Shared Services 2.0: Closing the Work and Automation Gap
It is truly incredible how much the world and the workplace have changed over the past two to three years. Hybrid and remote working are now the norm; conversations of shorter work weeks are making their rounds online, and employee turnover is rapidly rising.
Today’s rapidly evolving business environment calls for leaders’ agility and adaptability to ensure their organizations stay relevant and resilient. Across industries, the focus has shifted from task execution to business outcomes and enhancing business operations for improved customer and employee experiences.
The Shared Services model is no exception. The changing business environment demands a shift in the roles of service delivery structures within organizations. Rather than thinking of Shared Services merely as “back office support,” leaders should start integrating it as part of the organization’s “center office” to continue to drive business outcomes.
In this article, I’ll outline how Shared Services as a model has evolved over the years, the factors leading to its explosive growth, and how Shared Service Organizations (SSOs) should respond to the disruption of the industry.
Shared Services at its core
Shared Services essentially consolidates business functions and operations across multiple organizational departments.
Traditionally utilized for cost efficiency, Shared Services allows organizations to centralize functions such as finance, purchasing, inventory, payroll, and hiring that different divisions use within the same organization.
Rather than hiring, training, and maintaining HR staff in every department, consolidating them into one pool helps the organization streamline operations and eliminate redundancies.
Shared Services is an integral part of a business model that has been in play for the past three decades. Process modification and acceleration, globalization of the workforce, and the maturation of technologies were the three main factors that drove the inflection point of growth at the turn of the millennia.
Standardization of back-office functions and the introduction of new efficiencies led to the surge in the adoption of Shared Services. Globalization saw massive growth in usage and arbitrage across labor and markets. The evolution of technologies such as ERP (enterprise resource planning), web, and cloud infrastructure was a critical enabler regarding data and insights.
Shared Services 2.0 — The evolving model
Fast forward to the present, and the Shared Services model shows no sign of waning. In fact, it is an area that will deliver explosive hockey-stick growth in the near term, driven by a similar confluence of the three primary factors.
Process Modification and Acceleration
The pandemic necessitated immediate responses from companies for more remotely-managed operations and processes. This quick cure, often through adopting more centralized capabilities, is now revealing itself to be a long-term asset. What started as a quick fix to keep the ship afloat is now teaching us how to thrive in the new normal.
81% of respondents to SSON’s 2022 State of the Shared Services Industry survey said end-to-end process integration was their top priority. At the same time, 65% of respondents target process optimization through intelligent document processing solutions and 57% through AI-driven automation platforms.
So it is clear that we are undergoing a new step-change that is again driving a new era of process modernization.
Workforce Evolution and Ramifications
Gartner, in many ways, says it all: “The pandemic brought the future of work forward to today.”
In all aspects, work has changed, and the workforce has evolved.
We see symptoms of this everywhere, such as “The Great Resignation” and operational and supply-chain disruptions. It is a combination effect of existing trends accelerated by the pandemic, including an aging workforce and growing backlash against manual and repetitive work. And, new structural and permanent changes such as hybrid work and an increasingly distributed workforce.
Organizations, including Shared Services Organizations (SSOs), are faced with new workforce challenges which require a significant rethinking of our resources and a renewed understanding of work and our workforce. To do so involves a new framework that brings human and digital workforces into a collaborative alliance. An alliance that will unleash a massive wave of efficiencies, productivity, innovation, and a major uptick in SSO adoption and growth.
Legacy Robotic Process Automation has now been enhanced and integrated with AI, turning task-based automation into Intelligent Automation. AI-powered Intelligent Automation supplies information on what and how processes can be redefined, saving time on human analysis and speeding up these processes.
AI also provides automated processes with the necessary intelligence to grow and learn, performing tasks such as identifying trends and insights around changing customer behavior and predicting future stock supply needs. These intelligent inputs help boost overall customer experience and satisfaction.
Disruption of Shared Services — How should SSOs respond?
The evidence is clear — the evolution of technologies and changing nature and definitions of work, systems, data, and people have changed the role Shared Services play for organizations.
More than just cost-effectiveness, SSOs are now maturing and modernizing to play a more strategic role in their enterprises. They are now shifting to higher-value services and driving improvements through data and analytics to cater to shifting business models, delivering benefits beyond cost reduction.
As businesses focus on talent development, process workflows, and operating models, SSOs must look at three things:
- Speed and Agility — Fast and agile implementation is a prerequisite to staying ahead in this current business environment. That means your systems must be AI-native and intuitive, with simple drag-and-drop tools.
- Integrated Systems — Traditionally, tools didn’t speak to each other. This created functional silos, introducing a host of complexities and inefficiencies. An integrated and interoperable system is key to breaking these silos and bringing next-level growth and ROIs.
- Scalability — Look beyond the system containing only a few bots. The current business climate requires you to look at scalability across multiple parts of the organization. Rather than just 5, 6, 7, or 8 bots working independently, an army of bots working in tandem will be the game-changer in transforming your organization.
Closing the Work and Automation Gap
When done right, a digitally-enabled workforce leverages technology’s efficiency and accuracy while empowering and inspiring people to be more creative and productive.
An integrated intelligent automation system that streamlines operations, unleashes employees’ capabilities and enhances job satisfaction while reducing operational risks and increasing your responsiveness to growth will be vital to help your organization thrive.
Laiye’s innovative, game-changing Work Execution System (WES) will help close the work and automation gap and bring humans and digital systems into a collaborative alliance. And transform your organization from the inside out.