February 13, 2018

What should the first two steps be for a Shared Service Function?

Some companies will have had a shared services function for a number of years, some will be just building it now. The same goes for a centralised procurement function. Just because a company is turning over large numbers, it doesn’t necessarily translate into a particular organisational structure.

It also doesn’t mean that any significant technological transformation has taken place. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find that many leaders in these departments are currently trying to decide on a strategy, where should they start in building a system that can offer value and importantly, value over time.

It’s all very well implementing a system here and a system there, but if you don’t have a good overall vision that you are building to, these things can easily go wrong with costs spiralling out of control dramatically. If you don’t have an endstate system architecture in mind you can end up with a mess of tangled wires and isolated systems. Data silos, for example, will cause nothing but trouble and can be found very easily, even in ‘suites’.

Only last week I was talking to an industry leader in the world of P2P and the discussion turned to the Wild West like landscape that is the world of procurement vendors. Now this isn’t all bad, the competition is exciting, it means that the market is working as it should. Imaginative and interesting offerings are constantly appearing, jumping up whenever someone else disappears, never allowing a small cabal to rule the roost as you find in the world of ERP.

However, whilst this is a big positive. It also makes it difficult for purchasers, even purchasers as savvy as procurement professionals. After all, with so many people claiming to do so many things, your problems will often only arise in the implementation phase, the worst possible timing.

So where should you start?

A simple question that has a relatively simple answer, but it does require blocking out a lot of background noise.

When it comes down to it, enterprise technology is very basic. All we are doing is providing a platform that allows organisations to digitise their processes. We are taking away the paper, we are saving time by pulling employees off the phones where possible and ensuring speed, communication and accuracy in transactions. Transactions in the general sense, not the financial sense.

Out of all the different plus points in the paragraph above there is only one point that really has to be focused on to begin with. One that, if ignored until later on will cause significant problems.

Accuracy and Genuine Flexibility.

In order to achieve accuracy you need to ensure that you have a single source of truth. The data needs to be inputted accurately, maintained centrally, (with local provisions) and as such, allow for high quality analytics that can be the basis of business decisions at a high level.

Flexibility allows for you to counter any changes in end state architecture designs. It allows you to be able to change your processes with ease and adapt to changing landscapes.

As such, the answer of where to start is obvious. You need to ensure that your data is your priority, that it is input in a way that will be useful in the short and long term. That the cultural changes that come with this are done at an early stage. Yet, this has to go hand in hand with flexibility, it is crucial that this system can adapt to the challenges and opportunities to come.

By prioritising these, you can then build from a foundational point and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Your multiple ERPs are no longer an issue, your influence on business decisions is clear and effective and you have the ability to accelerate through new implementations, confident in the knowledge that you have built your house on solid foundations.

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