Posted: 28 Jun. 2021 4 min.

Global Business Services (GBS) in the post-pandemic world

Topic: Operational Excellence

Each year, Deloitte asks a large number of GBS executives about the state and future of their service centres – and this year is no different. In our recently published 2021 survey we’ve had responses from leaders in 45 countries, with SSC locations across 75 different countries. About 56% of the respondents represent companies that have at least USD 5B in revenue. 

The findings are interesting. Overall, what’s clear is that shared services centres (SSCs) and GBS models are increasingly evolving and adapting effectively to rapidly changing geopolitical conditions (e.g., COVID-19 and Brexit) as they seek to provide nimble and value-added services, a better customer experience and high-impact business outcomes.

What’s also clear is that many organisations are already developing specialised capabilities such as analytics, reporting, digital and enhancing the customer experience. These shared and global business services constructs are creating an environment where new capabilities can be rapidly adopted to position their customers for success. 

And finally, many organisations are right now in the process of changing the way they look at talent, incorporating diversity within their leadership, driving better employee experience and culture and focusing on work/life balance and flexible practices in their GBS setup as key strategies for retaining talent.

Here are some of the other notable results from the survey:

Scope and capabilities: Multifunctional organisations continue to be most prevalent with 82% of total SSCs supporting three or more functions. This trend remains consistent for all organisations, irrespective of revenue size:

  • Finance, HR and IT remain as the top three functions performed in shared services centres across industries and continue to grow upstream – and they have moved beyond the back office to include more specialised industry areas.
  • GBS footprint for procurement and customer service and call centres has increased the most since 2019.
  • India continues to be the top preferred location across most industries. While not making the top list, Portugal and Lithuania continue to receive attention and secure GBS investments. Hungary, already an established hub, is a new entrant in the top 10.

Due to changing work conditions, such investments and initiatives are now demonstrating their value. Post-pandemic, business leaders should continually be updating the technology infrastructure to improve data security and agility and continue to innovate towards a digital labour force.

Benefits: GBS organisations are increasingly looking at implementing complex capabilities such as analytics, process excellence, programme management, reporting and Robotics Process Automation (RPA):

  • Some organisations are already beginning to realise significant benefits from RPA implementation, with 20% realising between 20% and 40% savings (up from 9% in 2019).
  • Process efficiency and standardisation has overtaken cost reduction as a primary objective for investing in GBS, and more organisations have adopted the digital agenda.
  • Cost reduction and process efficiency and standardisation have been the most tangible and attainable benefits achieved.

The future of GBS
The post-COVID-19 pandemic world might still look unclear, but for global business services and shared services organisations, one thing is clear: Conventional wisdom and long-held orthodoxies have been challenged during the pandemic, requiring many changes. As the world eases restrictions, the new GBS and shared services normal will likely include operational practices that were previously thought to be impossible. 

Firstly, work-from-home or virtual will likely be elevated as a service delivery model option and may no longer be optional. 80% of poll respondents in another recent Deloitte GBS survey listed expansion of WFH capabilities as a key change expected in the future as a result of COVID-19. Some anticipate that organisations may see one-third or more of their labour force working from home in the future, compared with just one-tenth before the pandemic. Organisations should re-examine their work for remote delivery fitness across dimensions such as proximity, regulatory, process complexity and service level disruption. Examples to consider include moving to digital mailrooms, virtual business partnering and HR processes – recruiting, interviewing, onboarding and training – which may shift to occur remotely.

Secondly, as economic pressures increase and organisations develop a new focus on business resiliency, they should evaluate their service delivery models and consider diversifying across locations. We anticipate that organisations will seek to expand their scope of services and change the mix offered through their shared services centres, work-from-home and outsourcers. The expanded scope could include processes that may have previously been considered too complex to be delivered remotely, such as business partnering roles across major functions, analytics and complex issue resolution. Additionally, organisations will likely strive to find the right balance between offshore and onshore locations to help reduce their risk exposure.

And finally, many executives suggest that the pandemic has emphasised the importance of technology modernisation, digital labour and automation. Additionally, many of the technologies that some CIOs have been trying to implement for years are suddenly being utilised and leveraged.

It’s been said that it’s always important to expect the unexpected. As demonstrated by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this may be very good advice.

While it is difficult to plan for every contingency or event that can disrupt the global economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided some insights into future opportunities for organisations to consider as they seek to thrive in a new normal.

Hopefully, GBS and shared services organisations will likely do more than just recover; they will perform and thrive!


Forfatter spotlight

Tore Christian Jensen

Tore Christian Jensen


As a part of the Strategy & Operations practice Tore has worked with analysis, development and implementation of operational strategies. Tore has deep experience with aligning business models to changing market demands through optimisation of business processes and aligning systems, organisation and governance accordingly. He has industry experience from manufacturing, transportation, consumer products and energy. His main focus is on on the operational core processes but he also covers administrative support processes. As a program manager Tore has been leading transformation projects for international clients heading multiple parallel projects and reporting directly to executive committee members. His responsibilities cover everything from initiating assessments, identifying opportunities for improvement to building business cases and following up by designing solutions and driving teams through implementation.

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