Asia: Shared Services leading the charge for Global Markets

Darwin Mariano

A veritable constellation of shared services and outsourcing sector superstars descended upon the Max Atria Hall of the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore on 4-6 September for the 15th Annual Asian Shared Services & Outsourcing Week. Top executives from Accenture, Merck, IBM, Microsoft, Credit Suisse and Google, among others, joined the ‘largest gathering of shared services and outsourcing professionals in Asia.

Kicking into a high gear with the theme, "The Next Level of Value: Underpinning Global Business Growth & Delivering Strategic Insights to the Board", the 3-day conference zeroed in on the important topics of business transformation, advanced analytics and attracting and retaining key talent in today’s highly globalized and multi-cultural work environment.

"The shifting economic balance of power has not only resulted in the further influx of global organisations – keen to capitalise on a burgeoning Asian market – opening multiple operating centres across the region, we are also witnessing the emergence of local MNCs adopting shared services models in a push towards operational excellence as they become more competitive on a global scale" says Natalie Williams, APAC Programme Director for Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON), organizer of the event.

Declaring ‘back-office’ as a thing of the past, the event’s keynote topic shattered the myth that shared services is just about back-office operations with the goal of decreasing costs. While cost-savings is of course a major factor, the real value of today’s shared services and outsourcing strategis rests with the fact that it drives revenue growth and – with the volume of data being processed – provides quality business insights for top decision makers. In short, ‘back-office’ is now front and centre, and a key driver of growth for many profitable companies worldwide.

One such company is Merck, a global chemical and pharmaceutical company. In a case study presented in the plenary, Sanjay Patel, Executive Director, Asia Pacific & Japan, Shared Business Services for Merck and one of the Chairmen of the event, demonstrated how employing big data for real-time business intelligence has resulted in a smarter, better, faster and stronger business. "Our shared services act as the glue needed for real-time decision making across customers, employees, and suppliers," he adds.

As Asia is faced with a myriad of issues related to the industry, and with each attendee having different pain points, the streamed sessions proved to be very helpful, judging from the fully-packed session rooms up to the last day of the event.

In-depth discussions ranging from business partnerships to social media to different stages of the SS&O journey all proved to be extremely valuable. A unique and highly exclusive CXO Forum, where C-level executives from the world’s largest companies including PepsiCo, Citibank, Barclays and others, supercharged the event as they sat down and charted a new frontier for growth and value. Paul Prendergast, Partner at Accenture moderated the forum.

One of the main highlights of the conference was the G6 Visionaries session. "G6" is a panel made up of 6 individuals from the consulting/BPO/provider markets, voted in by the SSON community, and debating – live – the trends and tools that are shaping business services delivery today. This year’s G6 include: Arnab Chakraborty, Director, HP Global Analytics; Vish Iyer, President, TCS Asia Pacific; Hugo Walkinshaw, Principal, Deloitte; Franz Deitering, Vice President - Corporate Shared Services Solutions, SAP; Arindam Dutta, World Wide Director & Business Leader - Asia Pacific & Japan, HP BPO; and Asheesh Mehra, Head of BPO-Asia Pacific, Japan and Middle East, Infosys.

Notable companies were also recognized at the SSON Excellence Awards, where Procter & Gamble, Infosys BPO, Royal Dutch Shell, and MSD won Excellence in Improvement & Innovation, People & Communications, Value Creation, Customer Service, and Culture Creation awards respectively. Merck’s Sanjay Patel won the highly coveted Individual Contribution to the Industry award.

As a whole, the event proved to be successful on all fronts. "I find the 15th Annual Asian Shared Services & Outsourcingevent to be a very enriching experience. The stature of the people who have been invited is very good and as a senior management professional, you feel comfortable when you are mixing with people who are of similar stature, thought process and with high quality of thought leadership," shares Ajay Kumar Dhir, Executive Director and Group CIO at Lanco Infratech.

As the world turns to Asia to provide a much needed boost to the global economy, expect the shared services and outsourcing industry to lead the charge.

Read about our Asian SSON Excellence Award winners for 2012