Running a Global Process Model

Unisys has, in a very short frame of time, successfully established and nurtured shared service centres with a global footprint, servicing various global processes. This achievement is due to some innovative approaches adopted as well as the courage shown by managers in treading the untraversed path. In this article, we explore what underpins the success of the Shared Service Centre (SSC) at Unisys, and present some of the best practices that have contributed to its acceptance as a credible and efficient organization within Unisys.

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Like other organizations, we faced some significant hurdles during inception. Transition management is a complex process as it involves teams in different parts of the world and affects the emotions of a lot of people. Detailed planni, rigorous evaluation to decide the processes to be migrated, designing the right organization structure, determining the optimum operating model, selecting the appropriate methodology for moving work, employing the right people with the right skill, these are some of the key factors which aided us in overcoming the hurdles. Change management also played a crucial role, and our success today is the result of efficient transition/change management strategies.

Success Enablers
The SSC at Unisys developed a "Left to Right, Top to Bottom" model. This model laid down guidelines to migrating processes. The Left to Right approach involved moving tasks from the businesses to the SSCs. The Top to Bottom approach followed completion of the Left to Right approach. So, once tasks were moved from the businesses to the SSCs, "Top to Bottom" involved moving them within SSCs to drive cost efficiency. The model looks simple but selling the concept and obtaining acceptance was one of the biggest challenges we faced.

Transactional processes were moved to lowest cost locations, while analytical processes and processes requiring re-engineering before migration were retained at locations where it was possible to utilize the expertise of existing teams. Where appropriate, we always aimed to centralize tasks.

Changing the operational structure from a functional to a regional approach was another strategy we adopted, with success. Operations were aligned based on the regions the processes catered to, rather than according to functions. Opportunities for standardization were explored and implemented across regions.

Yet another approach we adopted involved the "SEVEN Cs," which laid down the working principles for the SSC. The seven Cs comprise: Co-quality, Continuous Improvement, Customer Service, Capability, Culture, Compliance and Cost. These Cs provided the SSC with a common mission, objective and direction.

At Unisys, we understand the importance of managing processes well after they are transitioned, to sustain our success in the competitive marketplace. Especially in today’s context, where the doctrine is clearly "survival of the fittest," it becomes imperative to manage the portfolio of global processes well to remain in business. To be successful, therefore, we believe in and advocate effective management — not only in the start-up stages but even after the processes have stabilized and reached maturity in the project life cycle. To stay ahead of the competition and maintain a winning edge, a lot of focus is placed on providing value-added services, obliterating non value-added activities, and fostering good customer relationships. Happy and satisfied customers bring more business and revenue to the organization. Quality and productivity must go hand in hand. We realize that good process management has an important role if all these aims are to be attained.

We look closely at the management of three important factors – process, people and technology —to identify synergies. Productivity and quality are constantly monitored and we waste no opportunity to raise the bar. Six Sigma and Lean initiatives are encouraged, and stringent internal controls are enforced and implemented in all areas of the operation. Realizing that well-managed processes are an impetus to drive more business, through happy and satisfied customers, no effort is spared to ensure there are no slippages in quality nor productivity. Standard operating procedures are formulated; extensive procedures are documented; and training aides, desktop procedures, and flowcharts are put in place. Our focus is not only on how tasks are done but also on why tasks are done.

The SSC supports the maxim, "The only constant is Change." We are aware that being pioneers and change-agents in the field is instrumental for growth and sustenance. As part of our change management strategy, our aim is to be at the forefront of technological excellence. We never let up on our quest to seek opportunities to upgrade our technology or implement automation. Technology upgrades are seen as a means to bring about radical change in business processes, in order to achieve breakthrough results. So, effective and efficient implementation of new technology is vital to the success of business process re-engineering endeavors, which are much broader in scope than business process improvement initiatives.

A big challenge faced by an offshoring unit servicing global customers is to ensure unhindered operations. Disruption in operations incurs costs and results not only in revenue loss but can end up losing business. A time-tested business continuity and resilience plan is operational at all times, to ensure smooth business processes in the event of any disaster, natural or otherwise. It is absolutely crucial to us that we are prepared, at all times, to deal with any unforeseen situation where our customers are concerned, especially as these customers, based in various locations, are dependent on the services we render.

We are continually investing in our people, to stay ahead of the race. The importance of regular training, and upgrading of skills and competencies, is widely accepted and recognized. Knowledge upgrading; moving to higher-value functions to better utilize the knowledge and talent pool available at the offshore location; and creating opportunities for non-strategic training; are a high priority for us. A dedicated process excellence group has the responsibility to foster all knowledge and skill enhancement needs of employees. Training through real time file sharing, video conferencing, on-the-job discussions, and live meetings, are all part of the organizational culture. Corporate library, knowledge management portals, newsletters, blogs, and a repository of skills curriculums, pave the way for knowledge and skills augmentation. "Knowledge cafés" improve employees’ corporate affiliation and highlight how SSC activities connect to broader corporate objectives. Job-rotation programs are offered to help employees probe new avenues and explore areas of interest. We make a point of cascading to all levels that communication is key to succeed, and that we cannot do without it, in the offshoring business. Communication channels are kept open and effective, and regular dialogues take place not only with customers, but involving all stakeholders. Well-defined escalation procedures are framed and all parties are made aware of the contact points and routing channels.

With the SSC units operating in multiple locations, governing them necessitated the creation of a robust governance model. This led to the creation of roles such as Global Process Owners (GPO) and Service Level Owners (SLO). The governance model drafts the responsibilities for each of these roles. GPOs hold functional responsibility while SLOs have operational responsibility. Optimum specialization of these key roles is thus ensured.

The much-acclaimed RASCI model influenced the ownership model developed for the SSC at Unisys. Internally, roles are aligned in line with RASCI guidelines (R – Responsible; A – Approve; S – Support; C – Consulted; I – Informed). This model provides clarity to the various teams within SSC on their deliverables and ownership.

Measurement of performance provides the foundation for continuous improvement. Metrics that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely are formulated to assess performance against customer expectations. Customer satisfaction is primarily gauged in timeliness, quality, productivity, and cost, by means of internal dashboards and SLA report cards. While we believe numbers speak for themselves, we also believe that customers need to be heard. To this effect, customer surveys are undertaken at periodic intervals. We observe the performance trend over a period of time to provide insights for future focus and to prepare for benchmarking. The metrics are focused on goals that are real and inspirational, and that are continually communicated to drive desired behaviours. Last but not the least, metrics are formulated in tune with the Mission and Vision objectives and values of the organization.

The SSC at Unisys has come a long way over the years and we know we are on the right track – that is, progressive. Models and methodologies such as the few listed above are some of the tools that have gotten us onto this track. We are proud of the fact that success stories like ours have made the concept of shared services centres a widely accepted and much-implemented strategy.

About the authors

Ranjini Karumathil is a cost and management accountant with more than a decade’s experience in various areas of Finance & Accounting and audits. She joined Unisys in 2005. She is also involved in SOX controls testing and is the point of contact in Bangalore for SOX PMO, and KPMG auditors based out of Bangalore.
Sashikumar Kannabiran is a graduate  in commerce, specializing in Accounting. Sashi has eight years experience in shared services for Finance and Accounting. Sashi is presently associated with the order-to-bill process stream within Unisys Shared Services, and is based out of Bangalore.