The AI Revolution: A Change GBS Leaders Can’t Ignore

7 June, 2023
8:43 min
Maciej "Magic" Piwowarczyk, Global GBS Executive

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Table of Content

Key Takeaways
Blocking AI in GBS
Jump-starting AI in GBS
Sustaining the tech revolution in GBS

Key Takeaways

  • AI adoption in GBS has been slow, with only 1 in 4 shared services using AI/ML.
  • AI offers transformational opportunities to grow the market in complexity and value-adding activities.
  • GBS must streamline processes, attract tech-savvy talent.
  • Acknowledge the importance of change management to sustain the tech revolution.


Artificial Intelligence(AI) has been around for several years. However, the public release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022 was the game changer. The world was impressed and terrified by its capabilities and, most importantly, potential. A 2023 report by Goldman Sachs projected that Generative AI would impact over 300 million jobs worldwide. The report also highlighted that roughly two-thirds of jobs will be automated to some degree, and one-fourth will get completely automated. 

Applying the Global Business Services(GBS) lens, Artificial Intelligence presents an ocean of transformational opportunities to grow GBS’ role, particularly in complexity and value-adding activities rather than the risk of significant reductions. Are GBS organizations ready to capitalize on AI capabilities? It is a separate topic, but no doubt, there is excellent acknowledgment in our industry that the technology revolution has begun for real.

Blocking AI in GBS

A 2023 report by SSON highlights the importance of digital technology integration with the overall GBS strategy, with over 80% of respondents considering it as ‘highly important’ or ‘critical’. The same report also highlights that only one in four shared services uses AI/ML within their service delivery operations. This adoption is especially alarming when we look at the potential AI offers and the speed of change we are exposed to. Let’s dive deep into why the adoption rate is so low.

Data is essential to AI. Inefficient process and data management in GBS have been one of the biggest struggles since I remember. You can hear many stories about it from several GBS leaders during the second season of the GBS Masterminds Podcast.

Access to the right skills and technology is the next biggest challenge. You can only progress AI adoption with tech-savvy talent or by extensively integrating technology organizations with GBS. Both of those areas have been challenging for most organizations I know. And lastly, AI is not just another tool or piece of technology which is meant to fix a set of specific problems. AI is a strategic shift in how businesses operate, and it needs an extensive change management practice that enables this transformation across functions and geographies.

Finally, AI needs a solid change management setup. In case of any business change, we need time and resources, including people and budget, and most importantly, c-suite sponsorship. I stay positive and confident that GBS will play AI to its fullest potential, benefiting our workforce and corporate strategic objectives.

Jump-starting AI in GBS

During a keynote panel discussion at the 2022 SSON Lisbon conference about GBS dead or alive in 10 years, I advocated the ‘it will be dead’ option. I said so because GBS must die to be reborn in a different way (refer to figure 1). People know that I am a great believer in GBS, and I intended to provoke and pass a wake-up call. The GBS needs to be enabled by technology and evolved workforce structure. I’ve seen it as the way to respond to very fast-changing customer experience (CX) and even, most importantly, very fast-changing employee experience (EX), incl. new generations’ expectations that must not be ignored. To hear more about this perspective, tune in to my podcast episode.

The AI Revolution A change GBS leaders can’t ignore

Streamlining processes and structured data is the first step to AI in GBS. This jump into the future can only be possible with the solid GBS foundations we built during the last years, i.e., standardized processes, data integrity, or strong company culture around continuous improvement. In one of the past conversations, the GBS head of a CPG company mentioned the great importance of programs, where all employees were encouraged to continuously identify improvement opportunities and areas to utilize GBS data for better decisions.

Next, GBS organizations must attract or develop tech-savvy talent to win the technology revolution. In a survey that I conducted on LinkedIn, ‘tech-savvy leaders’ emerged as a preferred source for GPO roles over options like ‘process expert’ and ‘non-GBS business ’ – GPO being a key player for GBS transformation (refer to figure 2).

The AI Revolution A change GBS leaders can’t ignore

A two-fold strategy that balances upskilling efforts and hiring relevant talent is a must for GBS to grow in the future. Many companies realized it years ago and began their transformation journey towards tech first enterprise powered by technology skilled talent. For example, my previous company Discovery (now part of Warner Bros. Discovery), started investing significant efforts into workforce reskilling decades ago, eventually transforming itself into a tech-enabled consumer entertainer. Technology next to content became the new king! It is about time for GBS to embrace the same journey.

GBS also need to acknowledge the win-or-die importance of change management. It is an excellent opportunity for GBS to evolve its scope and pivot to high value add, front office, and complex jobs territory, something we’ve been aspiring to for over a decade. We can finally turn our work into an accurate outcome-based model. 

In the light of recent AI tech developments, particularly GenerativeAI, transformation of GBS operating model might not take 10 years as I predicted at 2022 SSON Conference. It might be a reality within next 5-7 years. This rapid pace of transformation creates an even more pressing need for a robust change management setup in GBS. To add context, Everest Group, and Deborah Kops discussed that – Change management is considered critical by 75% of GBS organizations, but only 16% manage change as an essential component of GBS initiatives. Shocked? Sadly, I am not. 

Sustaining the tech revolution in GBS

As a GBS leader, you might wonder how to navigate this shifting landscape. Here’s what I propose. We must engage in a comprehensive and fact-based debate involving all ecosystem players. As discussed in the third season of the GBS Masterminds Podcast, partnering with the technology function will be critical to driving any initiative. This discussion should revolve around embracing the tech revolution while ensuring three key objectives: 

The AI Revolution A change GBS leaders can’t ignore

a) Positive P&L impact: Cost is still the key reason for GBS’s existence. However, we now have this unique opportunity to embrace the new technology to drive even better efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

b) Enhanced employee value proposition (EVP): The technology revolution also presents an opportunity to improve the employee experience (EX). An AI-powered efficient GBS can explore initiatives like activating concepts of a four-day work-week or revolutionize the workforce model by leveraging – where applicable – an alternative workforce including gig workers. If you start approaching the employees as an asset vs. liability, it can surely be a path to happier and more fulfilled employees, driving greater productivity, loyalty, and better EX.

c) Uncompromised customer experience (CX): All we do in GBS starts and ends with the customer. They were, are, and will be at the center of what we do. Technology has unlimited potential in many areas, including more intuitive user interfaces, touchless processes, and more accurate forecasting processes. All leading us to a far better CX. 

This transformation requires courageous leaders who are willing to navigate unknown territories. Fortunately, I have witnessed many leaders capable of taking on this challenge. It will be interesting to see how GBS/Shared Services leverage technology to grow into value based setups while creating positive employee and customer experiences in the coming years. 

The future is not AI or Bots taking over our jobs but it belongs to humans who know how to work with them to their advantage. Humans without Machines can still grow and shine, but Machines without Humans will quickly become outdated and useless. 

Maciej “Magic” Piwowarczyk

Global GBS Executive | Career Coach & Mentor | Shared Services Senior Advisor

Thanks to Abhinav Shrivastava and Raj Basotia for their efforts in putting together this article.

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