Interview Circle:If I Could Do it All Again
At the recent European Shared Services and Outsourcing week, Debra Maxwell, GM Ireland & Global Operations Director for Arvato Finance Servcies Ltd, interviewed Pascal in a relaxed setting with interactive audience participation on his experience of the blending sourcing models at his last role in GE for a right-sourcing mix, before moving into his new position at Genpact.
This is the first of a three part transcript of that interview.
To view Part II, click here & to view part III, click here
Debra Maxwell: I am going to be interviewing Pascal over here, Pascal Henssen who will introduce himself in a little bit with my first question, I hope. Just to let you know, that nothing is rehearsed; Pascal and I have been trying to get together for the last two or so weeks So that we could go through one or two questions, and give him a little bit of prep. Unfortunately he has been in Romania and I have been in the US, and it’s an eleven hour difference, and we missed our slot, and we haven’t been able to get back together again. So, Pascal is going to be asking him some questions, then hopefully while we go through it you guys can think of any tough questions, make them tough, let’s not let the guy off. Right, so let’s kick it off, Pascal tell us about your career to date, where did it all start?
Pascal: I spent fourteen years of my career in General Electric, until about two months ago. I started as an FMP, financial management trainee for two years. Then I left finance for two years, I did some quality roles in manufacturing customer services, because I wanted to know more about the business. And then after that I came back to finance, and did about six years of a variety of finance roles, within one of the divisions of General Electric in the plastics department. After that I was asked to become the shared services leader in Europe, Middle East and Africa. I did that for about four years, and then I made the very wise decision about two years ago to join a financial services company. The division within GE, the commercial bank of GE, which as all of you know has not been a great industry to be in for the past two years. And then a few months ago I decided to take some time off, and figure out what I wanted to do, and as of three weeks ago I decided to join Genpact one of the actual BPO providers.
Debra: So you moved over to the dark side! So let’s think about your career to date - what do you think you would consider your greatest success so far?
Pascal: Some people say that surviving fourteen years at GE itself is quite an accomplishment. I think what I consider my biggest achievement is how we turned around our shared services organization, until that job, I had the jobs for twelve or fourteen months, no longer, until I joined the shared services group in 2003, it was in pretty dire straits. De-motivated, we had a lot of quality issues etcetera. And for four years I had an incredible time with an incredible team, I had a lot of freedom to turn that operation around and to make it very successful, I really consider that to be my biggest accomplishment.
Debra: Ok, so you know you’ve probably worked with outsourcers before, you have probably put SLA’s on them; you have probably put SLA’s on your team. You have probably kicked their butts, when they have got it wrong, or gone into the red. So let me ask you to define, what are your SLA’s for success, what SLA would you give yourself, from a success perspective?
Pascal: In any role?
Debra: Yeah, in any role, then we’ll get onto the shared service center.
Pascal: Well I think that there are always two things primarily that I measure myself on, which is what are the customers saying, which is whether they are internal or external customers, and how happy are they? And are you really capturing their voice? Do you really know what they need, and are you really meeting those requirements? And one of my learning’s is very difficult to put into specific SLA’s; it is very easy to have a lot of SLA’s, and a lot of KPI’s, both in my shared service time, as before, I see a long list of KPI’s and they are all green, but the customer is not happy. So really understanding what makes the customer happy, whether it is net promoting score, or other voice of the customer tools, so that you really know how they are doing when they are saying they are happy that is number one I think. And number two is, the employees. Whether the employees are happy and see a career path, and want to stay, and are loyal towards your company.
Debra: I am glad you mentioned your employees there, so if I got a load of employees from your previous organization in a room, and I asked them what it is they think that you are really good at, what do you think they might say?
Pascal: You can ask.
Debra: Let’s ask, who’s a previous employee?
Attendee: I think Pascal was very good leading the team. Objectives were clear, he was caring about us, and for me - he could ask me anything and I would just try to do it. For example I was sent to France, for time to time it was difficult for me, so I would drop an email, Pascal do you have time for me because I have some doubts, or I have some difficult questions, and Pascal, no matter how heavy his workload was, he always found one hour for me.
Debra: Is there anyone brave enough to say perhaps what Pascal doesn’t do so well? Or shall I go back and ask him? I am going to ask you, so Pascal what do you think that you are not that good at, as a leader of people?
Pascal: Tough one, because I think that is actually what I built my career on, through my people. Probably I can be impatient at times, and I am not always interested in the details to why something is not working, I believe in empowerment. I believe in giving people the room and the power to do their jobs well, and not second guess everything they do. I think that is an effective leadership style, but in situations where there are real problems, sometimes you are late in recognizing how big something which you think is a small problem actually is. And not having enough time in listening to those issues, and giving time to explain what the problem is.
Debra: So we have talked about your successes and some of your career successes, if there is one thing that you can define that you think is the least successful thing that you have done in your career, and that you wish you had never done.
Pascal: It is probably joining the financial services, not necessarily because...our business what doing quite well GE is still profitable in financial services, but the reason that I pick that example is that I took a job where I had a fancy title, and it looked all very nice, but at the same time it was a role that was very influencing. Countries that were very independent and very strong, and had a very strong mandate and direct lines to the US, which means effectively that you didn’t have the direct responsibility, but you were responsible and held accountable in an organization that was heavily centralized. And I just didn’t enjoy it, and I really missed for example, that is one of the reasons that I changed to my new role, I missed the interaction with the team, the people, and actually being able to lead through people, and to motivate them, and energize them. Frankly if I look back to the two years that I spent in that role, I don’t think I achieved as much as I probably should have.
Debra: That is pretty honest of you, thank you Pascal. Ok, so let’s get back to the shared service centers, you have been working in a shared service environment for a long time, you are considered and expert, you have been part of the industry, a deeper part of the industry so to speak, for a very long time. So, if you look back at however many years you have been involved in shared services, can you think of perhaps the early step changes that you think have come about over the last, three, four, five years?
Pascal: I think a few of the step changes, first of all shared services have learned, and by learning have become much more professional, and that they have to run shared services as a business. If you don’t run your shared services as a BPO would run it, you are going to get into trouble sooner or later. If you don’t have SLA’s, of you don’t have good pricing discussions, an understanding of your cost structure, and if you are not competitive in the long run, and you don’t develop your competitiveness as the world around you changes, you are going to be obsolete. And I think more and more shared service centers are getting an understanding, and are more professionally run than they were before. I think that is one.
Another big step change I think is that BPO companies have become much more sophisticated than they were let’s say ten years ago, or even five years ago. Take something like HR outsourcing for example, it has, the development of the suppliers and the maturing of the suppliers has been incredible, their footprint has increased tremendously. So I think the things that you actually can out source today successfully versus five years ago have changed, so shared services organization really needs to think what do I do, what do I need to do in house, what do I do outside.
And I think that the third thing is something that I think that they are struggling with, but I think that is going to be the step change in the next few years is, how do you marry an organization that can manage local compliance whether it is VAT, local tax regulations, local statutory requirements, with a global organization, that has global reporting requirements. How do you manage the global versus the local equation? I think some companies are making very good progress and figuring out that model, of being able to do both, and not saying I cannot outsource things because my CFO also does ten percent of my VAT reconciliation so therefore I cannot outsource, or I cannot build it in a shared service centre. They are now figuring out models in which you can do both.
Debra: So do you think that there is one piece of technology or one new idea that really created a path that allowed shared services to actually take off in the way that they have?
Pascal: To be honest on the one hand I really believe in technology as being an enabler, but I think a lot of people are trying to fix their process issues by trying to implement technology, and then implement all of their process failures inside that technology. So I have seen so many implementations of technology where all people do is take their current process maps, and then translate that into the system. All the hidden factors are still there, all the re-work is still there, and they have still not really thought about the technology of their process, so more process technology rather than system technology. So whilst I am a strong believer in digitalization, in making things digital, the workflow scanning and etcetera, I think that there is not enough companies that focus on some of the processes, and try to figure out how does my process actually deliver value in my business.
So, let’s take accounts payable for example, you can automate it, you can automate a lot, you can digitalize it, and you can take the work out, and you can focus on the cost of doing an invoice, and processing an invoice. But there are very few companies that actually focus on discount capture, how much do I actually capture of my total discount that I have available, very few companies focus on the real ultimate business impact of those processes, and they consider them back office and try to digitalize them. But don’t spend enough time on focusing on what is best in class, what does best in class look like, and how do I get there? So I think that if I think about technology it is an enabler, but you have got to start with your process and to ensure that it is streamlined and perfect.
Debra: So you have got a new role with Genpact three weeks in, so what ultimately made you move over into the dark side?
Pascal: One reason I already indicated, I really wanted to get back into a job with people, responsible teams, that is really what I enjoy most, where I get my energy from, I think it is important to understand what energizes oneself, and that is one of the things. The other reason is that I have been a customer of Genpact for a long time, and I always admired many of the things that they did in their management culture, it was very similar to General Electric, as most of you know that used to be part of General Electric. So the cultural shift was pretty easy, and I love this industry, I have been part of events like this, I have been involved I have done some advising to other companies, and I really enjoy the industry. I think it is a very exciting industry, and compared to the financial services industry, it is one that is still growing, and I think that it is much more exciting.
Debra: Ok, so let’s think of some advice that you can give the audience. If you had to give one golden nugget of advice for people who are suppliers of outsourcing services, what would you give them, from a client’s perspective?
Pascal: I think the expectation in the market is changing a lot, and I think that the biggest expectation that companies should have if they are smart is to use their BPO partner, and all the knowledge that exists in that BPO partner but processes that they have for so many companies around the world. And not only tell them what to do, or what you used to do in the past, but make sure that as a BPO you start with gathering of all that knowledge that you have in-house from all those processes that you have already done, and translate that into advice for your customers. And I think that BPO’s should become a little more self-confident in telling companies when something is not working well on the clients’ side. I think that they are often too willing to please, and willing to do whatever the customer wants and don’t use that huge fast experience that they have to tell the customer, you know what if you change your AP process like this, if you change your cash audit to this, or your HR process like this, here is the benefit that you can get, and by the way we can help you to get that. I think that is where they can have the biggest impact on their customers
End of Part I....to be continued