Everybody's doing shared services, everybody thinks it's strategic, yadda yadda yadda. The reality though is often disappointment and missed business cases. Sustainable success in shared services is still the exception.
The Deloitte Shared Services survey, published in April, highlighted some lessons learned: the importance of governance, a collaborative framework, transparency and change management.
Governance was also a theme running through the PwC/HfS report on Global Business Services, published in July: it has to be 'ongoing', 'well-integrated, consistent and rigorous' and not just another tool for vendor management.
Those were useful contributions. But Accenture's report this week Trends in Shared Services: Unlocking The Full Potential brings a new focus. It spells out what the leaders are doing, and how they are succeeding. And process excellence is front and center.
Noting how one leader in shared services uses automation and metrics and process improvement specialists, it continues:
"...while other elements are certainly in place - C-level support, comprehensive change management and a relentless focus on value - it is the organization's continued focus on process excellence that stands out ."
I share the report's enthusiasm that shared services will mature to become ubiquitous. And that we are witnessing the emergence of "a long-envisioned" model of integrated business services. I agree too that 'managing multisourcing consistently' is a huge challenge for most organizations. And I'm delighted that Accenture highlights the vital need for a service management framework.
But I have one quibble. Because even Accenture hasn't quite joined up the dots.
What is it, ultimately, that enables process excellence, that provides the collaborative framework for change management, that ensures transparency and IT alignment, that supports Lean and other continuous improvement programs, that provides the governance framework for the effective management of outsourcers, and that allows cloud and social media to be most effectively leveraged? It's a business process management platform.
It's not a panacea. It can seem a bit boring. It's an unspectacular answer when your SSC is 'in a complete mess'. But everything points to the business process management platform as the foundation for success in shared services. It underpins process excellence. It's what enables the service management framework. And it's the only way to optimize the management of process variants, which, the report notes, is the real problem in process standardization.
What is the business process management platform that can do all this? I've defined it elsewhere as a platform that uses the universal language of end-to-end business process to enable four capabilities. The only way I'd improve on that definition now, especially in the light of the Shared Services workshop in London last week, would be to re-iterate the importance of adoption. If our brilliant process management models don't engage process stakeholders, and help real people to get real work done and to contribute to improving things , then we're missing the biggest trick of all.
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