Q&A: Wim Hoogedeure, Foster's Group

SSON; Wim, how do you think the Global financial crisis has impacted the role of a Shared Service Center, specifically here in Australia?

Wim Hoogedeure: I think looking back, it probably has put a renewed emphasis on the role of Shared Service Centers both in terms of optimizing what we currently have, especially at Fosters, who deliberately looked at that and also how we can move beyond merely transactional processing.

Form an optimization perspective, we are looking at injecting additional talent, simplifying our processes, leveraging our systems and that is probably a 2-3 year journey, expanding the scope of our activities, both in breadth and depth, and start providing analytical support. In fact we have actually taken time out deliberately to take a long and hard look at what our shared service operation was all about and really use the current disruption to use the external environment as an option to creatively rethink our delivery models, so we can approve our effectiveness, our efficiency, simplify what we do and really enable the business to start focusing back on growth.

SSON; What do you think the outcome will be once the economy rebounds?

Wim: I think it is clear that the economic downturn we are currently experiencing is fundamentally different from what we have seen for a long, long time. In fact people are talking about the change in the economic order. I don’t think anyone can say how long they think the crisis is going to last and what it will look like when we come out the other end. But personally, I believe the people that will be able to grow their business through productivity gains will be the people to come out on top.

SSON: So from a Fosters perspective, what have you done to prepare for the economic downturn?

Wim; To be honest, I don’t think we did prepare – I think we were lucky. About 18 months ago we started looking at the way we were actually operating as a business and we started to concentrate on getting the basics right. It was a combination of focusing on volume growth, driving through efficiencies, building value share and building our organizational capacity so we could concentrate on getting the fundamentals done very, very well.

So we started a transformation program that saw us start looking at the way we delivered HR back in June and really think about how we could let people focus on activities that would deliver the highest value, make the job simpler, get rid of waste, make it more efficient and really start building on some capability gaps that we identified. Furthermore, we have also restructured ourselves so we are much more closely aligned to the market then we were before and effectively creating a global business unit that is a combination and a variety of traditional back-office functions.