Executives who lead shared services organizations, designed to reduce overhead costs by consolidating administrative or support functions in areas such as finance, human resources and information technology, are increasingly accountable to the corporate C-suite, according to a new Accenture study.
In fact, 59 percent of the shared services executives polled report to C-suite level officers, including their company’s top finance, operations, human resources and information technology officers. And, 17 percent of them report directly to the CEO. In a similar study completed by Accenture two years ago, only 8 percent of the shared services executives reported to the CEO.
Currently, information technology is the type of service most frequently offered through shared services organizations, according to 75 percent of the executives. More than half (58 percent) said their organizations also deliver finance services, client-facing services such as billing and collections (51 percent) and human resources (50 percent).
In the future, 42 percent of the executives said that computing technologies, such as cloud, will have the greatest impact on their organizations. As their clients’ service needs evolve, cloud computing may provide a platform for shared services organizations to scale quickly to meet business needs and still manage their risk mitigation responsibilities in a cost-effective, virtual manner.
Eighty percent of the executives said they are proposing flexible work arrangements for shared services employees who support their global organizations. These arrangements typically allow shared services employees to work from home, which provides these organizations a way to tap into skilled labor pools in a cost-effective way.
As shared services programs continue to evolve, the study shows many of these organizations are struggling with the fundamentals of achieving process excellence while elevating the quality of their service delivery to meet the demands associated with assuming a more strategic role as an IBS organization. Just under half (49 percent) of the executives surveyed reported that their shared services organization had standardized its policies, processes and supporting systems; 26 percent had standardized the policies but not the processes and supporting systems; and 25 percent lacked the supporting systems.
Looking ahead, social media is expected have an impact on shared services, according to 90 percent of the executives surveyed, with 57 percent suggesting it may offer them the opportunity for greater collaboration among employees and greater productivity. Nearly as many (56 percent) expect it to lead to improved client collaboration and service delivery and 43 percent said it may increase satisfaction among shared services employees. However, the executives are generally taking a “wait and see” approach, as they evaluate how to use the social media most effectively in a time of rapid technology change and varying levels of social media adoption.
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