When I first started to use Facebook, relatively few of my friends and none of my family used it. It was easy to go for months without checking in as not too much happened. I recall explaining to friends what a social network was and getting blank stares and, “why would you want to do that?”
Fast forward to 2009. In the space of a couple of months, it seemed that everyone I knew suddenly joined FaceBook. The platform had crossed the chasm – moving from a relatively low function site used by early adopters (college students, initially) to a much more robust platform that became an accepted product category.
Crossing the chasm
This same type of chasm crossing has happened in shared services. As recently as a few years ago, the term came up only infrequently with my customers, and often as an objective and nothing operational. Today, virtually all of my customers have some form of shared services initiative in progress or up and running. Google Trends also confirms this growth in mindshare. Most shared services initiatives are working for the same three objectives:
- Reduce costs as the number of work centers are reduced and improved by analyzing, simplifying, standardizing and centralizing
- Improve customer service by using the single best way to perform common processes
- Standardize on an operating model to support transparency, compliance requirements and systems implementations
Thinking back to a recent experience with my mobile phone carrier, I had to return a phone I had purchased online through my employer. As it turned out, the brand’s stores couldn’t accept the phone, the normal online folks couldn’t accept the phone, and the people who could accept it weren’t connected to the normal return process. I spent days trapped in a non-standard, non-centralized and fairly dysfunctional set of processes. I was a very, very frustrated customer. These are the precise circumstances where shared services change the game.
Shared services are an excellent way to cut costs while improving the way business is done. How often does that happen in combination?! This tells me that shared services as an approach is here to stay.
Word of warning
This new way of making business better has to be done with strategy and automation. Drop me a line and I’ll be glad to let you know what that means.