The Six Million-Dollar Questions

Every GBS Leader Wants To Know

AJ Wijesinghe
AJ Wijesinghe
VP of Shared Services, Univar Solutions
VP of Shared Services at Univar Solutions. AJ is a business leader with 20+ years of experience in managing globally diverse teams to deliver optimal growth and transform today’s GBS to enable next-gen Digital Operations.
Caroline Basyn
Sashi Narahari
Founder and CEO
CEO and Founder of HighRadius, a Fintech enterprise SaaS company which leverages AI-based Autonomous Systems to help companies automate Accounts Receivable and Treasury. Sashi’s leadership has secured the trust of 200+ Global 2000 companies.

Podcast Summary:
Six Million Dollar Questions every GBS Leader wants to Know

Million Dollar Question #1:You’ve been on both the vendor side and the customer side. What’s your current take on which model is best, captive centers or outsourcing?
Key Points
  • The hybrid model is the right way to go.
  • Over the years the market has matured in such a way that Captives can work really well.
  • Through outsourcing partners, you will be able to bring different industries’ perspectives and experiences in a shorter period of time.
  • This eventually helps you to scale faster and to track your savings.
  • Few standardized non-client-facing processes like A/P and A/R activities can be looked upon by the offshore team which works as an extension to the onshore team.
  • Generally, the outsourcing partners should make investments before you take over the cost and savings.
  • But this is something many big suppliers and BPOs would not do.
  • How did AJ’s team address this challenge?
    • In this pandemic, we agreed on using a Build Operate Transfer a.k.a BOT model, to fast-track standing up and then take them or as a captive approach.
    • This worked for us and it was very unique.
  • What is the initial contract?
    • Mainly depends on how we go about operating our model.
    • Also depends on the way we use it, which can also benefit the infrastructure and the team collaboration.
    • It is either a minimum of 2 years or depends on the number of FTEs we have, whichever comes sooner is the way we plan.
  • What are the major challenges of the BOT model?
    • If you don’t have experience in doing this on your own, the partner will need to provide you with the infrastructure as well as the people to build the foundation of the model.
    • So you will have to find a supplier who can do both.
Million Dollar Question #2: This is a classic debate in the GBS space. I’m curious to know what your recommendation is around harmonize and standardize first, or lift and shift first?
Key Points
  • It highly depends on the priorities and the timeframe to get started with your business model.
  • Initially, if you want to track those savings you can go with the lift & shift approach first.
  • But the other way to look at it is, optimizing and digitizing your processes first will guarantee you even faster savings.
  • Being in control of your scope is important.
  • Now, if your performance is based on dollars or the business outcome, you need to standardize your processes parallely with lifting & shifting.
  • In this day and age, the overall value proposition to the organization will come from continuous improvement and standardization of the processes first.
  • AJ’s experience:
    • We did a lift and shift in parallel with system migration.
    • We used SAP, from the mainframe, and it was successful.
    • But no one told us it’s going to be done in the middle of a pandemic.
    • So, we had some challenges around training and knowledge transfer.
    • I believe that industry has now shifted from the heavy lift-and-shift focus to harmonize and standardize first, or doing both in parallel.
Million Dollar Question #3:Having worked with automation technologies across various shared service organizations, what is your recommendation on using RPA in GBS?
Key Points
  • RPA came out with a lot of hype, everybody was excited talking about robotics and wanted to create and name their own bots.
  • But putting automation in a bad process is a strict no because you believe the technology is at fault and not the process, whereas it’s the other way around.
  • Always optimize your process first, and if you face any challenge use RPA as a bridge.
  • AJ’s experience at JLL-
    • We had a process excellence center where we optimized the process first.
    • Then we automate the same while making sure it is measuring the steady-state so that we know it’s delivering the results.
    • In our case, we used SAP as our ERP, and we look to automate the process, always within the ERP.
    • We had a very good discipline around any enhancement that comes in: we get it through SAP first before we meet automation.
Million Dollar Question #4: What according to you is the secret recipe for transforming GBS from a cost-cutting focus to a revenue growth strategy?
Key Points
  • For 15-20 years GBS remains as a cost-cutting exercise as a starting point.
  • But many organizations today would say “Be effective first before you become efficient.”
  • In this industry, customer service is a very critical role that has to be managed with some local knowledge.
  • Focusing on capturing orders, efficiently delivering goods on time, and improving customer experience is where revenue-driving strategy comes from.
  • You need to make sure that you are part of the revenue strategy and are at the very front of the curve.
  • Cutting the cost too deep may actually impact the employee experience, and as a result, is going to impact the customer experience.
Million Dollar Question #5: Having worked with both ERP and cloud technologies, in your view, what is the trade-off?
Key Points
  • The ERPs and the SaaS solutions are complementary technologies that specialize in their respective functions.
  • You will find that some major ERPs lack workflow.
  • The key is to have good understanding of the end-to-end process and configure the technology to orchestrate a well-thought-out process so that it runs seamlessly between the ERP and the SaaS cloud systems.
  • For a smooth play, be it in Order to Cash or Treasury Reports or any other process, having a good API is critical for these two to co-exist.
Million Dollar Question #6: What would be your parting advice for the listeners. Maybe to your younger self when you started in shared services, or maybe to your peers or your GBS employees?
Key Points
  • Having a process-driven mindset will help you in getting a lot of different experiences especially when you are starting to build your career.
  • Move more laterally instead of moving upwards to gather as much experience as you can.
  • Keep up with the pace of technology because in this space technology is so fast, you could be left behind.
  • Make sure you get the right support from your senior leaders all the way to C-suite.

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