SSO Week Europe Reveals Surprising Optimism Amongst Shared Services Leaders

Sally Fletcher

Last week, I hosted SSON’s Shared Services and Outsourcing Week Europe Digital, a gathering of over 850 shared services professionals. After weeks of self-isolation, remote working and constant writing and re-writing of business continuity plans I fully expected to be hosting a sombre and tired group of shared services professionals. However, to my surprise the mood was anything but, as speakers and audience alike showed great resilience, optimism and drive in helping their organisations and industry bounce back from this incredibly tough time.

Of the myriad of topics discussed, three themes were present in nearly every session. Those were the acceleration of digital transformation, efforts to increase agility and the need for future of work models.

Of the first trend Mike Stops, Group Director Service Centres, NSG Group stated, “We are certainly looking at accelerating automation and digitization, this was an agreed strategy ahead of the pandemic however the current situation, dreadful as it has been and continues to be, has done an excellent marketing job for digitization, collaborative remote working and paperless working.”

Indeed, it appears that it isn’t just hype: Will James, Director of Global Business Services UK, Ultra Group quoted in his session Genpact’s recent predictions that e-invoicing future adoption will rise by 50% and cloud-based systems of engagement and intelligence by 30% respectively. As James said, “We’ve done three month-ends from home, there’s no stopping us!”

When it came to operating models, agility was very much the buzzword of the event. Deborah Kops wrote recently ["Reading the Tea Leaves..."], “GBS has been called out as a hero and a key component of enterprise resilience,” and therefore is an even more crucial part of businesses strategy going forward.

Due to Covid-19 it seems that shared service leaders are considering a variety of new and innovative designs. Erhan Ok, ABB spoke about the “No-Shore Operating Model” they were developing, which includes a combination of self-service, digital workers, analytics and people in order to provide faster service and better customer experience.

Meanwhile, Vanessa Gleason at Takeda discussed how they were driving towards agile at scale through a combination of automation, robotics, AI and other digital solutions.

Thirdly, as SSON revealed in their latest BCP survey, attention to “Future of Work” concepts have gone from a nice to have to an absolute necessity post-Covid. During her session, Naomi Secor, Global MD, SSON revealed that leveraging future of work concepts is currently a top two priority for shared service leaders. In fact, 49% are already developing career paths and skills assessments to respond to the workforce of the future.

Guy Mercier from Europcar, meanwhile, spoke of the importance of paying fewer people, better! It seems combining a streamlined, upskilled workforce with appropriate digital solutions will be the predominant shared services model in the very near future.

All in all, the mood was cautiously optimistic. While many shared service centres had undoubtedly gone through cuts, lighting-fast changes and had flaws in their processes exposed for all to see, the desire to push on and use the opportunity for positive change was comforting.

Something which I am looking forward to further exploring in our upcoming survival series.

As Will James, Director of Global Business Services UK, Ultra Group stated, :We’ve done three month ends from home, there’s no stopping us!"

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