Global Head of Integrated Business Services at Philip Morris International with experience of 29 years in major Finance-executive roles at Unilever. Currently, Natarajan is responsible for leading Business Transformation at PMI.
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 have managed extremely wide geographies, customer footprints across 30 plus countries. In your view, which model is better for deploying shared services, a captive center, or an outsourcing model?
I believe in a hybrid model. This simply means a combination of captive centers and outsourced partners.
Why a Hybrid Model?
The captive centers should be doing what they are best at, connecting internally with the business and helping them transform.
Let our outsourced partners do what they do day in and day out so that you can leverage the collective capabilities of multiple partners.
Million Dollar Question #2: I think there is a very common debate among shared service leaders, what is the right strategy to transition work? Would you rather do lift and shift first? Or would you rather standardize the process and then lift and shift?
There is no one size fits all approach.
Unlike most organizations, it is ultimately a trade-off between speed, cost, and focus.
Speed-Not wasting much time trying to standardize every process. Instead, standardize to a certain extent and then lift and shift.
Cost-At certain stages of standardization, it is better to let someone else do it than do it yourself since it will cost you more doing the latter.
Focus-Bring in partners to take charge of the other waves of transformation while you focus on what matters the most.
Million Dollar Question #3: Today, many GBS leaders struggle with scaling the quantity of RPA bots beyond a certain way. What is your recommendation on using RPA? And then, if you can throw some light on AI.
‘Digital’ is one of the most used and abused words in organizations today.
The perfect trinity to focus on is Data, Process, and Automation.
Don’t force-fit automation into a process, it will lead to redundant bots at redundant costs and rather amplify the inefficiencies.
AI depends a lot on data harmonization. Otherwise, operating on inefficient data structures will get you inefficient outcomes.
Don’t implement AI just for the sake of it. You need to be clear on your end outcome.
Two use-cases of AI
Generally in P2P, one doesn’t want to pay late, but neither wants to pay early. So using machine learning we can identify a pattern on where there is the likelihood of paying early, which gives us between $20 to $30 million in cash by doing it in just one country.
Embedding machine learning into the transaction posting in the general ledger detects the patterns of red flags, which helps you to focus only on those transactions rather than trying to boil the ocean.
Million Dollar Question #4: What do you think is the future of GBS? One of the things that always comes up is how GBS can be a revenue driver instead of being a traditional cost-cutting unit. What are your views on the evolution of GBS?
Ultimately, it depends on the DNA of the organization. However, historically GBS has always driven cost efficiencies. In the future, we should be more and more revenue-focused.
Now, if you ask WHY?
In GBS, cost efficiency is a no-brainer. The industry has evolved so much that delivering cost efficiencies through GBS is their job.
In GBS, value creation has primarily three legs. One of them being cost-efficiency, so one should mainly focus on the two remaining pieces, which are-
Scale and customer experience
The future of GBS consists of three layers-
First layer- Executing and standardizing the GBS processes efficiently.
Second layer- Working with the business to help them transform to collectively and collaboratively define new outcomes.
Third layer- Defining what are the new trends, and start bringing those skill sets into your GBS. In other words, hire potential instead of experience.
Million Dollar Question #5: What is your view on the trade-off between ERP solutions like SAP/Oracle, versus the modern niche platforms like Coupa, BlackLine, or HighRadius.
At the end of the day, the future of technology is built on three layers.
First layer- This consists of the ERP solutions, and you work that with some additional bolt-ons like central finance module and so on.
Second layer- This consists of the modern niche platforms that all of us are deploying.
Third layer- This is all about an ecosystem of emerging apps that can leverage onto the central backbone with the help of innovations such as AI-based predictive modeling.
The bottom line is that the first layer can give you 1.2x of your business outcomes, then the second layer gives you 2x, however, in the third layer, you start reimagining different outcomes and start looking at 5x and 10x.
Million Dollar Question #6: What parting advice would you like to leave for our listeners?
Set an ambitious landmark for yourself. The world is dynamic, so you’ve got to keep re-defining that landmark too.
Have all kinds of diversity in your organization, empower and encourage them to make mistakes, because “when you lose, you learn, and when you win be humble.”
Life is not worth taking stress, so take it easy and have fun. But if you ever face a trade-off between the ‘pleasant’ and the ‘right’, always choose ‘right’, it may be a difficult choice but it will eventually get you to the right place.