September 2020SHARE
September 2020
SHARE

Summary

COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we work, live and operate. It has forced enterprises to ponder about how resilient are they? How quickly would they be able to shift gears from recovering to living with the new reality? Along with multiple sections of enterprises, a critical component, global shared services are also now finding new ways to mitigate the long-term impact of this seismic shift. This article will discuss the tools and solutions that shared services can use to become more resilient to disruptions.

The Truth is Here, and It is Not Kind

The verdict is clear. In the face of COVID-19, yesterday’s business continuity preparedness and disaster recovery measures have failed. With a majority of Fortune 500 companies using some form of the shared services model, it is safe to say that resilience in shared services can positively impact enterprises. With the traditional model falling short, efforts to reinstate stability using past techniques are destined to fail. Shared service leaders need to transition to a more resilient model that protects their people, services their customers, and secures business support of the future.

An EdgeVerve-commissioned SSON surveyi revealed that Shared Services leaders are finding their ability to hit SLAs has diminished significantly. Combine this hurdle with the fact that nearly a quarter of the 200 respondents reported losses greater than 40% and it is easy to see the gravity of the challenge.

At this point, a crisis by any yardstick, as the engine room of a company, business process operations are more critical than ever before. These include finance, supply chain, procurement, human resources, marketing, sales and customer operations, and industry-specific services such as health, insurance, and banking. In many MNCs, complex and business-critical services managed by global shared services operations need to be reassessed and restructured to ensure their effectiveness in supporting businesses. The task is as complicated as it is critical. How can shared services maintain business as usual when most of the workforce is expected to operate remotely with virtually no office time and face-to-face interactions?

Normal Behavior in Abnormal Circumstances is Abnormal Behavior

It is essential, albeit obvious to state that considering such challenges, the need for remote working arrangement alongside a robust and fast-tracked digital transformation plan is imperative. The world is now operating in a post-digital era, with digitalization being a basic expectation of consumers and businesses. COVID-19 has made it crucial for companies to reconfigure their operations and transform from the ground up. While not the panacea, automation can help cover process gaps, and it should be the first step in future-proofing enterprise operations. Let us understand how.

Intelligent automation can enhance the effectiveness of individuals working from home without the processing power an office may offer, either due to technical or access restrictions. In several instances, processing speed has been adversely affected, reducing execution efficiency and hampering SLAs. Automating transactional processes and focusing on value-led proactive operations driven by data and analytics will reduce the stress on operations while helping processes operate critical business functions during emergency events. Furthermore, this model can also provide access and interfaces with key tools and applications. In the absence of on-side interaction and communication, it can also assist employees with questions relating to internal processes and meeting needs. For the remote working model to succeed, shared services must embrace holistic agility, redesigning traditional BCP with a dynamic approach that blends business strategy and intelligent technologies to create sustainable long-term value.

In my own experience at ESAB SSC, the changes caused by the pandemic were overwhelming as they drove the single largest migration of people to a work-from-home model. From productivity and business continuity to operational agility, there were challenges on every front. However, adopting a distributed global services model powered by intelligent technologies allowed us to deliver high performance without disruptions. The problems need to go beyond keeping the lights on and instead should operate from the perspective of sustaining continuous growth, learning, innovation, and excellence. Our operations team successfully enabled data, intelligence, and insights to be available instantly, ensuring that our process teams always had the support they needed to make smarter decisions. By using leading workforce solutions alongside data mining and RPA platforms, we were, in fact, able to become even more intelligent and integrate resilience into the business at every level. We are not predicting the next crisis, but we are prepared for it, and automation is central to this achievement. The current situation has shown us how important it is to be flexible, proactive, and agile, making an investment in intelligent automation solutions a quintessential component of our business continuity planning.
Amid all the talk of automation and efficiency, it’s easy to get lost in a transactional mindset that focuses on purely quantitative gains. Even in the case of shared services, exponential growth and sustained success rely heavily on accentuating human contributions. In its latest iteration, intelligent automation enhances human effectiveness, supporting creativity, communication, and empathy with extreme efficiency and accuracy.

The human-machine hybrid models, where routine tasks are automated, and everyone is a knowledge worker, enable shared services organizations to become intelligent at the core, empowering them with intuition and insight in the face of the unknown. Supported by AI, analytics, and smart learning initiatives, a human-digital twin will transform the enterprise value creation paradigm.

With a laser focus on business impact, the human workforce can redirect its energy to focus purely on solving complex problems and exceptions routed to them by their machine counterparts. Research firm Horses for Sources (HfS)ii makes an articulate point, stating that, “if there’s ever been a time we needed a digital workforce to augment humans, it’s now.

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Catalyzing the Next Phase of Enterprise Evolution

As much as I talk about the impetus automation and technology can provide, success at scale requires two fundamental social skills. Empathetic leadership and effective communication are vital to ensuring growth during this period of immense change. The ability to respond to emerging risks, build a learning organization, and balance resilience, resourcefulness, and RoI will be the making of the next wave of leaders who can catalyze enterprise growth.

We are at an inflection point that could drive substantial results. How shared services use this opportunity could define a new roadmap for enterprises to become resilient, scalable, and adaptable, ready to take on challenges both during and in the aftermath of COVID-19.

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