Petrobras Drives Forward With Shared Services

Aby Albu, Petrobras Shared Services Planning and Performance Coordinator, explains what drove the state-owned company to evaluate operational performance. He also shares some of the benefits shared services reaped. Mr. Albu will be presenting at Shared Services Brazil 2013, to be held in Säo Paulo between January 21 and 24. For more details,

What were the main drivers that led to you to assess operational performance?

Our needs are just like those of any company: to follow-up to see if what was planned is actually happening; and in particular, whether it’s happening with expected results. At Petrobras, planning and evaluation are seen as two sides of the same coin. In terms of performance evaluation, since 2007, we invested heavily in the creation of indicators that could reflect what was expected from our work processes. These indicators are connected with Petrobras’s strategy and unfold throughout the Shared Services organization. In terms of governance, we are constantly reviewing the defined standard, in order to adjust competencies and responsibilities. The standard progresses along with time, because practices that worked at a specific time may become unnecessary, and might be replaced by what effectively brings up value. We also have a network formed by people who strongly support the manager in management issues. The network takes part in the decisions about changes in practice and in the computer system that provides support. The network also disseminates news and maintains training, notably caused by movements of people (admissions, dismissals, retirements, changing in roles, etc.). In this way, when we talk about structure, it is not a matter of organizational structure, it is fundamentally how we organize ourselves to align and integrate the work.

How does this structure support strategic decision making?

The goals of the Executive Manager of Shared Services are negotiated with the Director of the area. Such goals are broken down within the Shared Services at all levels. When the goals are internally negotiated, after contracting the goal with the Director, we also do the planning, where we take into consideration the history of the management, the capacity to absorb more audacious goals, the challenges of the mapped demands, etc. Then, the goals represent the materialization of the planning phase. The measurement, analysis and evaluation of performance in accomplishing such goals directly impact the global performance of the Shared Services, and thus affect the relationship between the unit and the Board of Petrobras.

Now, we must not forget that external and internal environments are dynamic, so there is also a constant dialogue between the Executive Manager of Shared Services and the Director of the area, in order to verify that the goals continue to be the most appropriate in achieving the objectives of the company. And while there is no severity, there is also no chaos. There is constant monitoring in line with the Strategic Planning of Petrobras.

Which processes should be measured as a priority?

All the processes. If there is a process that adds no value, then it has to be discontinued. The Shared Services of Petrobras, within its area of operation, is there to provide the services that the company needs in order to achieve its objectives. Any process that does not contribute to that should not exist. And, if there are flaws in the processes, we analyze them to correct them.

Which difficulties did you face when implementing this structure and how did you work to overcome these?

The difficulties do exist, mainly because we are a unit with national coverage, a large portfolio of services, and a lot of people. This increases the complexity in ensuring that there is alignment, knowledge, and continuous improvement. However, the way to work this is by standardizing training in knowledge and the evaluation of performance and the IT system that supports us, as well as encouraging the network of people who support managers in management issues. The network is a very strong instrument for deployment of changes, once we have defined the content of the change (how we want it to work, which governance, etc.).

At what stage is the Shared Services Center today, and what are the next steps to be taken?

The Shared Services Center of Petrobras is fully aligned with the 2012-2016 Business and Management Plan, led by the president, Graèa Foster. In this sense, we are working the processes to ensure greater efficiency and lower cost. Our president likes to quote what she calls the "management mantras", which are: discipline to have at hand all the information about the company; to manage all projects in exactly the same way; and to align the physical part of the business with the financial part. This guidance has directed our actions in the present and will continue to do so in the future.