Q&A: Soren Brandt, Senior VP, Maersk GBS
At the European Shared Services and Outsourcing Week 2009, SSON spoke with Soren Brandt, Senior VP of Maersk Global Business Servcies who had a 'glass is half full' view of the effect the current economy is having on the company's business services.
SSON; Can you firstly tell us a bit about Global Business Services at Maersk and then a little about how you made the business case initially.
Soren Brandt: First of all Maersk Global Services Center, as we are called - we are the captive center if you like for the AP Moller & Maersk group. And to put that in context – the group has 120,000 employees in Maersk Line, which is one of the key pillars of the group. We are 20,000 and out of those, about 5,500 are in the captive services center. That gives you a bit of perspective of the headcount we have.We service a group on a global scale, because we have a truly global operation and we do that out of centers in India, China and the Philippines. We handle IT, finance and we handle a lot of processes that are specific to the container business and the logistics industry out of these centers.
How did we build the business case? I guess initially it was a pretty straight forward value proposition of looking at labor costs verses our current labor costs, taking advantage of labour arbitrage. I guess as many companies do when they start. And since then we have grown form about 1000 people in 2003 to where we are right now – 5,500 people. And in that period of time, we have gone through a great transformation, going from transactional, standardising services to now, where we are primarily focusing on efficiency gains to follow up on the different data labor arbitrage gains that we had.
SSON: Can you discuss your experience of getting senior management onboard – in hindsight is there anything you would have done differently or was it pretty straight forward?
SB: In hindsight, we would have done things differently. We did not initially have them on board, but we were building this bottom- up, but we were out there selling this to units and entities and individuals and the company, convincing them this was the right way to go and some were more capable and able than others, so we ended up with a very fragmented approach to the entire Shared Services concept. That has completely changed now and it has fundamentally changed over the past couple of years. I think what has moved us forward in building on improvement track records to demonstrate to the organization that the concept works, that we could build on what we initially did. The quality of service has gone up and that is one of the key aspects. The operational excellence part is very, very important. You need to deliver consistently to the organization. Credibility is hard to build, it is easy to destroy; so that is a key aspect of it.
The other part of it is of course being able to establish the credible business case that shows the real value that is generated by moving processes to shared service centers and what better way to do that than to build on actual performance on the past 2-5 years and that has really helped us.
On top of that the cost focus has gone a little bit to the background and we are focusing on operational excellence, improving processes and most of all on customer satisfaction - we measure that both internally and externally and we have actually seen that we have been able to reduce costs, improve processes and increase customer service at the same time – so I think they have been the key elements that have allowed us to move ahead.
SSON: How has the current climate impacted how you do business at the GBS?
SB: Positively – not that we are in a positive environment – quite the contrary, but it has enhanced the focus on cost, therefore the focus on moving more work to Shared Service centers, so clearly you could say over the last 6-12 months, the last straw of resistance has gone away and we get a lot more support from the organization than we got in the past. And again it is based on being able to deliver, that is point number one. But also current prices are the perfect opportunity in terms of moving this concept further in the company.
SSON; Where is this going in the next three years – in other words what is your main focus going forward?
SB: One thing that we have successfully managed to do over this period of time is to make Shared Services or offshoring I should say an integrated part of the company strategy. Primarily Maersk Line works as a key customer, but also with other business units within the company. My aim would be to over the next 2-3 years prove to other parts of the company that we can deliver a really good service to them so we can grow the widths and the depths of the services in the company.
SSON: Do you have any particular functions or processes in mind that are ripe for transferring to GSB?
SB: We are focusing on process improvement across the board, but we are also moving into more value based or knowledge based services, data-mining, analytic jobs, whereby we can support the decision making of the company, that I can see is catching on. So clearly over the next two or three years, we will expand the span of what we are doing, but also moving up the value chain and into more knowledge –based processes. That will be key for us and then following up on this strategic direction, so that we become an integrated part of the way the company is moving forward - the model that will be deployed in the future and hopefully, well I am sure we will come out of this crisis stronger than before. This time the Shared Services will be an integrated part of that and provide a sustainable competitive part of the company.