What are the Challenges and Opportunities in exporting Finance to a Shared Service model?

More than 50% of global companies have either already consolidated their Finance and Accounting functions into a shared service organisation (SSO), or are considering doing so. With insight from SSOW speakers Thomas Haseneder, Global Head GBS Finance Services, Ingram Micro and Lóránt Besnyi, Head of Accounting & Tax, MOL Group, we explore the challenges and opportunities involved.

“Unlike other functions, like purchasing and sales, that need to be tailored to a business model, the finance function is pretty similar everywhere. Rule-based, up to 80% transactional with clear defined input and output. That’s why I am convinced that a centralised finance function, finance shared services or finance GBS is a big opportunity for every company regardless of the sector.”

- Thomas Haseneder

The Opportunities Accompanying the export of Finance to an SSO

Value-Adding Insights

With tasks standardised and/or automated, finance professionals have the time and tools to execute activities that will create a greater level of value for the business – from data-driven insights or informed input to the organisation’s strategy for future success. With the capabilities of standardisation and automation provided my MOL Group’s SSO, the company’s finance professionals have been gifted with the time and tools to help the business think about possible solutions and the business implications. “That is quite far away from what we call a traditional shared service approach. It’s no longer just crunching the numbers, it’s really about defining and being part of the business strategy going forward,” says Lóránt.

Diversity in Thought

The ability for employees to create more value leads to the promise of more innovative idea development. Those within the finance department are able to provide a perspective that other departments of the business may not have access to. Inviting Finance to participate in processes that are traditionally beyond their scope increases diversity in an organisation’s pool of thought. In turn, this may lead to the creation of more innovative solutions.

Enhanced Employee Skills

As demonstrated in the following pages by Lóránt Besnyi of MOL, it is no longer enough for professionals to simply have strong finance skills. With tasks absorbed by an SSO, employees are expected to offer a new set of abilities, prompting them to enhance their personal potential and, as a result, the potential of the organisation they work for.

The Challenges Involved in Exporting Finance to an SSO

Change Management

Managing change is a challenge for any business and, despite the opportunities it brings, it is no easier in the context of shared services. The migration of process ownership, in particular, can lead to complicated feelings and attitudes from the impacted employees. As Thomas explains, “one of the typical challenges we are facing during our journey so far, is the natural resistance to give up control.” As a result, and to ensure a successful move to a true GBS, Ingram Micro must undertake a significant change management initiative.

Correctly Introducing Automation

Just because something can be standardised, doesn’t mean it should be automated. While automation is a go-to solution in the establishment for many SSOs, it is critical to identify and pursue processes that can create true business value and measurable return on investment.

Geographical Compliance

In the context of a GBS, it is critical to ensure the SSO remains compliant with local rules in all the countries in which the business operates. While transactional accounting can be easily accommodated in an SSO, there will still be a need to meet local tax and financial reporting requirements. This will require the development and monitoring of additional processes, such as data reconciliation and tools for oversight and tracking.

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