The ever-enduring search for new ways to increase productivity is challenging, but it’s crucial for freeing up human and financial resources so that organisations can focus on and succeed at what they do, as well as to grow.
As we emerge from months of lockdown, we’re facing a far more complex and swift-moving business environment than ever before. All organisations and employees are finding that their time is increasingly stretched and distracted, and all would greatly benefit from re-imagining the way in which they work, how they serve their internal and external customers as service users, and how they harness digitisation to create new value.
Shared services, or global business services (GBS), traditionally provide ‘back office’ functions, such as HR and finance-related tasks, as well as some customer-facing or related functions for clients. When used in the right way, they can support and accelerate the response to new business priorities, increase productivity and protect the core elements of a client’s business as they continue to adapt to a new landscape.
In a 4.0 world, for shared services to achieve this powerful potential, they need to evolve beyond simple cost and efficiency gains, delivering exceptional experiences for everyone involved.
In a society dominated by technology, it’s no surprise that leading software firms are competing to sell us their view of a best user experience for the function or service scope enabled by their platforms, all promising to revolutionise the way we work. Whilst this does deliver some benefits, shared services must do more than supply a useable interface and system into their inward-looking functional teams – they need to actively support the end-to-end lifecycle of the relationship between say, the employee or customer as they see it.
This requires an easy to access presentation of traditionally siloed functions or services. Only then can we unlock maximum value, tackling increased demand and complex process execution to deliver better outcomes for organisations and provide efficient seamless experiences for their employees and customers.
For example, the introduction of self-service portals or a mobile app built on an enterprise experience platform has the potential to unify services into a single, consistent online destination, so that people can get the help or information they need at all times with ease. When employees need to check the status of a purchase order raised, their holiday allowance, query a figure on their pay slip, raise a support request for new IT equipment, or request supplies for a workshop or book a hire car, it’s all there, without the need to access and navigate multiple systems and with dependencies on sub-processes all taken care of. With automation, the right systems and teams are alerted without the need for human intervention.
Streamlining these processes means transactions can be quickly performed whilst employees have time freed up to concentrate on their main job role – whether that’s clinicians in a healthcare environment, project managers in a government department or customer service agents in a local authority.
Evolving business environments
As more companies and organisations adapt to fluctuations in demand generated by the pandemic, shared services can also make sure that the needs of employees and customers are met while the business is undergoing transformation, reorganisation or other structural changes. Utilising shared services well can increase an organisation’s resilience and agility in an ever-changing business environment, supporting them through any future growth, diversification, and development.
This organisational resilience and agility is particularly relevant today when people are expecting more from businesses and their services than ever before. As organisations continue to evaluate what’s working and what’s not, it’s the ideal time to accelerate the focus on improvement to better understand what the role of shared services can be in supporting users in the most efficient way possible.
This might include building on existing services, exploring new opportunities with new partnerships, or taking an upfront role in tackling the perpetual value for money challenges that help boost your current offer as a provider. Ultimately all the decisions are to stem from the needs, wants or desires of the ultimate customer and what good, better and best looks like to them.
In the future, shared services should form a key component of an organisation’s operating model. They will help to ensure that customers and employees get exactly what they need, while keeping access to services as user-friendly as possible. Goal alignment between the buyer and provider is crucial, as is providing people with a ‘predictable’ experience, where interaction with services is consistently smooth and easy to use. We’re already using automated services, but there’s room for these to be expanded, tweaked and fine-tuned, to ensure that we’re working towards the best possible outcomes.
Evaluation of existing services is important, but of more importance is engaging with users and innovating to drive forward a truly human-centered approach. As demand for personalisation of services increases, we’ll also need to consider how we best tailor and adapt shared services to meet specific goals that deliver on individual needs, unify the service experience and up employee productivity and engagement.