3 Lessons in Transformation

The team at Nationwide has recently implemented an extensive shared services covering 8 workstreams (service lines). Three leaders from this project sit down with SSON's Barbara Hodge to share what they learned from this transformation – in particular with respect to a phased vs a concurrent approach; the use of service councils; and getting business leaders to own more of the communication.

Can you each describe your roles?

Julie Bergstedt (pictured): I am VP, Customer Services & Sales Solutions, Nationwide Insurance – and the Executive leader of the Shared Services organization.

Lori Allen: I am AVP, Customer Services & Sales Solutions, Nationwide Insurance – and the Leader of 5 Shared Services workstreams (Business Metrics & Analytics, Change Management, Communications, Customer Response & Resolution, Process & Knowledge Solutions).

Laurel Elmore: I am AVP, Customer Services & Sales Solutions, SSO, Nationwide Insurance – and the Leader of the Business Technology workstream within Shared Services.

Please describe how your SSO is structured.

Our Governance model is set up as follows: The shared services sits at the heart of four different stakeholders. These include Service Councils, Executive Board, Relationship Managers, and Associate Forums.

The model covers the following Services (Workstreams):

  1. Business Metrics & Analytics
  2. Business Technology
  3. Change Management
  4. Communications
  5. Customer Response & Resolution
  6. Process & Knowledge Solutions
  7. Training & Quality Assurance
  8. Workforce Management

You’ve just gone through a large-scale transformation: what were the drivers for this?

We started looking at opportunities in Shared Services in 2010 as part of a broader transformational initiative with our customer services organization. The objective was to look at our overall capabilities across our various contact center operations and create a plan to improve them in order to improve the customer experience, create consistency, and optimize our performance. what we found was that our capabilities with the greatest opportunities for improvement were not at the front lines – they were within our support functions. In addition, findings by an independent third party indicated we had different models for our core services, and that we were making individual decisions about building capabilities within each separate contact center operation. We faced substantial gaps in capability and had limited funding.

Your model is particularly noteworthy because your shared service includes "non-traditional" areas such as business process, quality and training, and business technology. How were these services implemented, and what are the results to date?

The following illustrates the implementation process we followed. Each Shared Services workstream had its own timeline to allow adequate HR support. To date, all workstreams have been successfully implemented, and we are now considered "full service".


  • Initial focus is on consolidation–creating a new organizational structure by "lifting and shifting" resources and work from the business unit operations into the new shared services teams
  • Associates moving to shared services teams were found to spend a significant portion of their time performing work activities categorized as shared services. There is no initial change to wipe these associates do as we consolidate


  • consolidation also involves a discovery period following initial reporting changes, which will allow each functional team to consult with the business and determine what final design presents the best structure for supporting our operations
  • the interim reporting structure remains during this step in the process


  • this work will involve: confirming services to be provided, defining best practices and capabilities, establishing service-level agreements, creating a common approach to prioritization, identifying the skills and abilities needed for each role, and presenting a final organizational structure based on this work
  • this is where standardization begins


  • each team will create a roadmap for implementation outlining their designs and final structures, as well as how they will meet business unit expectations and achive capabilities over subsequent months
  • as our new structure settled into standardized processes, we'll start the optimization of our performance

What have been some of the main challenges you faced during the transformation?

Length of time it took to work 8 separate workstreams through the process mentioned above was significant – and perhaps more than we had planned for. Also, gaining and sustaining executive sponsorship across 5 separate businesses was a tremendous challenge. A final point was that we needed to deliver immediate value to the businesses without any deterioration of the services they were accustomed to.

What would you do differently if you had your time again?

This was a long process – maybe too long, in retrospect. We used a phased approached to take all 8 workstreams through the process, which challenged our ability to maintain employee engagement and productivity while they waited with anxiety to find out if they mapped to the new organization. It also limited our ability to minimize the people impact by finding new opportunities for employees displaced in the process. In short, we’d forego the phased approach we used and implement all 8 workstreams concurrently.

We could also have done more to establish effective utilization of service councils earlier on. For example, if we had it to do over, we’d ensure full understanding and reinforcement of roles and responsibilities for both the Shared Services and business sides of the equation.

A final lesson was that sponsorship by proxy just doesn’t work. With what we know now, we’d have the business leaders own more of the communication within their operations about the reasons and value of moving to a shared service model.

What’s the best support you can provide for your clients? How do you make sure that your delivery aligns with the client’s needs?

Our focus is on continuous improvement, expanding beyond a transactional environment to deliver proactive benefits and improved services. While lifting capabilities, driving optimization, and realizing the economies of scale remain important, innovation and insight are quickly becoming "must haves", and we’ve created teams dedicated specifically to this type of expertise.

How do you ensure that you are aligned with the business’s needs?

Our governance model is structured to help ensure consistent alignment. More specifically:

  • We established service councils with charters that set the expectations and monitor the scope, breadth and delivery of services provided. The objective of the charter is to establish how Shared Services and the Business Units will interact and perform, and ensure that expectations are being met on both sides. The charter has well-defined roles and responsibilities, clear service level agreements, and other procedures that spell out the expectations of the bilateral agreement between Shared Services and our Business Units. In addition, we emphasize that the business will trust the performance of Shared Services to achieve standards and improve cost, quality, service, and speed.
  • We also have a governance board that provides high-level vision and oversight of SSO performance and acts as an escalation point should alignment issues arise that cannot be solved by the service councils.

Thank you for taking my questions.