Impact of COVID on Shared Services and GBS
COVID-19 has created a ‘new normal’ and presented fresh challenges to businesses across the globe, irrespective of their industry and size. Enterprises are keenly focusing on standardizing and automating processes to build resilience. According to a recent survey, following are some of the predominant challenges faced by GBS and shared services organizations due to the pandemic:
- Challenges managing remote teams and achieving service levels remotely.
- Inadequate infrastructure and lack of system bandwidth
- Ability of BPO Providers to provide services.
- Data Protection and Security
- Lack of In-Person Management and Employee Morale
The world after the pandemic is a bit unclear for now, but for shared services and global business services, one thing is clear – traditional wisdom that has delivered a performance in the past has been challenged immensely by the onset of the pandemic. Let us look at how the pandemic has challenged some traditional dogmas in the GBS and shared service organizations and what the future holds for them.
Enterprises traditionally believed that to effectively carry out processes, especially the complex ones, required in personnel management. However, during the pandemic, they learned ways and means to circumvent this challenge and still deliver results. According to a recent survey, many shared services and GBS leaders mentioned that their processes even the complex ones continued to perform well even after the shift to working from home. Many companies with highly in-person intensive operations like financial close and financial planning and analysis performed efficiently demonstrating the success of remote work model.
Going forward, the demand should be aligned with physical office capacity and locations as employees across the globe will continued social distancing. New remote shared services employees will need new ways of working, including access to and training on, collaboration tools for virtual meetings with videoconferencing features and virtual facilitation methods. Additionally, leaders should be trained to manage hybrid workforces working both in-office and virtually.
Current business continuity plans are adequate
Traditional thinking has been that merely having a business continuity plan (BCP) is enough to meet the organization’s requirement. BCPs have been rarely tested to the extent it has been tested during the pandemic. Most BCPs prepare the organization for risk in a specific location, be it an office building or a country but very rarely have BCPS considered a global pandemic.
Revamping BCPs should become a key area of focus moving forward. BCPs should be upgraded not just from a technology perspective, but also for people enablement. Enterprises should consider testing and transforming their plans routinely to identify and address overlooked issues to sufficiently prepare for the next crisis and to confirm that their goals are achievable using the business’s current infrastructure.
Shared Services are synonymous with only transactional process
Work that previously required physical proximity, is now being effectively carried out virtually due to the pandemic, again challenging traditional thinking in this area. Enterprises considered bringing in complex and newer processes into their shared services umbrella to be able to ensure delivery resilience. Most enterprises are increasingly re-evaluating their service delivery models to make it foolproof and self-reliant. Enterprises are looking to expand their services scope that will include operations that were previously considered too complex to be delivered remotely. Enterprises are also focusing on finding the right balance between offshore and onshore locations to help reduce their risk exposure.
Legacy systems and Manual Processes are good enough
Although some enterprises have adopted digital transformation and cloud platforms, many still believe that these technologies are “nice-to-haves” rather than treating them as absolute essentials. With the pandemic, what became clear was how digitally mature organizations fared better with minimal impact on service delivery. Enterprises with a high degree of digitalization have also often enabled agile business processes and employee flexibility. Legacy systems generally increase access issues and risks in data security. Enterprises are now accelerating their pace to digitalization as a key lever to deliver competitive advantage.
Enterprises should maintain or potentially increase investments in new technologies post the pandemic. Enterprises should not solely rely on existing technology solutions, rather they should continually upgrade their technology landscape to make it relevant for business. Similarly, companies should consider migrating to the cloud to improve data security, make processes more agile and continue to invest in a digital labour force.
Physical sites (brick-and-mortar) are required to maintain security
It is believed that data security is more protected when resources are working together in centralized locations. Several enterprises had concerns on data security challenges and because of transitioning to remote work resulting from home wi-fi networks and hardware security amongst others.
These organizations force fitted a few technology solutions to address security concerns and secure sensitive data. These included enabling remote lock down of an employee’s computer, camera and voice recognition solutions among other solutions. Some companies also had employees sign NDAs that specifically referenced not showing screens and data with people in their household. Where such security challenges could not be addressed, some work was forced to stop completely.
As enterprises move towards the new normal, it will be of utmost importance to invest in tools and technologies that can help mitigate security risks for remote work. Automation of manual processes will likely be accelerated, as it makes processes much more transparent, flexible, and cost-effective.
It is difficult to predict and plan for unprecedented events like COVID-19 that can disrupt the global economy, but the pandemic has provided some insights into future opportunities for enterprises to consider, as they seek to thrive in a “new normal.”
The coronavirus pandemic has provided a tough stress test for GBS and shared service centers. Most enterprises were able to continue their services without severe hindrances. But in some cases, the COVID-19 crisis has mercilessly revealed its weaknesses. The winners are those organizations with robust crisis planning and a mature level of digitalization.