Q&A:Tobias Kuehr, VP HR Services, Deutsche Telekom

The Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON) recently interviewed Tobias Kuehr, Vice President of Business Development/Human Resources Services, Deutsche Telekom on critical value-related issues facing start-up service delivery organizations. Following are excerpts from that interview.

SSON: How do you define and prove your services delivery organization's value?

TK: Within our HR shared services center (SSC) we try to define value in two main ways: quality and efficiency increases. Per our SSC journey so far, we experienced that while increasing efficiency is the main driver for founding a service organization, the focus on quality and service optimization becomes the major issue for third generation SSCs. Coming from a value-driver perspective, achieving these two goals have more in common than most people would expect. Driving efficiency through automation and standardization leads to a reduced potential error rate and drives customer service satisfaction as process run through times are minimized dramatically. We also constantly measure our efficiency and quality increases:

Efficiency Increases:

These are measured through total SSC OPEX and FTE development. Since the founding of our SSC about three years ago, we have achieved total savings of more than 30 percent. Each year, we establish a forecast on how we can best develop operational processes and achieve further savings through best practice sharing and benchmarking with other SSCs.

Quality Increases:

To measure quality increases, we introduced a separate steering board – represented by the main customers of our SSC – with which we discuss the current quality development of our SSC. Our main focuses are on complaint rates (includes all errors, resulting from SSC and non-SSC mistakes) and weekly development of the main SLA, on a per product basis.

SSON: How do you provide added service delivery value in a down economy?

TK: In the turbulent times we are facing today, we as a delivery organization for internal services focus on two value adding factors: flexibility and time to market.

Here we try to act as flexible as possible for corporate changes and restructuring projects. Changes in the environment lead to new structural designs in the corporate world. For us as a HR SSC, that means we need to deliver very high quality in a very short term. As each organizational restructuring leads to a change of HR processes, we are delivering even more quantities than in the daily business of the "old world". In the end, this means we need to smartly manage the capacity within our center as well as come up with new, innovative capacity management models to gain productivity reserves for such challenging economic times. Hence, change cycles in these times are turning faster than ever before, which means we need to react to our business partners’ needs faster than ever.

SSON: How do you partner with your customers and stakeholders to understand what value they expect from your services delivery organization?

TK: Within our HR reorganization we introduced Dave Ulrich’s model which focuses on competence centers, business partners and shared services centers. With that model we introduced a steering board in which key players come together and monitor and discuss the current situation as well as the needs of the SSCs’ customers and stakeholders. Parallel to this, we engage in monthly face-to-face discussions with our business partners in order to understand the service demands our customers really want to achieve. For example, our business partners’ current demand relates to flexibility. For short-term, additional projects, (e.g. restructuring projects occurring in our core business), we need to establish additional capacity in order to successfully meet these short-term demands. Additionally, we discuss current changes in cycle times for special products as faster run through times is one of the higher demands of our business partners.

All these initiatives, including monitoring SLAs and complaint rates, in tandem with our customers and main stakeholders, builds the necessary, solid platform for transparency and trust which is always important but especially critical in today’s tumultuous times.