North American State of the Shared Services Market Report 2019

By: Kayla Ambrose

Throughout the past few years, majority of shared services organizations have moved away from human-based work towards knowledge-driven functions supported by data and automation. This was one of the leading trends highlighted in SSON’s North American Shared Services Market Report, concluding that most SS leaders are leveraging analytics and automation to drive performance improvement. With a main focus on improving performance, many organizations have implemented Centers of Expertise, change management for workforce transition, and ambitious targets for productivity improvement.


SSON’s North American Shared Services Market Report highlights the substantial improvement in shared services models by identifying industry trends, stages of different organizations, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie within the industry. Among the shared services functions, HR and F&A, followed by Procurement, are the largest areas to date. The biggest emerging trend amongst these services was the establishment of Centers of Expertise. With roughly 2/3 of NA operations implementing CoEs, this trend highlights the efforts to execute value-added processes made by the industry. This saturation of established CoEs is a milestone in terms of shared services future potential.


CoEs have become the driving force of todays SSOs with a main focus on improving performance through automation and analytics. Capabilities like intelligent automation, as well as data analytics and management, is used to leverage CoEs, but the question still remains whether or not the ideal operation is fewer, large centers or more, small centers.


As the shared services industry progresses, so does its objectives and potential benefits. The benefits of shared services used to be measured based on cost and timing, now they are being analyzed based on control, customer service, and agility. Of the three, customer service is becoming more significant among operations compared to last year which is no surprise considering the aggressive productivity improvement targets SSOs have set for 2019. Over a third reported targeting a 7-10% increase in productivity improvements.


Shared services organizations recognize that their ambitious goals should not only be focused on working harder but working smarter. Today, they aim towards better understanding their processes just as much as getting the work done. The execution of data analytics and business insights learned from past challenges presents the opportunity to offer knowledge-based services, compared to transactional-based services.


Better understand business processes leads into the third-party support trend. Shared services leaders are continuously seeking consultants and advisers to help identify any gaps or opportunities they may be missing. As new tools continue to emerge, it can be easy to be left behind as competition progresses. Due to the increased implementation of automated technologies, an effective transformation program can be the fine line between success and failure.


Supporting management through the workforce transition remains the main challenge for SSO leaders. Current skill gaps like innovation, process excellence, data analytics, and automation contribute to the challenge of managing a smooth transition from modern workforce to a human and robotic hybrid. This includes transitioning the modern workforce to a hybrid workforce of robotics and humans. Although most organizations have yet to address the challenges this report highlights, efforts to introduce change management and training are emerging.


Although the industry continues to thrive, it still has many years of development ahead. As time progresses, the challenges presented will continue to drive new innovations and solutions that will aid in the growth of shared services operations. As this industry continues to expand, so will its operations, opportunities, and impacts.