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What are the main challenges facing shared services professionals?

BlogSarah Feurey12.10.2012 Comments (1)

Finance shared services


For our forthcoming European Summit for Leaders in Shared Services, I’ve been doing lots of research with shared services professionals. However when talking to shared services that are just starting up and those who have been around for years, the problems they face can look quite different. Putting the research together I’ve found the main challenges shared services of all shapes and sizes fall into about 6 categories:

Process – getting it right, and ensuring compliance. Shared services are generally established to maximise efficiency through automation and standardisation. To do so, having efficient and standardised processes is crucial. Process mapping, process improvements, and standardising global processes is one of the most common and most important issues shared services face.

Knowing what success looks like. As a shared service you might know that you are operating more efficiently than you were before centralisation of process, but could you be better? Are you best in class? Is there room for improvement? One of the next most common issues I’ve heard from shared services professionals was not knowing how they measured up in terms of efficiency, timeliness and productivity compared to others in their industry. Key to success is knowing what Key Performance Indicators, KPIs to use in shared services and how to benchmark success.

Getting the technology right. Even just within an accounts payable department, there is no one piece of technology that will run everything smoothly. For different processes and for different suppliers, shared services need a variety of technology solutions to reduce manual input and improve their operational efficiency. Knowing what technology is needed where, and how you can get the most of the technology you have is another one of the most common issues I’ve heard from shared service professionals.

Improving efficiency. Except for maybe the top performing shared service centres, most shared services professionals are concerned with and measured on improving efficiency while maintaining a high level of service. Efficient process, standardisation and automation, improvements to workflow, paperless accounting are all still on the forefront of most shared services professionals. Tied in with that is deciding whether it is more efficient to keep processes in-house, or whether they should be offshored and outsourced.

Moving up the value chain. Once shared services have reached a certain level of efficiency and automation, the next question is usually, what can we do better? More mature shared services are concerned with becoming best-in-class, look to provide more analysis and business intelligence and how to bring in higher level functions up the value chain successfully.

Change Management. In almost any effort to centralise, automate and standardise, you need people to buy into new ways of working. To anyone who has been through it, knows that successfully managing change is no easy task. Getting senior management to support you, communicating the need for change, what needs to change and monitoring progress can be a full time job, and it’s usually lumped onto the already very busy shared services director.

Do you have any other challenges you face in your shared services?

All of these issues will be addressed this week at our Summit for Leaders in Shared services (follow #sslinkATL on twitter for updates) and at our European Summit for Leaders in Shared Services.

shared services, finance shared services, accounts payable, automation, workflow, outsourcing, change management

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Kok Chung Yap Labuan F.T. TMF TRUST LABUAN LIMITED 27.10.2012

Enterprise mindset for SS?