The community for leaders in finance shared services
Keywords: shared services, finance shared services, SSO, marketing manager, KPI, P&G, US Department of Health and Human Services
Susie West | Article | 22 November 2012
How many companies do you know that have 18 to 18,000 staff and operate without a marketing department?
So explain this to me: I have been in the shared services world for 13 years, and routinely the same sets of issues bubble up. One common issue is poor communications.
‘Poor communications’ manifest itself in many ways. Many of these may speak to you:
I was at a conference in November in Chicago run by The Conference Board. Interestingly the speaker that opened eyes on how a shared services organization should brand itself was Paul Bartley, Director, Program Support Center, US Department of Health and Human Services.
The learnings were curiously both novel and obvious to the delegates in the room.
Because many professionals in shared services are (according to Deborah Kops, conference Chair and Principal of Sourcing Change) ‘left brain’, the communications, or indeed marketing initiatives so vital to the image, treatment and perception of the SSO are dangerously often deemed as ‘namby pamby’.
According to me and according to Kops, this is, simply put, WRONG!
Think about it: SSOs often have between 18 and 18,000 staff. And yet their communications and marketing teams are either non-existent or represent a shameful fraction of the whole. I know of an SSO with 8,000 staff and 4 people in comms. Look for a company with 8,000 staff and ask yourself what the normal percentage is sitting in marketing. I doubt the answer is 0.0005%.
One problem is the following: what comms or marketing professional actually wants to work for the SSO, when ‘real’ marketing, where TV advertising budgets and Facebook banners, are calling from the ‘real’ Marketing Function of the business. How could P&G shared services attract the best comms and marketing managers, when all they want to do is sit in Brand and face the consumer?
But before we look at ways to attract the best, just ask yourself, can your SSO afford to carry on without a permanent marketing operation which has budget and the power to brand?
If your SSO is the anathema in the business, or even perceived with the slightest negativity, entertain the thought of what a marketing and comms function could do to shift this.
Here are a few possibilities:
The net effect of this is that the SSO will win more business moving forward. More business means more scale, and therefore greater savings.
So how can you attract the right people into the comms role, instead of fall into the temptation of skipping the function or getting a finance guy to run the team?
There will be an upfront outlay. But the business that comes into you SSO from more countries buying in, and more functions and activities coming in, will quickly help you recoup your investment. Investing in a proper marketing function will make your SSO more commercial, more attractive, larger in operational scope, more successful in deliver/exceeding financial targets, and quite frankly a sexier part of the organization which people want to be associated with.
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