp, and Toyota.
Nimbus is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner (ISV), an SAP Software Partner, an Oracle Partner, and a Salesforce.com Partner.
Nimbus is a proud sponsor of SSON 2011. Please visit our booth and find out more. www.nimbuspartners.com.