By Dan Berthiaume
Shared services, or the combining of similar outsourced functions, provide BPO customers the opportunity to create savings and spur improvements in specific areas of the company. However, end users are now going further and are applying shared services across different sectors of the company and using them to get a better analysis of the future, improve their management of human resources, among other solutions.
At the upcoming 16th Annual North American Shared Services & Outsourcing Week in Orlando, Florida, March 7-9, BPO end users from a number of major companies will be speaking about how they are applying the shared services concept to maximize the return and extend the benefit of their BPO initiatives. Following are brief synopses of some of the applications they’ll be describing.
Through its shared services analytics program, global media company AOL offers business partners insight into functions such as spend management and operational trends, as well as identifies efficiencies within its own processes.
“Analytics is the key to unlocking your future,” says Cindy Gallagher, VP and assistant controller. “We have improved our control environment through analyzing our balance sheet and P&L in an innovative way.”
Best Buy, a global retailer of technology products with 180,000 employees worldwide, relies heavily on outsourced providers and shared services to help deliver HR services. According to Craig Warren, director of employment practices, the complexity of Best Buy’s BPO environment necessitates shared services for effective management.
“We’ve learned that management of these outsourced HR relationships requires a skillset not typically found in HR professionals,” says Warren. “These include deep HR knowledge, continuous improvement skills, procurement skills, and business operations skills.”
Pearson, the world’s largest educational publisher, also provides assessments and information and owns Penguin Books. Like all publishers, the company is undergoing an industry evolution. At the conference in Orlando, Lew Bader, senior VP, will discuss how Pearson is using shared services to meet these evolutionary challenges.
“The business is changing dramatically because of digital services, as well as software and other services we offer,” says Bader. “Traditionally we’re a ship and bill organization, and we have great challenges now due to the changeover to digital and software services.”
Bader calls this digital changeover Pearson’s biggest challenge in 2012 and moving forward, and says getting staff ready is a primary effort of a major finance transformation project the company is undergoing.
Global Business Support
EMC, a global developer of IT solutions, runs an internal Global Business Services (GBS) unit to support what Erin Champlin, VP of global business services, calls the company’s “journey to the cloud” as a shared services provider to areas such as finance, sales, consulting and general & administrative expense (G&A). Champlin cites GBS accomplishments during the past three years including growing from 500 to 1,000 employees, increasing its number of service areas from six to 18, lowering total cost of ownership by more than 30% to the bottom line, and redistributing work from high-cost to low-cost regions so there is now a 50/50 mix.
In addition, Champlin says GBS makes sure talented employees stay with the company. “We focus most on retaining key talent. We measure that very formally through satisfaction measures and attrition tracking.”