Shared Services: A Process Improvement Opportunity

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In order to improve margins and increase efficiency over the enterprise, organizations often make the leap to centralize functions. Consolidating into a shared services model creates an opportunity for organizations to evaluate and optimize functions, systems, and processes to provide better support for the enterprise.

Here are five factors leadership should evaluate when implementing a shared services model:

1. Evaluate Today’s Functions

In all likelihood, the decision to implement shared services resulted from the desire to eliminate duplicative, decentralized, and manual processing. Before initiating consolidation efforts, it is important to perform a deep dive review of the current processes so that you understand the inputs, outputs, processing differences, and handoffs. To effectively design a future shared services model, your organization must first understand the challenges it is solving.

For example, leadership may know that different business units experience delays in obtaining invoice approvals for payment, but the underlying cause for the delays and subsequent challenges must be fully understood in order to correctly resolve these pain points through shared services. Moving a bad process to a shared services model will not make it a good one.


2. Simplify the Future

Once the organization fully understands the processes and corresponding challenges, it can pinpoint and eliminate areas of duplication and potential over-processing. For instance, if organizations require three approvals for invoice processing, this may be an area for evaluation, simplification, or automation if other process controls exist and provide appropriate governance to the function. This step also serves as the opportunity to introduce standardization and templates to inconsistent processes and ensure stakeholder alignment around what method the shared services model will support business units in the future.


3. Consider Technology

While budgets for large projects vary, organizations have an opportunity to evaluate the use of technology during the design phase of a process. For many, leveraging technology provides several macro-level benefits, including reduction in manual error, creation of workflow to reduce or eliminate manual paper trails, and increased transparency into process and organizational performance.

Technology can also help at the micro level. For example, if the function targeted for shared services is highly repetitive, investing in automation or robotics may result in a positive return for the shared services center over time. This type of technology significantly reduces the human interaction with the process and provides employees with increased bandwidth to work toward more strategic initiatives, including continuous improvement and greater enterprise partnership.


4. Stay Engaged

To ensure the success of the new process and shared services model, it is critical for leadership to identify and engage stakeholder groups from the organization to support these efforts. Engaging stakeholders to become “process champions” to help with the evaluation and design is a logical decision and can help with overall success of the initiative. Stakeholders that are closest to the processes have key insights on the current challenges and will be critical to designing a solution that is well received by their teams and the business units they support.


5. Continue to Evolve

The opportunity to improve processes does not end once process flows are finalized and the shared services model is live. Periodic look-back assessments are critical to understand the full impact of the changes to organizational performance, and will help identify additional areas that may be improved over time through additional training and process or technology enhancements.


Implementing a shared services center can help organizations achieve a leaner support model for their business units. It is critical to evaluate and improve the processes that are targeted for consolidation so that future operations are designed to provide optimal enterprise support.


Interested in learning more about shared services?

View our guidebook for an insight on the critical considerations and options organizations should evaluate before, during and after pursuing a shared services delivery model.

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