It's Not Just the Luck o' the Irish that Keeps Us Coming Back to Dublin...

Barbara Hodge, Editor
Posted: 06/15/2016

It's also the great vibe of this city ... and let's not forget it hosts 20% of all SSOs across the UK and Ireland!

SSON's Georgina Hunter, who calmly keeps the event (and us) rolling


If you bring nearly 600 people together in Dublin, find a light and airy modern conference facility, pick a charming and resourceful individual as their leader, ensure suitably edgy themes to keep the conversations going, throw a big Gatsby party and then take everyone to one of Dublin's most beautiful pubs… What you get is Shared Services and Outsourcing Week 2016! And as we all made our way back home, new friendships were made, old ones cemented, useful ideas and contacts exchanged, possible new suppliers found, and perhaps a flagging interest in one’s own shared services career revived!

I certainly met a whole host of new people, ranging from Asia to Latin America, and have come away with a stack of business cards (or virtual SSON App-enabled connections) to fuel my editorial calendar in the year ahead.

A couple of things struck me in particular. First of all, the one discussion you couldn't avoid in Dublin, as in Orlando earlier this year, was anything around robotic automation. And while robots sound quirky, the truth is that in some ways it’s just the same conversation we have been having at this event for 16 years, but interpreted for 2016.

Robotic process automation is becoming a familiar and highly influential tool in companies like DMS and EMC. What stood out was that all speakers who referenced their RPA implementations emphasized it was a process solution, not an IT solution. So, at the end of the day, RPA is simply enabling the streamlining of the same processes you've been working on for years.

Every session on RPA was mobbed, some with standing room only. Speakers like Theo de Haas from DSM presented such a clear argument in favor of robotics that it was hard to imagine anyone going back to their desks without looking critically upon their own processes.

But while there is always a lot of interest in the technical and granular elements of shared services, the sessions on Leadership and Talent stimulated some of the most passionate debates. And whether it was Kari Lamont from McCormick's explanation of how she is overlaying McCormick’s culture and leadership style onto the new Polish Shared Services Center, or whether it was Niels Krabbe from Danske Bank’s advice on how to better connect Risk Management’s two locations to improve workflow integration … these were the discussions that resonated with everyone. So in some ways the three core and fundamental levers of shared services performance are still the same: people, process, and technology ­– but in today's world, the options and possibilities are brand-new.

Sally Fletcher produced this European event for the first time, having recently relocated to Berlin from Singapore, and there's no question that her light touch, constant smile and offbeat humor permeated, always, the rooms and the exhibition hall. Picking Philip Whelan from BP’s GBS as Chair was perfect. Philip knows everyone, knows everything, and has a wicked Irish sense of humor to boot (pictured left are Sally and Philip – need I say more?!).

I've rarely seen a room in such good humor and so willing to crowd around the stage when Philip thought we needed a little bit of liveliness early in the morning!

What emerged out of these three days was the exciting opportunity that is shared services in 2016.

While the model is now about three decades old, every few years a disruption occurs that sort of reinvents it. First it was offshoring to low-cost FTEs; then it was technology that supported improved processing; next came cloud-based applications that lowered cost and added flexibility; now it's robotic processing which replaces tedious human touch points and handovers with more or less real time automation… But overall, what's emerging is the idea of an automation-driven process led by ever more customer-focused and partner-oriented humans who have seen their jobs redefined.

Data management may be the next big opportunity. Yes, we've been talking about it for half a dozen years, and yet, what's clear is that there is still an enormous lack of enterprise strategy, governance, and true management. So the opportunities are still there.

In addition, established SSOs are looking at new areas to expand into and atypical services like Danske Bank's Risk Management, are a sign of what we may see more of in future. (One presenter mentioned that indirect procurement was an opportunity he thought was not even remotely close to being properly tapped into.)

This event traditionally hosts a "by invitation only", private GBS forum, and although I am precluded from sharing too much of what went on in there, it's fair to say that the awe in which GBS is held is perhaps more of a front than a tactical reality. It’s easy to get carried away by the next big thing and hold out a fancy sounding implementation plan, but if you're not providing your customers with the service that helps them improve their performance, then what you name your team is a moot point anyway.

For those who were in Dublin, or Orlando earlier in the year, Australia more recently…or anywhere else in the world at SSON's events, remember that SSON’s Shared Intelligence community is an online, private forum in which you can carry on the conversations, maintain connections, exchange tools and templates, and generally keep the momentum of peer exchange going.

Anyone attending an SSON event has a complimentary membership for that year (email Rochelle.Hood@ssonetwork.com). You can access the Shared Intelligence forum here.

Barbara Hodge, Editor
Posted: 06/15/2016

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