In my previous article Beyond shared services: creating new value in a complex 4.0 world I talked about how shared services providers must move beyond the traditional goals of cost reduction and process efficiencies to reimagine their role.
As digitisation and complex business problems continue to change the landscape of organisations, shared services providers need to find new ways to stay relevant and deliver what their clients and service users need, raising the bar with the creation of brilliant service experiences. Just as employees (and employers) have had to adapt the way they work, so shared services providers must recognise that their value lies in supporting these changes, ironing out the individual creases in processes where new methods of delivery have had to be stood up at breakneck speed.
The race to be more efficient, more productive and to reduce costs may have been the main focus in the past but now it’s time for providers to determine where they can add real value and ensure a personal touch.
Looking beyond the back office
Until recently, the focus of shared services was on getting the basics right, retiring legacy systems, whilst ensuring good governance, effective resource management and introducing automation – in short, seeking further efficiencies in the back office. And obviously these are good, solid intentions. There has though been only limited effort looking outwardly towards finding innovative ways to go above and beyond, to help organisations to achieve greater return on investment and make life better for service users more broadly within the organisation.
UI ≠ UX: interface versus experience
Shared services providers must apply their focus to leveraging the potential of the technology that’s already been invested in by understanding exactly what users want and need from it, so that it’s not just about learning how to use a new system, but about ensuring that technology becomes the pivot to truly transformational experiences. An appealing, user-friendly interface is important, but if it doesn’t actually make life easier, it won’t have achieved what it was meant to, which is to increase user satisfaction, simplify processes and deliver an effective outcome. For example, if an employee has an emergency or is going off sick, they don’t want to be faced with the prospect of logging into numerous different systems to alert different functions in the business.
Instead there’s the potential for them to be able to register their absence in the knowledge that related events - such as HR absence notifications, rearranging meetings, cancelling hot desks or travel arrangements and setting up an out of office reply - will be done automatically. This could be personalised even further with additional features, such as allowing someone with regular absences to have systems automatically take care of this.
It’s much more than the often-quoted classic ‘fewer clicks, frictionless experience’ goal we hear - it’s about an experience which is tailored and personalised for the user in that moment, in support of the context of their relationship with the organisation, where they are in the lifecycle of that relationship and helping them to perform their own role better by removing distractions and pre-empting their needs.
Reducing administrative burden
Enterprise resource planning software remains absolutely key to achieving this, with the technology leveraged intelligently to personalise the process and improve its role in the overall service user experience. This includes providing ‘one version of the truth’ and removing the need for employees to interact directly with separate functions, thereby reducing the administrative burden to help people to focus on the jobs they were hired to do.
For example, providing managers with an easily accessible list of action items for their day, such as absence approvals or purchase orders, recording goods received, or an alert to prioritise a complaint nearing its ‘must action by’ timescale. Traditionally this would have meant the time-consuming - and frustrating - experience of logging on to several separate systems - how much better if this could be achieved in one seamless workflow?
Making it happen
To achieve that seamless user experience, several crucial elements need to come together. First and foremost, it’s crucial for senior leadership to take responsibility for championing improvements. Without buy-in at a high managerial level, it will be near impossible to make changes which have any meaningful impact.
Secondly, an experience platform, of which there are a good number of suppliers to choose from, is also crucial, to allow users – whether employees or customers - to access different services in one place. This should be coupled with disruptive technologies that will support the expansion of shared services and an experience measurement system to monitor progress.
And with data throwing important light on what’s important to users and using process mining to see how processes are performing, ensuring the right analytics is crucial for new insight and understanding about where value can be added.
It’s also important to examine the relationship between providers and users, to build a service experience that users want and expect, not just an end-to-end process. And, while employee and customer journeys are important, providers must also nurture relationships with suppliers, partners, affiliated organisations and even competitors. Greater personalisation and increased efficiency is a collaborative process, with ongoing communication essential - this keeps the focus on the customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX) and provider experience (PX), ensuring service providers understand what’s working, what’s not, what people love and what they want to change.
And the motivation for shared services providers to do this? It has to be a passion for ensuring the retention of all those crucial to your operation – your clients, employees and suppliers, and your clients’ customers and employees - by delivering excellent shared services and great experiences, every single time.