INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH MR. SANDEEP PODDAR,
Head GBS, Akzo Nobel India Centre
How do you believe shared services of the future will look like? What will they deliver beyond providing a fixed portfolio of scale services?
More & more shared services are now becoming an integral part of the corporate function and the operating models are now evolving to a stage, where shared services are embedded within the corporate functions, whether it be finance, HR, supply chain or Sales, Technology etc everywhere substantial amount of work being done at GBS giving a single source of unbiased truth and also ensuring efficiency in time, efforts and money.
You cannot have shared services model independent of the business & functions, which then leads to an embedded & seamless strategy for GBS with single seamless office. The CXO will review the overall performance of a function alongside GBS with shared responsibilities and accountabilities. With GBS at its core, organizations will look at the journey of transformation & innovation, with GBS co-piloting it, rather than proving a fixed portfolio services. SSC in their continuous journey of progress and business excellence can in fact play a leading role in redefining the business processes internally and benchmarking externally across industries.
What are shared service organizations doing to deliver game changing performance? Is there any change in terms of preparedness that you’re seeing now versus say five years back?
Shared services, since it is shaping up to be a part of the embedded strategy for the overall corporate and the corporate functions, I think any transformation within the organization must be not only delivered but also led by shared services. Today if there is any integration requirements, say when we do an M&A or launch a new product or expand our geographical footprints, shared services are playing a very important role in the overall scheme of things.
If we look at the function of finance in Shared services, it is no longer a support function. It is a core strategic function and to that affect it will play a very important role in delivering game changing performance for their company. For example if we look at Goods & Service Tax (GST) which was implemented a couple of years ago in India, most of the organizations had set up the transformation office in GBS with the PMO being led by GBS. The entire integration & program implementation across entities was driven by GBS, all stakeholders within payables, receivables, vendor management, tax compliance and statutory compliance and liaison was handled seamlessly at GBS. That for me is really the game changing opportunity that shared services are playing and leading to support and lead the overall corporate functions.
In terms of preparedness, if you review the talent available today, shared services are no longer looking only at transactional resources but also towards hiring more and more people with design and analytical capabilities, data scientists working on new technologies like Big data, Python, Blue Prism etc contributing significantly in changing the business landscape towards going digital for this new ever changing world especially post covid people who are able to do thought contribution and who bring in techno functional knowledge to the table and help the transformation agenda.
How do you believe digital has enabled shared service organizations to deliver improved business impact? Could you please detail with some examples?
Digital is now at the centre of the value proposition at shared service.
If I look at the entire journey of digital transformation in shared services over the last many years, it started with as basic as a stable telecom connectivity, to having ISDN and seamless VOIP, then “soft phones” and today we look at all the collaboration tools, doing cloud computing, video conferencing, data privacy & compliance, real-time support & helpdesks, we have come a long way on the journey on being digital. Now our colleagues are able to work seamlessly across geographies & time zones in a collaborative & efficient way.
The business processes have become more seamless with intelligent automation. Whether it be a financial reconciliation of ledgers & banks or three-way matching of a vendor invoice, automation is making the processes simple & error-free. Essentially digital has reduced the overall time of delivery and has reduced the cost of service by decreasing the number of touchpoints.
Now Shared services are increasingly working through internal mobile apps which is becoming more and more digital and they can now process, approve, reject many activities, request from their mobile. Also, it is & faster & a seamless platform, on the move, I would say more convenient than ERPs.
How do people within shared services need to be reskilled to get ready for the future? What should enterprises be doing about it?
I think reskilling is a very common term that is being used by many enterprises across the board now but if we look at the shift of the ways of working over the past decade, we have gradually come a long way from working manually with too many handshakes, to now working in an intelligent automated way. The new talent are now agile & their skills & competencies have also moved with the requirements as well. The new talent today is well equipped with the new skills & capabilities to take on smart work requirements and bring relevant skills to make sure that we are able to work digitally & analytically.
However, within enterprises there may be existing workforce that may need reskilling & upgrading to use modern ways of working. To start with, a skills assessment analysis can be made & a career growth path be designed, considering the needs of the organization & the employee’s aspirations.
We are proving opportunities to our existing workforce through online training programs with third party content providers on topics like design thinking, emotional quotient, intelligent automation etc., and give them choice of programs that they may want to and upskill themselves. We run hackathons to ideate how we can really improve the customer experience & business excellence. We are also actively sponsoring our teams to do external instructor led program which can really upskill them to meet current requirements and also deliver value.
Can you please detail some of the key innovation initiatives within the Akzo Nobel shared service organization and what kind of business impact that you think it has delivered?
We are now designing all the processes in a touch less manner. Today we do not have anyone who picks up any phone calls for any support, internally, whether it be in terms of claims reimbursement or technology support or even procurement needs. We have all the applications & resources hosted on the cloud with easy navigation and access & update them on real-time basis, making sure that colleagues are working digitally. Also, we run hackathons at regular intervals to capture the pulse of our teams & facilitate people share and discuss ideas that also make them empowered when they see their ideas being considered and implemented.
All this has helped greatly where I would like to believe that employees know what their role is in this new world and how they are contributing towards the overall growth of the company. I guess the ratio of transactional nature of activities is also changing with even shared services now increasingly outsourcing few of their activities to vendor partners, which is helping increase the quality and nature of work being done at GBS and giving enhanced work satisfaction contributing towards reduced attrition.