If I Could Do It All Again... (5: Phil Searle)
One of the great things about shared services, business process outsourcing and indeed broader business transformation is that experience is wonderful, and yet one is learning all the time as well, sometimes through making mistakes. One thing I have learned is that whenever you answer a question with "Yes, but ….." if the person asking the question really wants to hear "Yes" it often doesn’t really matter what comes after "but…"
An example of this from my own personal experience is in the hiring or filling of a key shared services leadership position. The question might go something like "Do you think ---- would make a good lead for the Shared Services Team?" My answer might be "Yes, but only if that person is mentored, developed and really supported in the role and in what shared services is really all about". While as a complete sentence this is exactly what I meant to say, this can result in an individual being given a lead shared service role without the necessary skill set, personal profile, mentoring or support to deliver on that role.
A classic example of this is where an internal functional employee is given the role without relevant experience because this is the easiest, lowest-cost option, with a couple of very valid additional reasons being "to develop and progress people internally" or "because they know the business". But if that person does not have the necessary experience or personality, or desire to learn and change and/or is not mentored, supported and trained in shared services then they often struggle and need to be replaced or they leave of their own accord. Functional skills are important (e.g. in Finance, HR Procurement or whatever) but to me, understanding what it takes to think very differently and to deliver effective shared services is at least as important.
Understanding what shared services means in terms of a real customer-driven, service-mentality focus, a culture of continuous process improvement, utilizing and being accountable for metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), optimizing processes through effective automation, use of chargebacks, etc, is critical in distinguishing true shared services from the more traditional, inward-looking, "central function" approach. So, from my experience, if I could do it all again, I would have at certain times in my past made absolutely sure that the right people are positioned in critical roles and then, where experience in shared services might be lacking, they are adequately mentored, supported and trained as appropriate.
To this end I might even start answering the same question differently…perhaps by answering "No, unless……"
(If there's something you'd do differently if you could do it all again, why not let us know? Email the editor with your thoughts - anonymity will be respected upon request!)