The SSO Journey is Not About a Destination; It’s About Beliefs and Behaviors

By: Steve Ellis

The Shared Services Organization’s journey starts with understanding and managing change and the culture that we nurture for that change.  What are the beliefs and behaviors of those within the organization?

When considering the culture, it is about two things: the people and continuous improvement. It’s about having the environment to learn and develop new skillsets and to continuously have the autonomy to make improvements and manage change. 

New technology is changing the skillsets, tools and processes needed now and in the future.  This leads to new talent requirements and development and a new digital workforce.  This enables SSOs to move from traditional transactional services to more of a value adding, knowledge-based solution provider as technology frees up workloads.  Thus, allowing SSOs to grow by taking on more of both types of services.

And then:

  •          It’s all about going the extra mile to serve the customer, as that road is never crowded.
  •          It’s about the team, the team, the team.  Leaders and the folks coaching each other.
  •          It’s about being the crazy ones, and to think differently.  To stay willing to get out of our comfort zones.  It lets you grow.

It’s about not becoming irrelevant or hiding from change.  The number one barrier to change is the insufficient understanding of disruptive changes and then not enabling innovation. 

When we hear the word innovation, we usually think of engineers.  Why?  It’s about finance also owning the word innovation.  Engineering has a R&D budget.  Why shouldn’t finance have a R&D budget and have it in a COE in the SSO?  Call it the Playbox COE.  An incubator to try out new things.

What is innovation?  The freedom to create?  To take risks?   Creativity is about thinking up new ideas.  Innovation is about acting and putting those ideas to work in the real world and doing new things.  Everyone has a thought, an idea or an opinion, but usually only a few people act on them.

-          It’s about not being afraid to experiment or fail. Taking some risks and failing is a success, if we learn from those failures.

The biggest disrupter out there is all the new technologies at our fingertips. The internet brought connectivity and instant feedback with devices worldwide. We now have social media, artificial intelligence, machine learning, chat bots, RPA bots, cognitive solutions, and big data to name a few.  Coming soon the era of passwords will end with a science called biometric authentication.  These are tools that use fingerprints, voice recognition, eye scans and facial recognition.  Can you say James Bond? Don’t run from these disruptive changes and innovations, embrace them. They might not all work for your organization. You might find in a year that something was a failure. But if two out of three that you try work for your business, think about how transformative that could be.

These new technologies will change the SSO operating model. But how? A pro athlete is always looking for that edge.  That competitive edge that makes them better than their foes and teammates.  What is that new edge these new technologies give to your SSO?  The edge starts with where the customer is and it keeps moving as technology changes.  Think of completing your expense report. Manual paper to inputted on your PC with new software, to now completing them with pictures of your receipts taken from your phone.  The edge moves and will keep moving.  Will your SSO move with it?  It’s about being the disrupter, not the disrupted.  Being a disrupter is also more challenging and fun.

This all happens for the better with the SSO culture that is created.  A great culture can trump a great strategy because  you can’t implement the strategy or manage the change that comes with it without the people bought into the vision.

The culture is that secret sauce that opens the door to success. We called it “Minding the Gap”, in our “Pieces of the Puzzle”. Challenge everything, think outside the box, no fear of failure, be change agents, be innovative, look in the mirror and benchmark, be the crazy ones, strive for great customer service, ask why not instead of why.  Be SSO tough and have that SSO DNA of curiosity, creativity and courage.  Everyone has the skill, but also must have the will. 

I believe when you put a vision and the proper tools in the hands of engaged folks and give them lots of freedom, they can do amazing things amazingly fast.

An innovative SSO that is a partner of the business doesn’t just stay ahead of the curve, it defines the curve thru its culture and managing change by harnessing technology and knowledge solutions.  Continuously developing and upskilling your talent lets your SSO become both an incubator of talent and of technology for your company.  Now that is adding value for the company that the C-Suite will certainly appreciate.

This is what the SSO journey is all about.


Steve Ellis

Sr. Director, Shared Services Organization (retired)

Dana Incorporated