World Economic Forum Espouses 'Globalization 4.0' Opportunity

GBS must lead the way

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GBS's Strategic Role in Driving Globalization 4.0

The Global Services community has a unique opportunity to lead the way.

The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum concluded last month. Like always, senior leaders from governments, businesses and the civil society voiced their views on the top priorities for the world of business and society.

Beyond being one of the most power-packed events, this year’s meeting is of particular importance to the Global Services community because the theme for this year was Globalization 4.0. Globalization 4.0 is the coming together of Globalization – which we are an integral part of – and Fourth Industrial revolution (4.0), the technology-led tectonic shift that every industry is currently undergoing.

While the focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4.0 for short) makes sense, one obvious question in most people’s minds is, ‘Why are we talking about globalization in 2019’?

Isn’t this a topic from a few decades ago?

The huge impact of globalization in the past decades and that of the current technology-led transformation, as two separate themes, is well appreciated. However, the mutual impact they have on each other, and the combined potential to act as a force multiplier can cause an even deeper and more fundamental change to the world.

"The Global Services community has the unique opportunity in shaping Globalization 4.0 and elevating the discussion with the C-suite and the Board in their respective organizations."

An event of this scale, spread over four days, covers a huge variety of topics relevant to business and society. If we were to narrow it down to some of the top priorities for global businesses, I would list the following:

1. Global trade tensions and the associated anti-globalization sentiments
2. Future of work and challenge of reskilling
3. Data privacy and protection challenges and the need for re-building trust
4. The rising inequality
5. The climate change imperative

With the who’s who of the business and government leadership in attendance, the WEF Annual Meeting is able to quickly garner the support and attention of the C-suite and the Boards to these priorities.

LISTEN TO: SSON Podcast with Philip Woodburn, VP Global Shared Services, Schneider Electric

As the torch bearers of globalization with deep technology capabilities, the Global Services community has the unique opportunity in shaping Globalization 4.0 and elevating the discussion with the C-suite and the Board in their respective organizations.

Global Services organizations could lead the way along the following key tenets:

1. Agile mindset

As global trade tensions continue, the world is entering a ‘corridor of uncertainty’. In the past, such sentiments have led to a cautious approach to investments, often leading to decision-pause on discretionary spend. This approach though it has its merit, runs the risk of setting a downward spiral in motion.

One valuable alternate approach is to adopt enterprise-wide agility – one that provides the much needed flexibility to adapt to the external environment over the course of the year. Enterprise Agility enables building the future roadmap through a series of small sprints and having the flexibility.

2. Jobs of the future

While the world at large is worried about the future of jobs, we must start thinking about the jobs of the future. The technology and knowledge driven workforce of the Global Services community has a natural advantage to ride this wave for the better and get themselves best positioned as the center of competence for the jobs of the future. Creating a culture of continuous learning and reinvention can go a long way in making the Global Services teams further increase their contribution to their respective organizations.

3. Data protection, governance and rebuilding trust

One macro-level concern for most governments and businesses is the urgent need to rebuild trust across all the stakeholders. At a micro level, Global Services organizations should proactively review and invest in enhancing data protection and data governance processes. It is also equally important to increase transparency among stakeholders through systematic communication and rewriting the narrative.

4. Fostering co-innovation

Global Services established themselves as Centres of Excellence, and developed targeted expertise building Centres of Competence. The next level of value creation has to come from developing Centres of Innovation. In order to achieve competitive innovation abilities, Global Services organizations should co-innovate by partnering with a diverse set of partners, combining their strengths of robust processes and deep industry knowledge with the first principles and digital native approach of the ecosystem.

5. Contributing to holistic growth: the triple bottom line

Customers of most industries have started to consider business values and purpose as part of their buying decisions. As a result, most leading organizations are starting to take a more holistic approach to growth beyond total shareholder value. Global Services organizations have a great opportunity to align to contribute to this triple bottom line objective, by driving their focus on diversity & inclusion, energy footprint and contributing to local communities, over and above the cost and efficiency benefits that they have been delivering over the years.


Many leading Global Services organizations are already working on one or more of these above tenets. Looking ahead, the key difference is, how can we elevate this to a level where Global Services is leading the way for the entire organization and gets the seat at the key strategic decision making tables.

A seat it always deserved.