10 Pressures On Finance Shared Services Today And How To Survive… Indeed Flourish



Susie West

Founder and CEO,


[0:01] Susie West:

So lets kick-off. Number one. These are some of the observations that are coming out. The global economy has entered a period of synchronized stagnation, with weak growth in some countries, no growth in others and mild contractions in other countries. Okay, so we’re not in a bullish climate. So we just take that into account. The FTE in October last year, they were talking about how employment continues to be high worldwide, household incomes continue to be robust. There are some key headline economic indicators that have actually slipped to their lowest level in three years. Coming up to four years this spring.

[0:49] Susie West:

M&A activity is ‘suffering from the slowest pace of global dealmaking in more than two years’. So we start kind of layering all this on top of each other. And it just makes us think, what’s the squeeze? What’s the pressure going to be on our organizations? And therefore, how can we owners of our shared services organizations, or the builders of our shared services organizations respond well. So I’m going to talk about 10 factors that I think are influencing some decision making within shared services organizations. And these are common factors that most of us will be experiencing. There are others that are outside the 10. And that’s under the kind of the overarching context of what I’ve just talked about there from a kind of a macro, global economic perspective.

[1:41] Susie West:

Number one, we’re operating in a world of increased competition. So if you’re working for a company that’s been around for a while, you’re an established traditional, dare I say, even legacy organization, and you’re branching into new territories, even new industries, new business lines, you’re going global. A lot of organizations are continuing to not operate just domestically, they’re going global. They bump into local competition going into new territories. And even if they don’t, even if you stay domestic, you’re bumping into the competition. And the thing is, if you’re operating on a legacy platform, chances are that these competitors of yours that are coming up, are new models, they are innovative models. So number two, we are finding ourselves bumping into disruptive models.

[2:35] Susie West:

Facebook, a content company, doesn’t create content. Uber, a transportation company, doesn’t own a single set of wheels. They are truly innovative organizations where they have taken the term “innovation” to its nth degree. Innovation is about removing a step in the process and then delivering it to be super optimal and super effective. So what we’re bumping into if you’re a legacy organization, and you’re bumping into born in the cloud competitors, innovative organizations. This is a challenge and you’re going to feel the squeeze in a major way.

[3:12] Susie West:

So again, how can your shared services organization respond to this? Internal customers, your internal B2B customers, the customers of your shared services organization. So I’m talking about your colleagues, your internal customers, your billers, your bill peers, your users, they are getting fuzzier. We’re all used to the iPhone. Thanks to Steve Jobs. He took the bar from a UI perspective from down here. So now this is the new normal for us. So anything that drops below that is not acceptable. This is in B2C, this is in our evenings or weekend. This is the experience that we’re used to. We now want that experience in B2B and we didn’t want to accept anything that’s less than that. So this is again, the pressure on the shared services organization to be competing, operating at that level.

[4:03] Susie West:

The third one is from a financial perspective. So looking at your cost-effectiveness. You gave me a 10% savings last year. I want 15% this year. Okay. So the price is going to go up and up and up. And it’s the role of the shared services organization to keep looking. And is it just for those incremental savings? Maybe? Maybe not. It depends again on how old the shared services organization is.

[4:32] Susie West:

You’ve got Coca Cola over here that’s been doing shared services for well over a decade. What was the pressure on them to now go find 10x improvements somewhere? An extra 10% an extra 30%? How can they do it when the bulk of the savings have already been delivered? But have they? So this is the kind of the mission for the shared services organization to go and find those 10x improvements now and re-evaluate what’s in scope for a shared services organization. If your shared services organization burnt down tomorrow, how would you rebuild it? I love this question. It’s a very dramatic question. But would you rebuild it in exactly the same way? But would you kind of redraw the map?

[5:23] Susie West:

Moving on. Pressure point number five. Your external customers wanted cheaper and faster. We used to innovate born in the cloud models. Superior customer experience is needed. So your internal customers, this is what they’re dealing with. So if you want to help them, do this, provide a superior customer experience. You got to figure out what it is that needs to change in your organization, your own shared services organization to help them deliver it cheaper, deliver it faster. And offer that superior customer experience.

[6:05] Susie West:

Operational agility. Now, this is my pressure point number six. I think it’s so key for organizations when you’re thinking about moving from legacy to new and I love this term, “legacy to new” and I’m not talking ERPs. I’m talking about operational models, moving your operational model from legacy to new because this is how you’re going to survive, flourish in the next decade. So we’re talking about your culture, your processes, your technology, your data, governance, leadership.

[6:40] Susie West:

How new is your approach to all of this? How much do you think it is fitting here in legacy? And what is the appetite to move it from legacy to new? So, again, talk about born in the cloud organizations and these are the ones that are absolutely kind of biting at the heels off. They’ve got operational activity on the whole. Also remember that many of them are still not making money right now, but they are excellently funded. And legacy traditional organizations generally are not. They’re relying on their revenue.

[7:16] Susie West:

So, sorry, just to finish point number six. If a bone in the cloud innovative organization needs to make a change, chances are, they can make it quickly. We’re kind of working in this age still, where we’re rolling out an ERP, and that takes four years. Who’s rolling out an ERP today?

[7:37] Susie West:

A roadmap classically takes about four years and everything else has the brakes. So bolt-on applications, brilliant purchases, like HighRadius that you know you need but you don’t have the budget and you don’t have the IT manager woman days to do the implementation. So what are you going to do? Just sit there and wait until the implementation takes place? And what’s your business going to look like in four years’ time, when quite frankly, the next wave of change is going to come through?

[8:12] Susie West:

So, remodeling. There are lots of discussions about ERPs at the moment and the relevance of ERPs. And also a whole debate around should an ERP implementation basically put the brakes on the adoption of other technologies, other plans, other projects within your organization? Is it worth it? Because basically, in four years’ time, are you still going to be relevant? You might have a nice ERP, ladies, and gentlemen, but are you going to be relevant? Are you going to be current? Are you still going to survive? Are you going to be in a position where you’re flourishing? Or are you going to be dying?

[8:50] Susie West:

Because this is what we’re talking about here. The very survival of your organizations. So businesses are meeting to rethink business offerings. And again, this is another big talking point. So a couple of things I’d like you to take away from today is that whole debate from moving from legacy to new. And I’m not just talking ERPs.

[9:10] Susie West:

I’m also going to be touching on this concept that I’ve really liked, which is what is your North Star? IBM has coined this expression, and it’s touching on what is the single purpose single offering of your organization that will put you out ahead of your competitors? Why does your business exist today? Why is your business worth it? Now, does your leadership team know this? And then working all the way down? Does everybody ride the way through to people in the post room, people at the reception desks, do they also know it?

[9:50] Susie West:

Just a quick anecdote, I’m not going to repair phrases exactly but you’re going to have to bear with me because there’s a point. Very senior politician goes to NASA just before Neil Armstrong and the crew land on the moon, he goes to the coat check. Hands in his coat and he says to the guy making conversation, “Oh, what do you do?”. And the coat check guy says “I’m helping America get the first man on the moon”. Right? Goosebumps stuff.

[10:20] Susie West:

Now could you have a kind of a similar conversation with everyone in your organization where they get it, they absolutely get it? They get that one phrase and they’re behind it because ladies and gentlemen, that’s the thing from a cultural perspective that will take you from legacy to new. So knowing what your North Star is, will help you with that.

[10:40] Susie West:

So number eight, data. This is so important. We know this now. Just come from a session next door about the dot one. Thank you dot one. And I love this technology. If you want to be finding the problems, and be predictive about it, if you want to be looking at data, so it’s your headlights, not your rearview mirror. We don’t need to be using data to tell it. So it tells us a story about the past. That’s lagging information. That’s no good for us. It’s useful, but it’s not going to give us a kind of a competitive edge. We need to be using data so it’s predictive and prescriptive. So it’s our headlights helping us figure out what direction we’re going. Many of us are a little late to the party when it comes to getting our data in shape. Shared Services is now seen as the kind of organization that can own the data, even if it’s just from a governance perspective.

[11:48] Susie West:

If there is ownership in your organization if you’re clear on that, and maybe raise your hand as Shared Services leaders and say, we need to take this, we need to own it. Novartis, for example, don’t own the entire data, they own the governance for the data. So if there’s any change that happens to any set of data in the organization, it has to go through them. They come up with a governance framework. The policies, the procedures, they own. And that’s helping them get that data in shape so that they can optimize AI solutions wall to wall. Now AI is very exciting, it is going to help you gain change.

[12:30] Susie West:

Technology. And I’m going to just talk about a pressure point here, which I think has been a distraction actually, for many of us. RPA. Who here is using RPA? Okay, who has more than 10 robots? How many robots does Coca Cola have?

[12:53] Susie West:

Hundreds, okay. Mainly in finance?

[12:58] Susie West:

Okay, so what we have found is that this is a very common reflection when we do pose loads of companies using RPA. And when I talk about RPA, I’m talking about the macros. Not necessarily the stuff that’s part of a wider solution, but the RPA solutions that have just focused on automating one task. Adoption is generally wide. Penetration isn’t deep. So hands go up. If I ask people who’re doing RPA, who’s doing more than five, most hands go down. RPA excited our minds, excited the minds of our executive team. Did you have an executive come to you with a magazine and said, “We really should be doing this because I’ve been reading about it”?

[13:43] Susie West:

So we got excited about RPA. We thought it was a silver bullet. We wanted to invest in it. And we find out, maybe three years later, that we still have the same amount of people. And RPA is only added to our cost. I will look a little bit about RPA in a couple of slides. But from a technology perspective, what we need to be looking at is fantastic enabling technologies that can straddle the legacy in the new and can be end to end in their process application. And that can be strategic partners for us. And that I think because new technology is artificial intelligence.

[14:29] Susie West:

We’re working in a world where we don’t know what to trust. Fake news, bouncing around all over the place, what’s a reliable source? Ladies and gentlemen, you need to be a reliable source. And the only way that you can be a reliable source is by capturing the data because most of the time again if you’ve got a credible way of capturing that data, the data will not lie.

[14:54] Susie West:

So you don’t want distractions being rumors. They’re so boring and tedious. You have to deal with these things. Just cut offline through that. Show the data, give the reports, make sure that your sources are trustworthy, and reliable and credible. And that will just help you get on and deliver what you need to deliver.

[15:18] Susie West:

That is your North Star. Knowing this, it will help you carve the path from legacy to new to future, help prioritize your investments, get everybody in the organization behind the investment of IT, man women days, IT spent, so that you can make decisions because we are not in an age where we can afford to take time to do a nine-month assessment and then purchase a solution.

I mean, what’s going to happen in nine months’ time? We need to move. We need to make sensible decisions, well-informed decisions and we need to make them quickly. So I help the shared services organization, carve out its role. And your role may need to be reassessed. Again, I’m going to refer to Novartis. The top five objectives that the GBS, Global Business Services head and Novartis have, only one of them is your kind of your classic shared services objective.

[16:23] Susie West:

The other ones are they, as I say, they own data now, so that’s not so classic. But he is now owning the delivery of their environmental goals for 2025 across the entire business. So they’ve basically just looked at the drawing board and they said “okay”, as a shared service organization.

[16:45] Susie West:

Now, chances are you do. But if you don’t get to be part of that conversation, the problem for a lot of shared services organizations is that they are not as integrated as they should be. They’re still functionally lead. So we asked a group of shared services organizations, “How are you set up? Are your customer service lead processes lead in your organization, or functionally lead?”.

Now, what can we do? And he is looking for 10x improvements within his organization that he and his shared services team can deliver. So this is the time to be integrated, you know that that guy from GBS shared services, GBS lead, he is at the top table, you know that he sits at that, around that board table. Does your GBS lead sit at that top table? Are you privy to the conversations? Do you know where the company wants to be in a year? Five years?

[17:46] Susie West:

This came out as a really high number. I’d say if we asked a wider group, it might come in a little bit lower than this 60 just shy and 60% of this deal functionally lead.

[17:58] Susie West:

So this means no end to end process is necessary. This means this is my financial services organization. This is my procurement shared services organization. We don’t necessarily liaise with each other, we don’t necessarily treat processes end to end, wing to wing. I do my bit over here, and procurement is there a bit over here. Basically, the end to end process is broken. So just getting from functionally led to process led will help you be integrated with other functions in the business, integrated with other bodies within the business, integrated with your senior executive team.

[18:36] Susie West:

We’re now seeing a push to these two services’ lead customers. And this is exciting stuff. This is basically okay. I’m going to draw up my shared services organization completely around the needs of my customers, my internal customers. I’m going to be offering them bespoke services based on their needs because not everybody needs the same service. Not everybody needs the same reports.

[19:03] Susie West:

Out of a portfolio of 300 services that you could offer, one of your customers might only need 10. They don’t care about the other 290. So at what level do you have insight into that? End to end process is hard. We’re generally operating Shared Services in massive, multi-billion enterprise organizations with a huge global footprint, just to get your global process standardization, that’s challenging.

[20:04] Susie West:

45% of respondents said that they were struggling with this. This is a list of what people were struggling with right now. And end to end process at 39%. Again, this is not as common as perhaps we’d like it to be. End to end is hard. Change is generally not embraced in an organization.

[20:37] Susie West:

We are human beings. Change is not always that exciting. It can be intimidating. We’d like to get comfortable before we move on to the next wave of change. How are you and your organization, incentivizing change? 55% of companies admit that they are struggling with change today. So again, looking at your culture, how enabling is your culture, to move from that legacy to new. We have been distracted. And very briefly, I’m going to just talk on RPA.

[20:37] Susie West:

When I’m talking about RPA, I’m talking about the technology that just automates tasks, not your end to end. We’ve been distracted. And it’s kind of meant that we’ve kind of had the conversation down here. And we should have been looking up here.

So when asked what’s in your digital strategy, 55% of people were saying it includes RPA in it. Okay. But to what degree does it tie in with the GBS strategy? Well, not really. So this is it. RPA is kind of taking some of us off into another direction to deal with RPA and a pocket over here and a pocket over there.

[20:56] Susie West:

So tiny bit of RPA hype. Gartner expected global RPA revenues to a total of 1.3 billion in 2019 up 63%. I thought that was quite interesting. I’d be interested to know if that is the case. But you know, we got behind it. There was hype, we got behind all of that. Wells Fargo forecasted that 200,000 jobs would be lost to bots in the US banking industry alone. Forrester Research estimated that RPA would threaten at least a quarter of a billion knowledge worker jobs.

[21:55] Susie West:

Okay, but the reality, ladies and gentlemen is adoption, which we talked about just earlier, but not deep. 74% of shared services respondents said that they have live RPA programs with proof of concepts. But then you drill down and most of them only when you got about four or five bots live. And you know what they still got exactly the same headcount. The CMO of UiPath said not a single customer of ours is over 1% penetration in the potential of software to augment the workforce, a huge opportunity for a company like UiPath. But again, the adoption actually has been quite slow. And jobs are not being lost in companies because of RPA. Fears of employment at Armageddon, just have yet to materialize in our full-employment economy.

[22:51] Susie West:

So just a moment on this. Did we overestimate the capability of the tool? Did we get bought into some kind of hype thinking it was a silver bullet? Did these makers kind of get excited and then forget to prioritize other things potentially? We overestimated the capability of the tool process. Too many decision points have been put in scope for RPA. And the RPA bots just kind of just exploded, I mean, give a bot a very simple task to do. These are very simple tasks that a bot should be doing.

[23:23] Susie West:

RPA is now being laid up with artificial intelligence. That is exciting. But a lot of the RPA technologies that have been available up until now have mainly been just very simple macros. You can’t tell a bot or we have the inability to tell the bot what to do. I like this chap in Brennan, he’s the IT director of Layer Healthcare. The inability of people to describe what they do in their day job is astonishing sometimes.

[23:52] Susie West:

We cannot map out desktop procedures accurately, to give to a developer to write a script. Not everybody has the ability to do this. And sometimes we’re just not tooling up a book to be able to do its job. But I’m afraid. Today, most of them are generally stupid. They should be raising flags when they encounter a problem, but actually, you know what they do, they just go ahead, and they spit the wrong data into a system quickly.

[24:25] Susie West:

So governance around RPA implementation, for a lot of organizations has been lacking. And now we’re thinking about how to go about and just put that governance in place and the business case might not work, but it costs somewhere between 1 and 16k. It might take out half ahead. But you know what, you’re going to decrease the number of people you have on your team. If that’s an aim of yours. Chances are your cost base for shared service organizations that will actually increase. So success in the last two, three years, you may have heard this was defined by the number of bots you hadn’t placed. That’s not the case anymore. It’s changed.

[25:13] Susie West:

Now we’re talking about how we can deploy enabling technologies as part of our digital strategy, which is part of our GBS strategy, which will help our company get to its Northstar. So it’s this chain. Possible employee satisfaction will go up because you’ve got bots in place. So in 2019, a survey was done on 450 RPA users that found that companies that embrace RPA experience higher employee engagement and lower attrition.

[25:44] Susie West:

Okay, time to flourish the solution. So organizations need a fresh approach to build new platforms. Your new platform to move away from your legacy while maintaining and modernizing and operating your legacy systems to make that transition. And again, we’re not just talking about technology, we’re talking about your entire business framework.

[26:08] Susie West:

So steps to take. Number one, be connected. What is your company’s North Star? Do you know? Does the leadership team know? Does everybody know in the organization?

[26:20] Susie West:

Number two. What does this mean regarding platform change for your GBS for your priorities, for your investments within your GBS organization? What is needed from the Shared Services today and tomorrow in order to help deliver this whilst delivering and operating businesses usual whilst chasing the invoices, paying the invoices? What will be the new scope, the required speed and the scale of change that will help your company arrive at the North Star that your shared services now need to deliver?

[27:00] Susie West:

Ladies and gentlemen, can you get there before we go through the change all over again? Because these waves of change are coming in, the timeframe is only going to get quicker and quicker. So, steps to take. We’re talking about five classic pillars within your target operating model here. Is your process end to end? Do you have process ownership? What degree of standardization is there within your end to end process?

[27:33] Susie West:

People. What does your leadership look like within your GBS? Dare I say is it the right leadership? What does leadership look like throughout the GBS? What does the culture look like? Is your culture ready to enable that change? How incentivized are your people to support the change? How excited are they? How empowered are they?

[27:52] Susie West:

Data. A big stumbling block for many organizations. And so exciting now that we have artificial intelligence in technology leading technologies, who aim it? What’s governance like? Are you using data to predict the future? This will give you a winning edge.

[28:11] Susie West:

Technology, what’s your digital strategy? How are you going to help move? How your digital strategy can help you move from the legacy to the new? And who will use strategic partners? How are they going to help you as well? Strategic partners, like HighRadius, how are they going to help you?

[28:29] Susie West:

An organization, the GBS, how integrated is it? What is the current scope? What’s the future scope? In terms of migrated function versus retained function? Have you got as much as you can? Have you got your arms around as much of that retained function as possible and moved it in? Why is it still retained? Have you got clarity around all of that? And what if again, your shared services are going to burn down today, going to build up tomorrow, how would you define the role of your shared services?

[29:02] Susie West:

Just leave you with a very stressful term. The pace of change has never been as fast as it is today. I’m afraid it will never be this slow again. So, feel free to contact me at the following. It’s been a pleasure. I hope I have not bombarded you with too much concerning the information.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

[0:01] Susie West: So lets kick-off. Number one. These are some of the observations that are coming out. The global economy has entered a period of synchronized stagnation, with weak growth in some countries, no growth in others and mild contractions in other countries. Okay, so we’re not in a bullish climate. So we just take that into account. The FTE in October last year, they were talking about how employment continues to be high worldwide, household incomes continue to be robust. There are some key headline economic indicators that have actually slipped to their lowest level in three years. Coming up to four years this spring. [0:49] Susie West: M&A activity is ‘suffering from the slowest pace of global dealmaking in more than two years’. So we start kind of layering all this on top of each other. And it just makes us think, what’s the squeeze? What’s the pressure going to be on our organizations? And therefore, how can we owners of our shared services organizations, or the builders of our shared services organizations respond well. So I’m going to talk about 10 factors that I think are influencing some decision making within shared services organizations. And these…

What you'll learn

  • How to not just be “ functional” : Digital initiatives for “strategic” finance departments
  • The new approach you need to maintain, modernize and operate your legacy systems for finance

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