Highlights from the First SSON Global Advisory Board Meeting

By: Heather King

I’ve been to, and listened in on, dozens of advisory board meetings. They are essential to the development of a good conference and help us event producers figure out what the industry is truly interested in, so that we can build events they want to attend.

Sometimes, there are so many interesting nuggets being discussed that my head spins and it’s hard for me to decide what topic I want to dive into first. Last week’s meeting of SSON’s Global Advisory Board was one of those times.

SSON has had regional advisory boards for as long as we’ve run regional events (and that is 20+ years!). But this is the first time we’ve created a global advisory board representing some of the most experienced Shared Services executives from around the world – literally. Its purpose is the same as our regional boards, but bigger. These meetings will define SSON’s events and content for the coming year. I’m in no way an expert myself but after six years with SSON it’s been fascinating to see the industry evolve. Here are some of the insights from our first meeting – you’ll be seeing them reflected in some form or other at our events over the next year!


1.       Should we be called Integrated Business Solutions?

This discussion terrified me because, honestly, we’re the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network. Some Board members were all about the change, with discussion centering around the fact that SSO and GBS organizations aren’t just about service, even though that element will always continue, but they’re about providing solutions moving into the future, and that SSO/GBS organizations are really the only unit capable of providing these solutions and then scaling them to the entire business.

The three things an SSO should do in all cases (according to one board member) are:

a.       Provide services, which is table stakes

b.      Work in an advisory role, which SSOs are well placed for considering their proximity to all business units

c.       Create solutions that are repeatable across the business and that can be delivered from the SSO, but that could also be embedded in the organization.

But not everyone agreed with Integrated Business Solutions being the way to go. As one board member explained, his SSO is described as an enablement organization, enabling transactions around higher value work, such as business analytics. And this enablement organization must include both the service provider and the client.


2.       Perception is reality – How important is branding for a Shared Services Organization?

Related to the question about the actual name of Shared Services is how it’s perceived by the rest of the business. For years we’ve talked about how Shared Services doesn’t get the credit it’s due, despite the huge cost savings and innovation it brings to the business, and one of the biggest reasons for that is that it’s not branded in a way that promotes its importance. One board member commented that SSOs should want to be seen as a disruptive force and the transformation machine for the enterprise.

Another participant commented that having the SSO branded – whether as Business Services or something else – is extremely important from the global executive board down, because it becomes recognizable to everyone. But you can’t get that recognition without consistent messaging and branding. 

3.       How all of this ties into the talent challenge

At the end of the day, if you don’t have the best talent in the seat, nothing else will matter because you won’t show your value. Shared Services has always been challenged in this regard because of its perception in the market. That’s another reason why the right branding is so important. As a board member said, “If you want the SSO to move up the value chain and value curve, it needs to be seen as an organization with a career path – which isn’t just about moving paper around, with a better title”. Adding to that, another said that Shared Services has to prove that it’s not just transactional, but transformational. A name change alone isn’t going to attract more talent or make the SSO/GBS a shinier penny within the business. Knowing that the SSO/GBS isn’t just about process documentation – and making sure your prospective talent knows that – is the only way an organization is going to get serious applicants who want to build their careers within that organization.


How to move the needle? By highlighting the digital transformation happening within Shared Services. But that might be a topic for my next post!

Heather King

Divisional Director

SSON Americas