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Communicating the Value of Shared Services

Is the objective of Shared Services to be an efficient, back-office “utility”? Many Shared Services leaders would argue that Shared Services is, in fact, a “value-adding business partner” and not just a “low-cost, high-volume, transaction processing factory”.

On a recent Peeriosity webcast, member companies were in broad agreement that part of their vision is to maximize value-add contributions across processes enterprise-wide.  A major challenge, however, is how to communicate this vision and get buy-in from key stakeholders.  Our feature company for this webcast entitled “More Effectively Communicating Shared Services Results” stated clearly that without an effective, targeted communication strategy, the broader organization is left with no option but to view Shared Services as a transactional utility.

The webcast discussion brought to light that there is a life cycle to a Shared Services communication strategy. For example, a start-up organization will focus on basic delivery and transition-related communications.  As the Shared Services organization matures, so will the communications, which becomes more proactive, and segmented according to stakeholders.

For example, after the initial transition and steady-state has been reached, a possible segmentation of customers may look like this:

  • Sponsors – Usually senior executives interested in the overall Shared Services value proposition
  • Operating Unit Managers – Those customers who receive the Shared Services charges within their P&L
  • Point of Service Users – People in the organization who use your services to perform their job duties.

A unique communication can be developed for each customer segment that focuses on the items that they value the most. For Point of Service Users, they are generally interested in the SLAs in regards to cycle time and quality; how fast will I get service, and will it be correct the first time. If the SLAs are the right ones, using these measures is a great way to let your customers know you are indeed meeting expectations. If Shared Services is meeting the SLA requirements and customers are still disgruntled, it’s possible the right SLAs are not reflective of the requirements or the service culture is not as it should be.

Assuming all is well with Point of Service Users, the discussion can focus on cost, process, and expanding service reach with the Operating Unit Managers. For instance, communication can point out what his or her unit could improve upon that would improve the costs Shared Services is charging to the operating unit (e.g. reduce POs issued after the fact or use preferred vendors or catalogs), as well as suggest ways that Operations can reduce their internal costs and possibly improve their external customer’s satisfaction (e.g. improved billing accuracy).

Finally, if there is “peace in the valley” with both Point of Service and Operating Unit Managers, it’s time for a push to sponsors on expanding the role of Shared Services. When existing internal customers in these segments are proponents of Shared Services, it is the right time for examining additional scope. This comes in some combination of wider and deeper leverage of the base Shared Services model:

  • New services (e.g. Facilities, IT, HR, Procurement, etc.)
  • Expansion deeper into a Process (e.g. Order Processing, Master Data Management, Indirect Purchasing, etc.)
  • Overall end-to-end process optimization ownership or facilitation

During the webcast’s collaborative discussion, members shared their key learnings in implementing communication plans. A number of member companies have shared actual documents used in communicating their results within the “Documents” section of the Peeriosity website.

One of the key lessons learned was that, regardless of organizational maturity, in order for Shared Services to become that true “value-adding business partner” an effective communication plan must be implemented. This is critical to ensure that the message is not only sent, but is also received by the right people, at the right time, and in the right format.

How are you communicating your status as a value-adding business partner to your customers?

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