8 Skills the Next Generation Will Need [Shared Services v3.0]

Are you recruiting the right people for value-added services? 8 skills the next-generation SSC professional needs. How to Prepare for the "Value" Stage of Shared Services

Shared Services as a concept has proved itself over the past two decades, but while early models focused on cutting costs, standardizing service, and driving effectiveness, today expectations have evolved in a big way. Cost savings are factored in and many SSOs have reached that stage of maturity that allows them to step up a gear. In addition, many SSOs have internalised technology or optimised sourcing to the extent that fewer retained FTEs will be able to deliver a better service. The discussion is now about "value" way beyond that defined in the original SLA.

This value results from delivering business intelligence that drives improved decision-making and provides more comprehensive support to business customers. Today, SSO customers expect not just timely and cost-effective support services, but also forward-looking analytics that help drive business growth and efficiency. With technology and transparency two by-words of modern service delivery, improved strategic collaboration is an obvious output.

Delivering this "value," however, requires a particular understanding and skill set that is not generally fostered within the functional ranks of traditional shared services.

Alongside strong negotiation skills, an acute awareness of business output targets, and the ability to inherently understand process drivers, SSO teams also need to be up-to-date on things like data analytics and automation that are currently creating waves. Savvy SSO leaders are positioning their organizations to add significant value to their organization's strategic decision-making by leveraging this know-how.

Here are the skills SSO staff will need to provide more value-adding service:

1. Process Expertise

Although a shared services centre may define the services it supplies by "process", employees need to extend their awareness, if not scope, end-to-end. Among the many benefits is a better understanding of the root source of errors or inefficiencies emanating from upstream, as well as potential gaps in handover or performance that may occur downstream. Today’s employees need to take a holistic view over a given financial or HR service, and drive more strategically valuable decisions as a result.

2. Change Management

As shared services evolve, whether expanding scope or driving through transformations that deliver improved results, shared services staff will need strong awareness of change management options and methodologies, and the ability to execute them. The single most common cause of shared services failure is lack of change management. With the redefined, higher value services that we will see coming out of this model, the ability to educate all parts of the end-to-end process, and manage and guide customers as they adapt, will be important skills. They go hand-in-hand with …

3. Communication Skills

With fewer staff providing higher value service, each staff member carries greater responsibility for a positive outcome. The ability to communicate will become part of every SSO member’s remit. Communication skills are crucial to engage the "hearts and minds" of shared services’ stakeholders. Taking the time for that extra meeting, another phone call, or a face-to-face with a customer, can offer massive returns in terms of a smoother transition. Ask anyone who has been through a transformation initiative, and communication will consistently be highlighted for its "make-or-break" power. Lack of appropriate and regular communication can lead to lengthy stalemates.

4. Collaboration and Negotiation

Today’s shared services are more about integration then they were in the past. That means that it’s important to develop and foster strategic internal relationships (with Finance, HR, Technology, etc.) that can help shared services’ cause. There are plenty of synergies between functions, and lots of opportunities to leverage functional expertise to achieve better results. In today’s integrated and technology-enabled work environments, that means collaboration is the name of the game. SSO staff will need to be finely attuned to opportunities and empowered to take the initiative.

5. Relationship Management

When it comes to SSO customers, every shared services member is now also a relationship manager. That means he or she needs to invest time in listening as well as "selling". Listening is particularly crucial as customers will have specific requirements and want to be heard. So while shared services are trying to shift customers to standardised solutions to support cost- and quality standards, customers also need to be persuaded of the SSO’s value as a business enabler. Listening to customers’ concerns will help align an SSO’s services to better address them.

6. Capability-Awareness

Shared services’ success is predicated on the technology it runs. For while it is first and foremost about people and process, without technology, real efficiencies remain out of reach. ERP is a prime enabler, but there are a host of bolt-on solutions that provide additional, valuable capabilities. These range from scanning to e-invoicing to self-service portals to robotic process automation. As automation is steadily taking over, the need for technical expertise won’t necessarily increase; on the contrary. But it will be important for staff to understand the capabilities – and possible expansions – of the technologies employed. In addition, if RPA is making headlines, you can be sure your customers will want you to explain how you are planning for it.

7. Analytics

With the shift from transaction to value, data analytics has come under the spotlight. And while one strategy is for shared services to leverage independent data COEs, more and more are setting up their own teams of number crunchers who bring extraordinary analytics capabilities to the table. The challenge is to find and recruit this talent. Another approach is to develop a broader understanding of data analytics within the SSO team, for example by redefining KPI measures, and by emphasizing action on the basis of this data. The fact is that most SSOs already preside over massive amounts of data. They have simply lacked the skills to drive the necessary intelligence out of them. Today’s focus on predictive and prescriptive analytics is rapidly changing the rules of the game.

8. And finally … Leadership is no longer just for "Leaders"

Shared services will experience a lot of push-back at any stage of implementation or development, from both functional heads (e.g., F&A, HR) as well as business units that perceive the SSO’s emergence as a loss of control. Strong leadership based on a thorough understanding of the customer’s business and the SSO’s capability will be a key asset for any team member. The ability to display confidence and resilience in the face of inevitable setbacks will be of utmost importance.

As today’s SSOs evolve from transactional centres to knowledge-based, data analytics-enabled operations, they are able to support the business more strategically by using analytics to drive more intelligent decision-making. In the global marketplace, this quickly turns into a competitive advantage.

Whatever stage your SSO is at, you should review the capabilities and skillsets of your team. As reconsider whether you are maximizing the potential of your data analytics. Its impact can be significant. Whether in regards to better decision-making, assimilation of merger and acquisitions, or managing global talent – the answer to most of your challenges can be found in the data. Don’t risk overlooking it as you progress on your shared services journey.