Innovative solutions: it’s the duty of leaders within shared services to constantly find these and evolve their offering in a way that helps their organisations improve effectiveness, efficiency and performance.
Is there too much innovation?
But have we reached a world where it’s no longer possible to keep automating? The answer is a very definite ‘no’. Not yet.
The first resource we recommend to help your Shared Service Centre (SSC) expectation is a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit. According to their report, “30 years since the founding of the world wide web, digital technology still has the potential to birth new and disruptive business models and slash the barriers to entry in once-placid markets”. The time to keep innovating is now, more than ever, and those involved in shared services know that being agile is key.
Looking to AI and RPA to provide the answers
While many look towards the siren song of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for the answers, the irony is that some of the simplest processes in finance and procurement – two of the most commonly outsourced business areas – are yet to be automated: e-invoicing and procurement management.
A report by Thomson Reuters revealed although 57% of CFOs agreed that they were prepared for significant disruption in 2019, their level of preparation fell far short of this. Only 12% of CFOs reported being confident of their level of preparation. While too many look to the shiniest new toys (and, admittedly, there are many benefits to be found there for those who have already succeeded in delivering the basics well), questions still remain about the ability of organisations to get the fundamental processes right so that they can, indeed, feel ready for anything.
A new type of outsourcing
If CFOs are not yet feeling prepared, what can they do to give themselves a foot up? The answer may well lie in a new type of outsourcing: RPA and machine learning done internally.
This new type of outsourcing doesn’t require an offsite shared service centre, but it can also enhance one. The type of technology that SSCs can harness result in flexibility, standardisation, renewal of technology, best practices, the reduction of manual labour, multi-language support and 24/7 operations.
Surely we can only reduce human intervention so far!
As an experienced shared services leader, you may well argue that you’re already doing all of this – and the chances are that you’re on top of it – but do your systems allow you to go even further? Can you reduce human errors and the need for human intervention even further while collecting a wealth of financial data and reducing risk through global compliance? At Basware, not only do we believe this is possible: the evidence is indisputable.
Take the case of Heineken, for example. By consolidating their finance functions into a single SSC and then using Basware’s invoice automation solution, they achieved the usual (but significant) time and cost savings. What is not obvious to most SSCs, however, is that the power of true automation – namely, visibility – is today’s unique differentiator. And this is where Heineken really benefited. Not content to merely automate their AP function, they also took a long, hard look at their purchasing tools. By joining up the dots between procurement and finance, they were able to reconcile the information coming out of both the finance and the procurement teams. The result is that today over 90% of Heineken’s purchase invoices are matched automatically.
Does being locked in to ERP solutions prevent innovation?
In an ideal world, all solutions would integrate seamlessly, connect effortlessly and share data transparently. In the real world disparate systems, dirty data and disjointed processes make it hard to get a true sense of the bigger picture. As a result, many enterprise resource planning (ERP) providers try to lock-in their customers, insisting that their solution is the best – and only – way to operate when, in reality, other specialised tools do the job far better.
This was the situation at ADT Fire and Security PLC, the world leader in electronic security, and Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions. In order to get a single point of control and reporting, they needed a tool that would integrate into their disparate selection of ERPs seamlessly. They chose Basware in order to resolve this. As a result, not only were they able to process four times as many invoices per AP employee after they implemented the system, they also achieved a 75% reduction in invoice cycle time – down from four weeks to five days – and saved £400,000 (approximately 720,000 AUD) with the same headcount.
What does the future of shared service centres look like?
You may already be some of the way there, but if you’re still looking to improve low automation levels and address inefficient processes and late payments, reduce steep operating costs, get better and more accurate reporting and associated visibility as well as adapt to a changing business environment, here are three steps we suggest you take:
Consider the current state of finance, AP and procurement automation in your SSC
Investigate the possibility for more connected technology (the resources mentioned in this blog post will help)
Take a long, hard look at the possibilities offered by advanced AP and SSC analytics by watching this video.
You might also want to consider whether the solution you are using, or considering using, is able to cope with multiple languages and multiple currencies, as well as multiple ERPs, and whether it is capable of processing all kinds of tax: from VAT to GST and beyond, across finance, procurement and other support units.
It’s time to stop flying blind
It has long been proclaimed that technology should free up humans’ time for more intelligent tasks. However, without the ability to truly know what is going on behind the scenes, we have often been flying blind. It’s time to turn those blinders into x-ray glasses.
True SSC visibility will give you:
Elite Financial Shared Services Centre operations: Completely paperless process – from sourcing to payments
Superior automation in a user-friendly cloud environment
Analytics for your SSC and your customers.
At Basware, we can help. Feel free to review the linked resources in this blog– there is plenty of valuable information in here – or contact us directly when you’re ready to take the next step towards building a shared service centre that exceeds expectations. We look forward to helping you go even further than you already have, thanks to the power of joined-up finance, procurement, visibility, automation and intelligence so you can Simplify Operations, Spend Smarter™.