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Global Shared Services and Technology

Technology and shared services are great combinations, like ham and cheese, or Romeo and Juliette; the sum of the two parts can deliver something beautiful. And this is especially true when the shared service centre (SSC) is global.

But first, let’s look at the role of technology in shared services. The technology infrastructure deployed inside an SSC is for two primary reasons: -

  • Increase productivity by removing the need for people to do tasks, double checks, or even just get the work to the right individual.
  • Improve quality and customer services through error identification, auditing and quick and efficient, personalised call and case handling.

The technology discussed above is not the core ERP or application tools; it is more the foundation technologies that shared services require to support remote, centralised working.

The types of technologies, and then the choices around the actual products or suppliers, are vast – and the key to truly having a shared services is having shared technology. To demonstrate the point, let’s use a standard workflow that comes into an SSC and assess the various types of technology that are used to support that workflow:

  • In-bound work – no matter what type, it needs to have a ticket to say it has been received (with the date and time stamp for service level reporting).
  • Moving work around – the use of workflow tools to route the ticket to the right group of people to accomplish the task.
  • Queries – whether it is a question about where is my work? Why is something not right? How do I do something? Tools are needed to receive queries and ideally answer the question immediately or get the query routed to someone who can.
  • Knowledge management – to answer the questions there needs to be a repository of knowledge, which is indexed and collated so that individuals can find what they are looking for to do their work and service the customers.
  • Reporting – everything from SLA’s to 6 Sigma, to productivity, tools that facilitate the internal reporting on how well the centre is currently running, where changes could be made to make it better in the future, and where things have gone wrong what needs to get done to fix.
  • Financials – what does it cost? Who pays for it? And the usual statutory and legal reporting for the SSC (for either cross charging or running as a cost/profit centre).
  • People – SSC has large employee populations so tools to help with culture, values, employee engagement programmes, through to recruiting, and typical HR administrative activities.
  • Internal IT – people need a PC / desktop, network, printer and all the other local IT issues of any office, so the ticketing, tracking and managing of these assets is critical for high productivity in the centre.
  • WAN, LAN, Voice, PBX, IVR – and the technologies that get data and voice into and out of the centre.
  • Documents – SSCs tend to have the need to store large volumes of electronic (and sometimes physical) forms. The centre needs tools to store easily, retrieve and make safe these documents.
  • Out-bound – getting the answer, completed task back to the customer on time, so tools to be able to show that the centre completed its work and delivered the outcome.

The relative importance of each of the above could vary depending on whether the SSC is a captive (e.g. only one customer) or an outsourced delivery centre (many customers) and there might be some fine-tuning depending on the processes managed within the SSC. So for example, if the centre is only for calls or service desk type operations then you might need more of some things (like PBX or IVR) and less of others (e.g. document management). But all centres pretty much need everything that is on the list.

The technology needs to be shared across the whole centre. Otherwise, you don’t have a shared service centre; you have shared offices. For example, if you have 500 people in an SSC, the LAN and PC/Desktop types and configurations should be the same for all 500 people. The individuals who serve the UK (or Finance or Business Unit A) should not have a different set up from those that support Germany (or HR or Business Unit B). I can hear people say "no kidding" – but I have seen where the SSC is just an office in a low-cost location. Each "island" built in that office had a different set of technology because inside the company the various countries (or business units or whatever) have different technologies and each team in the SSC is just an extension of the rest of the organisation. The core technology that underpins the business processes in the SSC needs to be the same for all of the individuals/processes/customers using that service centre.

So where does being a global SSC fit into this? The answer is affordability and the business case for broader, better and more pervasive technology. Assume there is one global SSC with 5000 staff supporting a multinational the size of InterContinental Hotel Group (market cap of $5.2bn and position 79 on the FTSE 100 index). The amount of technology you can afford to deploy in one global SSC is far greater than if you have four regional SSC each with 1,250 staff. The ability to implement truly game-changing technologies in your SSC materially increases the larger the centre (using larger as a proxy for the amount of work processed).

Let’s take a practical example using knowledge management. Every process that goes into a shared service is going to need a knowledge repository, to train the staff, hold the content to answer frequently asked questions, to access the work rules for less often performed tasks. The number of knowledge management tools in the market is vast, and they are not all created equal. Some are just repositories for content with limited indexing and search capacity and some are very sophisticated and "learn" as they are used to make the content more robust. From tools such as EMC LEAP to Google Doc’s the choice of suppliers is vast, and each comes with a different set of functionality, security, and price tag. The most expensive is not necessarily the best, but it does typically indicate a product that will have more advanced features that can make the centre more productive with higher quality results.

With scale comes the ability to have more advanced analytics and auditing tools, more responsive and detailed ticketing systems, knowledge management tools that have elements of "self-learning" and more of the advanced features that will enhance productivity and delight the customer.

In the case of technology with shared services, bigger is truly better.

Mary Sue Rogers ‚ÄčOriginally Published in SSON 

Posted On : 11-07-16

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