Service Transformation

15.06.17

Shared Services & Outsourcing Week: taking the leap

Source: PSE Jun/Jul 17

Official media partner PSE reports from this year’s European iteration of the Shared Services & Outsourcing Week (SSOW), which took place in Manchester from 15-18 May.

This year’s edition of the SSOW, of which PSE was an official media partner, was built on the premise that the shared services market “stands on a precipice”: in the background, a land filled with transactional processes, siloed functions and lengthy contracts; just below, a modern utopia with sleek processes, digital transformation and intelligent automation. The only thing left to do is jump. 

Of course, not every organisation – public or private – has mustered up the courage to do this yet, with many “hovering on the edge” waiting to see if certain technologies, like automation, truly work. Others have made the leap and are already reaping the benefits of “unheard-of productivity”. 

The SSOW, which took place on 15-18 May at Event City in Manchester, was designed to be the bridge between one pole and the other. With a prestigious line-up of more than 90 speakers attracting over 650 participants, the conference sought to showcase the brightest and the best in the shared services market, whilst also helping to bolster those still daring to get started on their journey towards more streamlined outsourcing, efficient automation and smarter business practices – a largely uncharted territory for many companies. 

The themes of this year’s conference, which also boasted iterations in other continents such as North America, Africa and South America, centred on deploying automation and robotics; moving from a transactional to a value-adding shared service centre (SSC); creating a continuous improvement culture to achieve marginal gains; developing a global business service (GBS) and global process owner (GPO) model to take advantage of standardisation; enhancing leadership skills; and accelerating change. 

Attended by directors, managers and vice presidents, the conference was not one to miss. Its sessions featured high-ranking speakers from renowned national and international corporations from the likes of Siemens, Coca Cola, National Grid, Toyota, Rolls-Royce, Twitter, Shell and Unilever, for example – as well as public or third sector bodies, such as Loughborough University, Northern Powerhouse, Action for Children and Liverpool City Region’s Invest Liverpool team. 

Big – and we mean big – data challenges 

Although SSOW started on 15 May, the first day acted as a pre-conference special, with a small group of delegates attending exclusive ITV and Sodexo service centre site tours. The three remaining main conference days were then broken into segments of keynotes, panel discussions and workshops, with each offering a unique opportunity to gain insight into the shared services market. 

Opening the second day of the show, for example, Lee Coulter, CEO of the Ascension Ministry Service Center, an American healthcare organisation, pinpointed and explained the intersection of big data, intelligent automation and customer experience. 

‘Big data’ challenges, he argued, are now more like ‘big’ data challenges, with an array of variables to consider as organisations move to collect and rely on a greater landscape of information. These include challenges such as understanding how companies think about relevant user and transaction data, how to deliver useful data for relevant analytics and, of course, how to get a system to understand the meaning of data in the first place. To determine the best measures of data quality, no matter the sector, Coulter borrowed from IBM’s ‘Four Vs’ analysis, developed by the corporation’s data scientists: volume, variety, velocity and veracity. 

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Choosing to automate 

But there is no data to be scrutinised without a customer to first generate it. Understanding a customer’s journey is, therefore, vitally important to delivering tailored services and predicting potential future issues they will face in a service path. And that is where automation can come in to add value. 

In fact, the subject of automation permeated the entire show, addressed at least briefly by each keynote speaker, panel discussion and workshop roundtable. Attendees were able to talk to each other about accelerating the implementation of robotics and intelligent automation; using automation alongside mobile apps and digitisation to develop the talent needed to thrive; how to deal with fewer FTEs, more judgement-based activities and the ‘fourth generation’ in light of a changing shared services market; leveraging a more digital workforce in an automation journey; and how automation will impact GBS going forward. 

As Bobby Abraham, EVP and global head of finance SSC at Vodafone, put it, events like these are more like ‘digital safaris’: an invaluable opportunity to meet people who could help you “reinvent your processes”. 

Lessons for the public sector 

Although the show was mostly attended by private companies – perhaps in part because it took place in the run-up to the general election, during which the purdah period applied – there were key insights available for public sector managers. 

As well as working directly with the public sector in their everyday business, the private companies present also offered important lessons from the point of view of those who have already dared to take the leap from the edge of the precipice – something which, against a backdrop of budget cuts, not every public body can afford to do just yet. 

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Fringe events and the Excellence Awards 

As well as offering a range of tight-knit workshops, where groups of 10-15 delegates could sit down together to discuss niche topics, the summit boasted a handful of fringe events. The first day, for example, played host to the globally-recognised Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON) Excellence Awards after the main conference had drawn to a close, where accolades were handed to celebrate excellence in culture, customer service, automation and transformation. Award winners this year included Tarmac, which took home two prizes, Sonae, Ericsson and Maersk, while the Department of Finance’s Account NI, Heathrow, Vodafone and Siemens were runners-up. 

The second day featured an exclusive masterclass that taught participants how to move away from manual close processes, embed controls and period-end tasks into day-to-day activities, evenly distribute workload whilst enabling constant reporting, and enable skilled accountants to deliver more value. Other post-conference fringe events included networking cocktails, a ‘Winner Takes It All’ prize giveaway and extra masterclasses on building a digital workforce capability through robotic automation. 

As expected from these ‘digital safari’ events, SSOW created an opportunity for companies to distribute useful branded freebies, such as sleek phone powerbanks and USB port hubs, while the shared networking area featured entertainment like a customisable photo booth and a rather popular ‘Cash Grab’ machine (in case you were wondering, last time we checked the cash grab record stood at six). 

If you missed this year’s installation of the event, worry not: SSOW has already been booked for another four-day stretch from 14-17 May next year, which will once again take place in Manchester.

Image: © Shared Services & Outsourcing Network

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To find out more about the event, register your interest or become a sponsor, please visit:

W: www.ssoweek.com

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