Posted: 17 Jul. 2020 5 min. read

Adaptable and efficient: Designing for today’s shared services center

Posted by Don MillerMaya BodanSonia Singh, and Michael Kessler on July 17, 2020.

As organizations become more adaptable and innovative, so do their shared services. Shared services centers (SSCs) have evolved from being a “provider of what they ask for” to a generator of tangible business value.1 SSCs are increasingly global, multifunctional, digital, and supported by automation and analytics. Meanwhile, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, many organizations are also looking for their SSCs to help drive low-cost options for service delivery.

The organizational structure supporting your SSC likely looks like what we’ve come to think of as the modern organizational model: Sticks and boxes forming a regimented, hierarchical, top-down structure. Yet, this model isn’t really that modern at all. It’s the exact same organizational structure used by General Marc Antony as he was leading Julius Caesar’s legions into battle.

This realization prompts the question: If we can agree that the work of SSCs has evolved, shouldn’t their organizational structures and operating models also mature to keep up with the customer-centric work that is being done?

Shared services: Committed to efficiency, yet increasingly more adaptable 

Traditionally, shared services have been focused on efficiency (i.e., driving work that is standardized and routine).2 And justifiably so: Your SSC needs to stay focused on efficiency in order to enable cost-effective success across your organization. However, as the work of SSCs becomes more complex, it becomes increasingly important that teams within the SSC feel connected both to the business and to each other. As your business evolves and you implement more integrated technology solutions, your SSC can further be used to drive innovation across the enterprise. At this point, you may begin to consider experimenting with adaptability (i.e., enabling work that is fluid and changing) "on the edges" of your SSC.3

Designing an adaptable SSC

Consider how your organizational structure enables your SSC to drive value (or, conversely, acts as a barrier). Ask yourself if your SSC can pivot to deliver against shifted demands and still meet the business’ deadlines. Can your SSC teams quickly re-organize around a revised product, goal, or mission?

If your answers to those questions are “not quite” or “probably not,” your SSC is likely in the perfect position to begin experimenting with different ways of working. To start, consider how you might leverage more flexible teaming structures. You might identify a customer-focused objective and begin “swarming” your team around that objective, pulling team members out of their silos into a cross-functional, mission-focused team. Once that objective is satisfied, you might then select a new objective for your teams to swarm around.

We know that teams in SSCs come in different flavors. Your team could be an executive leadership team or an execution-focused team; it might be focused on ongoing operations or be project-based. Regardless of how a team is composed, it can achieve agility and collaboration by embracing the “swarm” concept. Importantly, by experimenting with Adaptability, your SSC can become an innovation center for the broader organization. Other functions can model their own structures, operating models, or lessons learned based on the example set by your SSC—it can be the adaptability sandbox to test and learn.

An example from the field4

A tech company realized that its call centers were serving two unique sets of customer needs and set out to create call centers with different missions: One was staffed by experts. The other was automated. In the three years since launch, the company’s overall cost to serve is down 13 percent, its net promoter score® (a measure of customer loyalty) is up by more than half, customer churn is at an all-time low, and indicators of employee engagement are up.

Using AONA to answer you're critical questions

When experimenting with adaptability and driving efficiency in your SSC, adaptable organization network analysis (AONA) can help you make data-driven decisions. AONA is Deloitte’s approach to network analysis, providing insight into the “white space” of an organization, how information flows, and how work really gets done day-to-day. AONA uses proprietary metrics to measure, among other dimensions, how much collaboration takes place outside the organization’s formal structure and how much effort your employees expend to connect and collaborate. AONA can help you answer the critical questions likely on your mind: 

  • Where are the key relationships between shared services and the business that I should foster?
  • Which customer-focused objective should I select for my mission team to swarm around?
  • Do I have the right leaders in place to manage a mission team?
  • How will I continually measure success?

The data science behind AONA helps you understand which leaders will spark new ways of working and which key players will enable impactful collaboration with the business. This is pivotal as organizations respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Especially now, SSC’s need to design for efficiency (while still experimenting with adaptability and innovation) as companies seek the lowest-cost options for service delivery. AONA can empower you to make informed decisions about your SSC’s organizational structure during this critical juncture in pivoting your SSC to the “next to normal.”


Don Miller is a managing director in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He serves as the US Analytics leader for Deloitte’s Human Capital Organization Transformation & Talent practice and also serves on Deloitte’s Global Organization Design and Decision Solutions leadership team.

Maya Bodan is a senior manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Organization Transformation practice, with a focus on supporting senior leaders through large-scale organization design and operating model transformations to help them prepare for the future of work.

Sonia Singh is a senior consultant in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, with a focus on operating model and organization design transformations.

Michael Kessler is a consultant in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, with a focus on organization design and the future of work.


11th biennial global shared services survey
Adaptable Organization POV
i.e., Explore and implement more adaptable structures at the edges of the organization where more risk can be tolerated.
Reinventing Customer Service; Harvard Business Review; Dec 2018

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Don Miller

Don Miller

Managing Director | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Don has more than 16 years of industry and consulting experience. In his current role, he serves as the US Analytics leader for Deloitte’s Human Capital Organization Transformation & Talent practice and also serves on Deloitte’s Global Organization Design and Decision Solutions Leadership team. Don is focused on helping clients improve performance by building operating models and organization structures to execute new capabilities through their people, aligning the capabilities, metrics, processes, and culture of a business to its structure, leadership, roles, and talent. Don also helps clients solve some of their top business challenges by creating tailored culture, leadership development, and employee engagement solutions to better execute organization transitions as well as mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures.