Why an e-commerce group in shared services makes sense
Electronic invoicing, SAP
Shared services organisations are the size of SMEs. Using headcount as a metric, small SSOs have 30 or 40 FTEs, and large ones can have three or four thousand FTEs.
Whatever the size, there seems to be a dependency on the mothership's IT resource. Which seems odd, seeing that SMEs certainly have their own IT resource sweating away to support the business goals.
With an SSO, the corporate IT resource needs to be booked in well in advance. Typically, the SSO needs to write a case defending the request for IT's time. And IT get to decide if their case is worthy of actioning.
This doesn't sound so terrifying. But if your shared services workflow request is up against marketing's CRM case, you may have to accept your pending project may feel the cool shiver brought on by an eclipse.
So explain this to me. Shared services organisations are built up to support financial processes. And increasingly shared services are automating these processes. So without a robust ecommerce support, underpinning the SSO goals, the performance excellence desired by the SSO is blunted.
You could argue that your IT team fully understands the needs of the SSO and the alignment is really tight. But my experience tells me something different. At a recent meeting in North America I asked a group of shared services leaders who had an e-commerce group within the SSO walls. Five per cent of hands went up.
Wouldn't it be great if you could have a team of IT experts who understood the shared services business, processes, problems, goals, budgets and requirements; who understood existing technology functionality and limitations, and were on top of technologies arriving on the market; who knew exactly what questions to ask technology vendors and saw the world from a business/process/IT perspective, and not just a functional/cost/features perspective? Surely the ideal state to realise all the above is for your SSO to have its own e-commerce group?
As automation slides progressively towards the heart of enabling peak performance for SSOs, e-commerce groups may grow in number and our lack lustre five per cent may bulge to something a little more impressive.