Points of View
Top 10 Actions for Turbulent Times

It is certainly a challenging time for business with the turmoil in the financial and credit markets, the difficult world economy, and certain sectors of the economy in dire straits.  The implications for staff functions and shared services suggest they need to be even more aggressive in anticipating change, performing at high levels, communicating and collaborating with their “customers”, and managing their own costs.  This periodic newsletter from Experient Consulting points out actions our clients have taken with our help to meet their objectives in these challenging times.  Here is our “Top Ten”:

Breakthrough Improvement: Achieving Major Productivity Gains with Early Wins

The Challenge

When faced with productivity challenges, companies have historically taken one of two paths: restructuring to cut costs by eliminating jobs and/or consolidating sites, or investing in new technology to provide enormously more productivity and enormously better management information. Both of these approaches have merit and most companies have employed both methods with varying results over time.

Moving Shared Services Up the Value Chain; Strategies Beyond BPO

Shared services, as a business tool, have created tremendous value in Finance, Human Resources, and other functional areas in companies around the world. As shared services have moved into states of maturity, companies have been looking to answer the question of “What’s next? How do we continue to add value?” Many have turned to business process outsourcing and have found significant benefits. However, this is not the only strategy to continuing to add more value. We have found that there are numerous opportunities for adding significant value, potentially well-beyond what has been achieve so far, by recognizing that there are different types of value that need to be managed differently. When these are recognized, new strategies can be put in place to continue to move up the value chain. And this approach works whether companies have gone down the BPO route or not.

Satisfaction: The Key to Raising Shared Services Value

Satisfaction is the keystone to recognizing value in shared services just as it is when a consumer buys a product or service. When shared services leaders explore how they might move up the value chain by performing more and more sophisticated services, the first hurdle to cross is customer satisfaction. Only when the customer recognizes value in the current services, is he or she going to sign up for additional services. It comes down to the principle that we will do more business with people when we are satisfied and less when we are dissatisfied. At one company, the shared services group recently used billing data to develop a new set of information that pointed out price discounting inconsistencies across locally-managed units. When these were addressed by the businesses, millions of dollars were gained. We asked the leader of one of the units, and they were not fans of shared services, how he felt about the new set of discounting information. He said it was a terrific tool and that his people would be ecstatic about it “had it not come from shared services”. Their dissatisfaction with other aspects of shared services made it hard to have even a conversation about value. Interestingly, the business unit’s level of dissatisfaction was probably not even fair and was based upon a few incidents and some personal gripes. Yet the dissatisfaction was real, fair or not.

Implementing Your Functional Strategy: The Key to Maximizing Staff Value

Staff organizations in large companies often have multiple initiatives underway. These may include implementing the new ERP system (SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.), a new activity based costing system, a new compensation program, or a new professional development program. There are typically a large number of initiatives underway at any given time. In some organizations these initiatives have been justified by business cases and may be multiyear projects with tens or even hundreds of people, including outside consultants, assigned to them. In other companies formal business cases are not normally required, and it is merely part of the budget or other process to assign initiatives. There is normally plenty of activity. However, frequently the progress is slow and the resulting benefits are difficult to measure. Even worse, the initiatives are often not clear components of an articulated functional strategy.

High Time for Business Partnership


Several years ago the EVP of Human Resources for a major oil and gas company told his HR leadership team, It is not enough to be business partners…you must be business people. His HR function had already created state of the art employee self-service, recruiting, expatriate support, and professional development capabilities. They had mastered the basics of HR, and the time was right to turn their attention to the higher value adding roles. Using their aspiration to be business partners as the benchmark, he pushed his senior team to embrace an even broader operational mindset. Communicating this vision and modeling it in his role as head of HR, this visionary leader was the catalyst for a newly relevant HR function throughout the company.