7 Reasons to Invest in a Vision (the ROI is worth it)

Rakesh Sangani

At our recent Shared Services & Outsourcing conference a popular breakout session centred around How to Develop a High Performance Shared Services Centre. It was so well received that we asked the presenters to contribute a 5-part series on what was discussed, incorporating participants’ feedback. Here is the first of the series: Establishing a "Vision and Values" framework

Today’s shared services centres have an important decision to make in order to evolve. Do they continue to be perceived as cost reduction hubs or take the lead in setting a clear vision that articulates why they exist?

As the market evolves, the need for shared service centres to "act as a business" is more important than ever before. Increasingly, there’s a recognition that a clearly defined SSC culture, which may be different to the company’s culture, is important. This needs to be supported by a positive SSC brand to articulate to staff and business units alike, and a strategy to ensure success for the future of shared services.

However, culture, brand, and strategy are, in fact, all driven by the vision that an organisation sets for its shared services centre and it’s this key component that is often omitted.

Why should the shared services capability invest in a Vision?

The benefits of a clear vision are numerous and varied in our environment:

1. Prioritisation

With expectations from within the organisation increasing, a shared services centre can, in extreme circumstances, be expected to deliver low costs, high quality, optimal internal satisfaction, innovation, standard processes, a service culture, value, effective metrics, and a focus on people and talent management – and all with limited or no investment!

The need for prioritisation to set out a set of achievable objectives is essential. A clear vision enables a shared services centre to prioritise and set a direction for the progression of the capability.

2. Governance

When the shared services leadership sets out a clear vision of why the services centre exists, the relationship with the business units tends to become easier to manage as governance structures become more fit-for-purpose, rather than "lifted and shifted" from the initial state.

3. Attracting and Retaining Talent

It’s not just money that attracts talent! Mature shared services develop brands within the industry where people either want to work (for example: Diageo) or want to avoid (some BPO providers, who shall remain nameless).

A clear vision that challenges and inspires a workforce enables the development of a differentiated brand, and is a fantastic mechanism to attract the kind of top talent that wants to be associated with an inspirational vision, while retain talent that wants to work in such an environment.

4. Staff Turnover

There is no correlation between the best performers and the best payers! The young workforce that operates in today’s shared services centre environments want to understand how their performance relates to the performance of the company. Having a clear vision that aligns to the organisational vision and strategy, and is also cascaded into individual performance management measures, enables staff to clearly understand how their day-to-day performance enables the business to be more. A fully engaged, credible vision will directly impact staff turnover in your shared services centre.

5. Technology

The best Formula 1 drivers completely understand the technology that sits within their car and can optimise their performance through leveraging technology. Setting a vision enables a shared services centre to understand the types of technology that are required to achieve that vision – as a different set of tools and technologies are required for providing end-to-end business value against transactional cost reduction. It aids investment decisions as it provides context for what those investments aim to achieve.

6. Organisational Model

Once the shared services leadership have set a clear vision for the SSC, the debate on organisational models become much more straight forward. Questions on whether the model should be structured as a GBS function; whether there is a need for a global process owner; or whether the business partner role is necessary; are answered by linking back to why the shared services capability exists. If it exists to create business value, working closely with the divisions, then that "business partner" role is certainly essential!

7. Service Management

We operate in an environment where measures are typically too frequent and rarely leveraged to influence success. The service management framework becomes much more focused when it is aligned to a clear vision of why the capability exists. The metrics at each level of the organisation can be aligned to the overall vision, and measured on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis to ensure that the vision is achieved. Any movement away from "success" can therefore be managed.

Functional cost reduction vs value creation

The challenge in creating a compelling vision is that most of the organisation may view the capability as a cost reducing hub, rather than a talent pool. This perspective raises a number of considerations for shared services in terms of changing the paradigm of the culture and brand that is desired, and what to do to get real satisfaction from your shared services customer, as well as how to measure quality and how far to go – or whether to innovate at all! Simon Brown will identify the 5 Steps to Getting Client Satisfaction in next week’s article.