If successful start-ups like global cab aggregators and ecommerce platforms have dethroned established, ‘too-big-to-fail’ players, can other organizations be far from the disruptive changes of the digital era? These changes have brought a completely new outlook to how we interpret customer requirements and deliver transformed customer experiences.
The shared services industry has also come a long way from the days of labor arbitrage and is embracing digital interventions at a fairly rapid pace. In the early days of outsourcing, the Centre of Excellence (CoE) concept driven by process methodologies like Lean, Six Sigma, etc. led to mass production of repetitive services. However, these services have been severely challenged by digital interventions like automation and human behavioral approaches like design thinking. Today, companies no longer look at success as having a large concentration of employees operating out of low cost back-offices but rather having operations that are able to create the desired end customer outcomes. Let’s take the finance and accounting space as an example. What matters more is a digital-led business transformation that helps not only achieve financial accuracy and lower operations costs but also better customer experience through speed in results published and real-time, on-demand decision insights.
This new shared services model has led to the creation of dilemma as to whether companies should outsource only to create centralized units for cost benefits, or invest in digital interventions for superior customer experience. Clearly, the answer lies in finding the right mix of technology and harmonized outsourced services that allows organizations to focus on their core customers and functions. Services that save time and costs and offer simplicity of use act as key to acquiring new customers, creating lasting customer experiences, and transforming customers into brand advocates.
However, choosing the right partner is not easy, particularly when you have to choose between the experienced and the disruptive. Often past success in terms of partners’ ability to manage just large scale operations may fall short of the future requirement of coping with the disruption. Buyers need to look for partners’ abilities to provide domain and experience-centric design, backed by transformation-centric delivery.
A well-defined customer journey and experience which is design-led, digital-first and user-centric is invaluable as it centers the solution around the core needs of the customer. This involves bringing together functional, domain and human centric expertize. For example, a finance solution for the manufacturing industry need not be built by finance or deep domain industry experts alone, but also by behavioral scientists who can instill customer-centric thinking. Hence, a service provider’s ability to create a customer-led digital journey is of paramount importance. For e.g. Raising a Capex PO in a purchasing ERP may be confusing for a non-accountant like plant engineer, but if it is aided with a chat bot based user guided input form with some simple questions which integrates at the back end, purchasing ERP can drive better user experience and information accuracy for accounting and reporting.
The design creation expertize of the service provider is of no good if it is not backed by the ability to deliver transformative experiences. The partner’s capability to facilitate adaptation to gold process standards and innovation enabled by technological advancements like augmented automation and robotics and data visualization with advanced analytics are some of the key success factors for a disruptive shared services function. The key indicators of a partner’s ability can be gauged from its investments in cutting-edge digital initiatives like design thinking and process simplification and technologies like automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and advanced data analytics.
To summarize, transformation backed by a design-led digital approach with a focus on customer experience and efficient cost optimization driven by process harmonization and hyper automation are keys to success of digital shared services. Choosing the right transformation partner should be the first step to this journey.