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GBS of the future: the backbone for digitalisation?

by James Hall | 3 mins read

In recent years, the general administrative operations of large organisations have been moving toward a global business services (GBS) model of shared services, with offshore centres housing behind-the-scenes tasks like invoice processing. The influence of GBS is increasing, with 41% of CFOs recently indicating their finance work was performed by a shared services organisation.

The purpose of the modern GBS is to act as the IT gateway, controlling the flow of information coming in and out of the business. It exists to centralise back-office structures, protocols, governance, and measurement tools, and bring that to the rest of the business in a coordinated way. Because GBS knows more about processes, owns more data and leverages more technology than any single function, it holds the keys to digital transformation for companies at large.

Given the enterprise-wide importance of GBS, the fact that so many organisations lacked the business continuity capability to cope with COVID-19 disruption dealt a hammer blow to many businesses.

The events of 2020 have impacted everyone in the space, but one thing has been clear: highly digitised GBS organisations have seen a far lesser degree of disruption to their delivery models. GBS leaders of the more old-school persuasion now have a serious job of rapidly future-proofing. 

Moving forward, the most successful organisations will be those most capable of limiting operational risks relating to the availability of feet-on-the-ground – and they can achieve this by designing and deploying virtual workforce models that can be scaled up or down to match service delivery requirements, and improve business decision-making with insights gleaned from the data constantly flowing through the GBS. 

As HfS Research noted in their still-seminal article ‘Robotistan’, on how Robotic process automation (RPA) arrived to shake up the outsourcing industry, the goal should be to “hand off your dullest, most rote outsourcing work to robots so your human workers could take on more engaging tasks”. 

Get on the front foot. Future-proof your GBS adoption

GBS organisations can no longer get by on the weather-worn method of finding a cheap outsourcing location, assembling staff and carrying out a simple knowledge transfer. The digital age demands greater agility, better speed, a completely different skill set for talent, and a forward-thinking CFO. 

  • Become a forward-looking, insight-driven organisation
    The ability to use a wide range of structured and unstructured data on such a significant scale and across multiple functional areas is unique to GBS. With the use of new digital tools, it allows businesses to gain real-time insights, rather than waiting for quarterly figures and getting caught on their haunches.What if, instead of waiting for monthly or even quarterly KPIs, companies were able to proactively forecast these KPIs with greater accuracy? Or register fast-changing demand patterns in real-time?Cost reduction has typically been the name of the game with GBS, but because GBS is becoming more predictive and agile, there is potential well beyond the remit of cost saving; insights from GBS can inform great decision-making across the business. 
  • Digitalise and decentralise 
    Through the GBS, companies can make emerging technology such as intelligent automation, natural language processing, and data analytics centre in fully automated end-to-end process chains. This can enable a diversified GBS model, spread across both regional and offshore centres, with a digital backbone better equipped to provide business continuity and resilience when disruption hits, and remote working is required.  But the key is finding a balance - a combination of nearshore and offshore, automated and manual. In the long term, embedding a culture of remote and virtual workforces, and enabling teams to work collaboratively across different locations, will incorporate greater agility into service delivery.
  • Improve the interplay between people and technology
    According to over 300 CFOs surveyed in August, more than three-quarters (77%) of respondents said that at least 1 in 20 members of their finance team were “virtual,” meaning they were using RPA and other automation capabilities. This is still some way off the potential for a bot-assisted workforce. Eliminating and automating manual processes should be a priority for the GBS, and establishing a virtual workforce is key to doing so.
  • Break down your data siloes
    Data from various business units often become locked in siloes away from the GBS, blocking its ability to exchange insights from different areas of the business. The sales unit, for instance, needs to be in close contact with the finance department. Better reporting and data diligence in these areas will be key to building the GBS of the future.  

As the central data repository of so many processes that touch every aspect of a company’s operations, GBS can be a gold mine of information. With the right digital tools in place, it can become the driver of gold standard decision-making. 

However, few businesses are at this stage of development. McKinsey’s analysis finds that fewer than 20% have the necessary building blocks to do so; “some have the data, but not the right platform for analysis; others have the platform but lack the right data, or can’t access it in a useful way.”

We’d like to help put this right. Get in touch with us to discuss how to lead the way with a future-proofed GBS model.