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How shared services became an equal citizen at Maersk

Maersk have transformed their shared services center into fully integrated part of the business. The company’s GBS leader sat down at Deloitte’s SSC Conference to share his secrets to a successful journey.

In the face of the challenging times in the shipping industry in 2008, Maersk went through an aggressive implementation to create a global business services (GBS) organization that quickly became the organization’s backbone. Since 2008, the organization has moved beyond transactional processing to become global process owners across the entire back-office, as well as front-office Commercial and Operations functions. The GBS is strategically integrated with the business and is recognized as an equal citizen. Dorthe Keilberg, a shared services expert at Deloitte, is impressed by the work at Maersk.

“What Maersk has accomplished is to make their GBS so integrated that it’s difficult to tell the difference between business and GBS. An enviable achievement for many,” she says. 

Today, the GBS of Maersk Line handles Finance, Sales, Marketing, Lead Generation etc. The GBS has 12,000 employees, which is almost half of the white-collar workforce at Maersk, a clear sign of the integration and penetration the GBS has managed. An important person in Maersk’s journey toward an integrated GBS is René Overgaard Jensen, who was one of the speakers at Deloitte’s annual Shared Services, GBS & BPO conference. Today, he is Head of Process Excellence at Maersk Line and has been with Maersk almost his entire career. 

How do you integrate with the business? 
“I wish I could tell you that we got into a room and made a plan that would get us a fully integrated GBS. However, our story involves luck, coincidence, a few crises and many mistakes. So I can’t give you a plan for how to do it, but I can extract some of the learnings from our journey. As I see it, there are three important components. Operational excellence is the first. Second, you need to leverage the insights. Third, you need to break some of the rules to make unexpected successes.” 

Can you elaborate on operational excellence?
“Nobody will let you be in charge of anything if you are not good at what you do. But when I talk about operational excellence, it’s not about looking at Service Level Agreements. It is not about solving problems in a specific time in a specific quality. You need to look at operational excellence in the eyes of your customers’ customers. Not the internal customers but the customers that pay the bills. When you think of your performance in that context, the conversation with the parent company becomes entirely different. You need to care about the business. Nobody in the parent company is in the business of outsourcing. They are in the business of business. If you care only about SLAs, FTEs or location strategies, then you are not going to have a good conversation. In our centers, people actually care about containerized shipping, which is reflected in the communication that we have with the parent company.” 

What do you mean by leveraging insights? 
“A GBS sits on top of a lot of work, so the GBS knows more about how work happens compared to most people in the decision-making process. That is a spectacular opportunity to understand things, which nobody in the entire organization is able to do. There is always a local variation, into which only the GBS can deliver insights. That will get you a seat at the table and move things forward.”

You also said that it could be necessary to break the rules. Why?
“When we talk about the customer experience, the unusual unexpected elements are key. But the GBS is highly regulated. So what should one do? I argue that you should break the rules. Some of our biggest success stories come from breaking the rules. We received some bruises along the way, but when we’ve explored new ways of doing things, that’s where we’ve achieved the greatest results. We used to have 2500 people working in booking and documentation. That number is down to 300 due to automation that was developed 100 percent by the GBS.” 

What does this rule breaking require from the leadership?
“You as a leader have to create a safe space. Imagine being the person who messed up the booking database at a company that lives off bookings. That actually happened. He is going to fear losing his job. So, if you do not have his back, he is not going to explore new ways that eventually will lead to a groundbreaking automation solution. Second, you need to hire new types of people. People you wouldn’t have hired a few years ago. You might have them already, but they might be too caught up in the organization. When you acquire talent, acquire talent for the job you want, not the job you have. You must be aspirational.” 

The 2017 Deloitte Shared Services, GBS & BPO Conference took place 21 and 22 November 2017 in Vienna. In 2018, the conference will be held in Prague. The conference is a “must attend” for CFOs, Financial Controllers, Shared Services Heads, Global Business Service Leaders, BPO Contract Managers, CIOs, Global Process Owners and HR Leaders.

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