How collaboration can benefit shared services
Ariba, Finance shared services
You may have seen the recent report “Collaborate to Win” produced by CFO Research in collaboration with Ariba. It’s about how smart companies are creating collaboration strategies to improve productivity and proﬁts. It’s an interesting read for anyone interested in how technology is changing the way businesses work.
Social technology and social collaboration are not just for the Silicon Valley types. Going through the report, I found a few tips from companies that I think are particularly relevant to shared services. My key takeaways for shared services are:
Is collaboration the way forward? There was a great quote in the report that I liked and found particularly applicable to shared services. “To do battle in an uncertain economy companies have streamlined their operational and physical infrastructures. They’ve cut costs and they’ve becoming increasingly dependent on external partners. This has caused them to change their partnering philosophies and has made collaboration with external customers, suppliers, and other partners vital to success.” Because shared services centres are designed to improve efficiency, it is essential they harness any means of providing better value and a better service to the business.
Are you using vendors to their full potential? The report touched on an idea that a typical industry approach is to treat vendors like the enemy. “Show them no respect …anything to get as much as possible and squeeze out every last dime.” However leading companies are taking a more collaborative approach of information sharing and planning with vendors. Vendors are often ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and efficiency trends. They can offer insight and help you develop business cases and deliver better value for money. “By soliciting ideas from suppliers, a company can cut their own R&D costs as well as reduce its product development cycle while introducing new products at a faster rate than its competitors.”
How are you harnessing internal knowledge? The report gave a great example from Ford Motor Company. One employee looking for some technical expertise tapped out a plea for technical help using Yammer (an internal social network for businesses) and a colleague of his from another country directly sent him the code he needed. This saved the time, money and energy used when people have to look externally and turned individual knowledge into organisational and global knowledge. As shared services centres are often located in various regions, but delivering similar services, social technology can be a great and efficient enabler of communication between sites.
Are you monitoring metrics in real-time? If you don’t know how well you are doing, it’s difficult to know what you can improve on. Sometimes the feedback from annual or quarterly reports comes in too late to make a helpful difference. The Ariba report gave an example of how one company got an in-depth view of their business at least twice a year, using a scorecard that measures its suppliers using 25 different metrics, from on-time delivery to pricing changes to providing discounts for prompt payment. This allowed them to better understand the drivers of the business, and a more holistic view of what the business needs.
Have you had any success in collaboration in your business?