Becoming agile in your service delivery model

Future-proofing your GBS Finance function

Recent geopolitical events have made Finance global business services (GBS) leaders begin to realise that agility, resilience and recovery plans are just as important as efficiency and effectiveness. A political conflict or a pandemic can quickly disrupt offshore operations. It pays to be prepared.

Uncertainty is the new normal

The events of recent years have demonstrated the need for resilience, not only in supply chains, but also in business operations. War, pandemic or political unrest can quickly disrupt your operations and jeopardise your business. Stability is not guaranteed, and the business world needs to be prepared at all times.

In this short article we introduce a series of initiatives aimed at future-proofing your Finance global business services (GBS), from process, organisation and technology perspectives.

Harmonise your processes to improve agility

Processes can make your service delivery model more agile or hinder its agility. Regardless of how your Finance GBS is set up, it is crucial to streamline and standardise services across your global delivery footprint. Standard processes, aligned across delivery centres, make it easier to balance the workload between one location and another. Doing so will increase both service quality and speed, ultimately improving internal customer satisfaction. Finally, standardised processes can decrease your overall cost base and improve the employee experience.

Next to standardisation, process documentation is a key component of agility in delivery. Easy to understand manuals allow any employee to take on activities with little briefing or training. Smooth and fast transitions between staff members are beneficial not only when recovering from major disruptions but also when dealing with common occurrences, such as employee rotation or absence. GBS leaders should therefore ensure that their teams regularly review and update process documentation.

Adopt new workforce models to improve flexibility

Several options are available to increase your organisation’s agility, spanning from cross-country back-up resources and recruitment reserves to flexible contracts and a virtual workforce.

Leading companies invest in creating cross-country and cross-continent back-up resources: for example, Costa Rican resources trained and ready to pick up workload from their Polish colleagues, and vice versa. Besides preparing for the worst, cross-country continuity planning enhances global collaboration and facilitates the exchange of good practice. It is well suited to models where delivery centres are spread globally and running standardised processes supported by a common system.

Another option consists of creating a recruitment reserve. This means constantly advertising and interviewing for positions that will require reinforcements when the workload peaks. Having a reserve of potential recruits will save a tremendous amount of time when a crisis occurs. Creating a reserve is a first step; keeping it up to date by regularly checking in with potential recruits is the crucial next step.

Thirdly, consider implementing flexible contracts. Most agile Finance GBS contract employees to work part-time with an option to increase working hours, e.g., initial contract at 60%, with clause to increase to 100% and potentially overtime during a peak season. In this case, a cost-benefit analysis should be carefully executed prior to implementation. A work from home clause can also contribute to your agility, as well as increase your attractiveness as an employer. We see many companies struggling to bring staff back to the office following COVID lockdowns; surveys show that employees value working remotely.

The last measure, which has become increasingly popular in the past few years, is the work-from-anywhere scheme. In this setup, employees are allowed to work from any country provided they remain accessible during predefined working hours. This option is gaining traction with employees as it allows them to work from more appealing locations, whether from a cost of living, amenities or climate perspective. Although creating a virtual workforce may seem straightforward, you should thoroughly consider the tax implications prior to implementation. Indeed, having workers spread all over the world may have financial consequences, such as recognition of permanent establishments by local tax authorities.

Simplify, automate and digitise to improve resilience

Technology can reinforce your GBS agility though three key levers: system harmonisation, automation, and improved data management.

Harmonising your system landscape delivers many advantages, such as the possibility to balance load from one region to another or reduction in total cost of ownership. A standardised application landscape brings economies of scale to your organisation, simplifies single source of truth implementation and speeds up access to current data. If this option is not feasible for you at the moment, consider cross-training teams on different systems in order to facilitate task transfer between countries when needed.

The next lever, automation, improves service quality, lowers risks, and reduces costs: all key elements which contribute to your Finance GBS agility. With process automation, reliance on key employees is lowered and crisis reaction time improves. Automated processes are by nature scalable and enable your business to respond better to sudden work peaks and troughs. Moreover, when combined with smart analytics, automation helps to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in your workflow.

Finally, data management is crucial in fostering service delivery agility. Data backups spread over carefully selected sites will speed up recovery in case of disruption. Digitised processes drastically reduce the need for hard copies which may become inaccessible or be destroyed in the event of a crisis. Moreover, your disaster recovery plan should be tested regularly to minimise recovery time.

How to get started

These turbulent times should serve as a call to action to GBS Finance leaders. By addressing your processes, talent and technology, your organisation can become not only more resilient but also more effective. As a start, we recommend performing an internal service delivery agility diagnostic, covering processes, organisation and systems. This will help you identify how your organisation measures against leading practice and what initiatives to implement. If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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