What's a Hostage Negotiator Doing at SSON's Australasia conference?

As SSON's global producers are putting the final touches on their agendas for 2013, I've taken the opportunity to chat with each of them to find out what's in store. Natalie Williams outlines her vision for our Australasian Shared Services & Outsourcing Week 2013.

(To listen to the podcast version of the interview click here)

Barbara Hodge: Natalie, you’re focusing on the "Intelligent Enterprise" at SSOW 2013. What does this mean?

Natalie Williams: For me, an Intelligent Enterprise is one which has the organisational ability to drive innovation – it means an organisation that can adapt to a constantly changing economic, technological and business environment and that can successfully harness the information flowing through all of its departments, its people, and its partners to drive competitive advantage.

In putting together the conference, I focused on four main pillars to consider when trying to create an Intelligent Enterprise:

- Operating Structure

-People, Productivity and connectivity

-True end-to-end process innovation

- Big data.

How will the conference specifically help delegates build up capability n these "pillars"?

Let’s take Operating Structure, to start. We will be exploring how to balance cost effectiveness with agility as well as looking at the different models being used to date, for example: GBS, Centres of Excellence, Location strategies, hub and spoke, and so on - and how you ensure you pick the best match for your core business needs. There are also streams focusing on shoring, outsourcing, captive environments, GBS and more.

People, Productivity and Connectivity will explore issues such as cross-skilling and knowledge transfer within the organisation and between buyer and provider. We will delve into how social media can be used in an SS&O context as well as areas such as the skills shortage and the leadership qualities needed for major transformation projects. We will also have a live debate on whether education institutions are delivering what businesses need in terms of talent and how we can work together to ensure we have the right type of future workforce.

In End-to-End Process Innovation, we will explore what end-to-end truly means and how to get there – so, looking at touch points from the external customer right the way through each layer of the business, rather than in silos. Today, the external customer has more power than ever to impact how our businesses work and we must adopt our processes to cope with continuous innovation - not just continuous improvement. Nils Vesk, an expert on ideas and innovation will run an exciting session on this on the third day of the event.

The fourth pillar is Big Data and Analytics - a very hot topic at the moment. I have no doubt that analytics will change the face of business as we know it and SSOs are in the perfect spot to harness analytics to propel themselves up the value chain and really impact revenue generation. I am particularly excited about having Merck and Google on board, as both are great examples of how big data is being used for competitive advantage.

How are you focusing on sourcing strategies at this event? What can delegates take away with them?

With Australasia opening up to outsourcing in the last 18 months like never before, smart sourcing is a very pertinent topic. Through sessions such as G6 and the smart sourcing plenary, we will be looking at how to manage sourcing relationships for benefits across the board - how to drive innovation within buyer/provider partnerships and how to ensure there are no blockages in knowledge transfer between partnering organisations, as well as what's on the horizon when it comes to multi sourced environments.

Donal Graham of Deloitte is chairing the conference. As one of the undisputed thought leaders for the sourcing market in Australia, what's he going to contribute?

Donal has been chair of this event for the last few years, and has been a thought leader within the industry here for some time. In his opening address and throughout the show, Donal will set the scene about the current climate and the latest trends within the industry as well as drive discussions in the plenary room around the theme of the Intelligent Enterprise.

Deloitte have recently opened Deloitte Digital - a specialist agency looking into the effects of the digital environment on businesses - and so Donal is well placed to comment on what he sees is taking place in our region, and globally, when it comes to shared services, outsourcing and business transformation.

You've also got some great speakers lined up from PepsiCo, BP, Google, etc. What can we expect from them?

I am delighted with the calibre of speakers this year and to be hosting so many new faces and organisations - about 80% of the speaker faculty are new to our stage. We have also brought in 6 hard hitting international speakers who are all thought leaders in their own right and who looking forward to sharing their learnings with the Australasian community.

Each of the speakers selected are undergoing or have recently undergone significant business transformation and are ready to share their stories, ideas and advice. We have also built in more Q&A and networking time throughout the program to give the audience more time to dig into the subject matter...

What's new about the conference this year? What are the Big Ideas about?

Because the nature of SS&O is changing as a result of disruptive technologies and new age thinking, and as so many organisations are either road-mapping for the first time or revisiting their operational strategy, we have approached the 2013 show with a wider business transformation umbrella to ensure all the variables are catered for…

Expect a fresh look at both strategy and implementation as well as some industry inspiration from SSON's Big Ideas - for example, you told us you wanted to learn to negotiate and position better, so we've brought in a hostage negotiator to transfer his skills! The 2013 show is all about innovative angles and ways to look at the issues

You've introduced a strategic sourcing and procurement Summit. What will this involve?

With procurement becoming more and more important in operational effectiveness, this year we have dedicated a substantial amount of time in the program to sourcing and procurement. The Summit will see speakers from Thales, CBA, CBH, Woolworths, Mastercard and Veolia take us through the latest issues and moderate interactive discussions on the latest opportunities and challenges within procurement transformation.

As shared services becomes more strategic, the question is always to what extent it's linked with the executive suite - specifically the C-suite. How are you tackling this question?

Since I joined SSON in 2010, our audience has become increasingly higher level with 2012 seeing over 80% of the audience come from director or c-suite level - a testament to the importance of SS&O on board room agendas.

Within SSO Week, we also host the Australasian CFO and CIO Forums - exclusive closed door discussions designed specifically for our c-level delegates to discuss strategies around operational effectiveness. We also have a number of c-level speakers joining us on the main plenary stage such as Andrew Lam Po Tang, the CIO of Fairfax and the driving force behind their major transformation project, Fairfax of the Future.

What are you covering in terms of technology?

With so many new and exciting technologies on the market - and more coming every day - this year we have introduced a Tech Drive to the plenary stage. Essentially, this will give 5 or 6 technology vendors from areas such as big data and workforce optimisation the chance to pitch their wares to the 'judges' and audience who then vote on the most innovative solution. It's a great way to introduce the latest technologies to the community.

Where is your site tour taking you this year?

We have a fascinating site visit planned up for 2013 where we will take a group of delegates to BP Elite's shared services centre to have a tour of the facilities, meet the team and get to know BP's strategy and latest service delivery focuses.

As one of Australia's most mature and value-adding SSOs, we are very lucky to have the opportunity to visit their centre. Ken Jefferd, BP Elite's General Manager and his team will take us through the work they've been doing with lots of interaction and time for questions.

Thank you, Natallie.