3 Trends to look out for in European Shared Services

By: SSON

The Shared Services Industry has been on a path of consistent growth over recent years. The past couple of years in particular have shown a clear move away from human-based work towards more knowledge-based activities and this has been almost entirely enabled by automation technologies. Automation has put the industry on a completely new path. Instead of the predicted job-losses, automation has enabled Shared Services to develop new competencies and grow at an incredible rate, both in terms of their services and also geographically. This new direction has seen the industry focus even more intently on productivity, innovation and working more closely with third-parties. For those in the industry, understanding the direction the industry will be moving in is vital to success.

In this blog post, we aim to share with you the top three shared services trends that have been highlighted by European SSCs as a way to aid the development of strategies for the future of your organisation.

1. The Growth of Centres of Excellence 

Centres of Excellence are not a new topic in this industry. In fact, their prominent role in Shared Services has been on the rise over recent years. The 2019 State of Shared Services Market Report declared that 68 per cent of Shared Services are currently leveraging a Centre of Excellence and this growth doesn’t seem likely to slow down any time soon. Across Europe, modern-day Shared Services have been implementing Centres of Excellence with a predominant focus on driving performance capabilities through digital technologies, and particularly through the implementation of Robotic Process Automation. Thanks to these Centres of Excellence, we have seen automation technologies establish their place firmly within the industry. Currently, automation tools are helping the industry to improve the speed of many of their processes as well as driving sustainable business results. It’s important to remember that these tools are not replacing the human element of work; instead, automation aims to make the workforce more efficient by taking responsibility of repetitive tasks.

While 37 per cent of Centres of Excellence are still focusing on ensuring that their automation capabilities are fully utilised and established before taking the next step, we are beginning to see the development of other competencies under new Centres of Excellence. Data analytics and management, business process expertise and continuous improvement are starting to be represented in centres across Europe.

Alongside the growing demand for Centres of Excellence to drive performance in the Shared Services industry, the question still remains of who is entirely responsible for the actions and strategies of these centres. Now, more than ever, this responsibility is falling into the hands of Shared Service Centres. SSCs should be taking the charge when it comes to establishing Centres of Excellence for innovation and the development of emerging technologies. Through this level of responsibility, Shared Services Centres can become a platform for testing and piloting new, disruptive ideas.

If organisations within the European Shared Services industry haven’t already started to utilise the power of Centres of Excellence, now is the time to start. Organisations that have spend time establishing their centres are seeing much better business results and before too long, will start moving ahead of their competition. As Centres of Excellence expand across Europe, now is the time to make sure you’re staying ahead of the game.

2. Talent Retention and the Digital Workforce

The workforce that we often experience today varies significantly from the traditional structure of a workforce. More than ever before, we’re seeing digital assistants take on a significant amount of manual and transactional work. Because of this, the work that remains for the human component of the workforce will increasingly centre on a better understanding of business objectives and innovative thinking. While the digital workforce is undeniably having a positive impact on the Shared Services industry, with 29 per cent of survey respondents claiming that overall productivity had increased under its influence, the digital workforce does actually pose challenges for Shared Services professionals.

Though the industry is seeing improved productivity, quality and fewer errors due to automation, there are still obvious gaps that need to be addressed in regards to value-added competencies and establishing a hybrid workforce. HR leaders in the Shared Services industry are being put under a new form of pressure when it comes to identifying, recruiting and fostering the innovative mind set and talent that will fill the skills gaps that Shared Services leaders continue to draw attention to. These skills range from innovation and leadership skills, to data management. The big focus in the industry now, is finding talent that can help to improve the value-added work that Shared Services will now be focusing on.

The value of the modern day workforce is clearly recognised across European Shared Services with respondents expressing the ability of their employees to focus on new tasks. In the future, we expect to see an emphasis on the ability of Shared Services to take on more work scope for the organisation.

3. The Importance of Third-Party Support

The main goal of the industry has always been based on optimising ‘back-office’ functions and professionalising it. This means work that was once completed inconsistently is now completed by experts in the field, giving a Shared Service Centre its sole purpose. The success of Shared Services across Europe has been aided significantly by third-party consultants and advisors who have helped organisations to identify the gaps within their business. This is a need that still very much exists and is completely necessary to the overall success of SSCs across Europe.

The 2019 State of Shared Services Market Report confirms that leaders in the industry often look for external support and expertise when it comes to establishing change management, assessing overall performance and effectiveness as well as looking in-depth at specific details and processes, with over 31 per cent of respondents admitting to this. In the modern day business environment, where technology adds to the number of challenges the industry is currently facing, the industry needs this third party support more than ever before.

Transformation, whether digital or cultural, succeeds on the basis of effective planning and management. As technologies such as Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence continue to make their mark on the industry and the nature of work in the Shared Services industry shifts significantly to focus on new expectations, we can expect to see the demand for third-party support growing.

There has never been a point in time similar to this in which European Shared Services industry have been able to fully leverage their competitive advantages. Each of the individual trends are part of a wider trend that shows the industry taking their output and productivity to the next level with the help of disruptive technologies. If Shared Services fail to keep up with the pace of the above trends, there is a possibility that they will fall behind their competitors.

For the modern day Shared Service Centre it’s all about ensuring that automation technologies are established and that the opportunity for digital development is there and readily available. Technology is of course a complex topic, and so it’s important that Shared Services seek advice and structure the human side of their workforce so that collaboration can be achieved. As we have seen, many European Shared Services have already started on this path, with many centres focusing on establishing and scaling automation to seek internal improvements.

The trends highlighted in this blog post are showing the exact direction the industry is moving in. Keeping on top of these trends and understanding how they will have an impact on your organisation is vital in staying competitive in the global market. More than ever before, paying attention to the trends in the industry can put you at a huge competitive advantage.