By Deborah Kops, founder and managing principal of Sourcing Change
Over the past few weeks, it seems as if everyone in the accountancy world is talking about GBS, GBS, GBS. Shared services organisations encompassing one function in a few countries with a centre or two purport to be running global business services.
Companies with transactional accounting processes operating around the world declare that they are GBS leaders. Sourcing leaders managing an outsourcing deal or two are trying to link governance together under the guise of GBS. Procurement heads are dangling the notion of GBS in front of their bosses as a strategy to move up the proverbial value chain. Newcomers to shared services and outsourcing are even christening their first forays into consolidated business models as GBS. The chatter has become so pervasive, it’s starting to sound like cicadas mating in the summer.
If you take a cynical view of GBS, it’s almost as if changing the name of the processes and systems that serve the business, and putting as much of them as possible under one organisation will magically create new prestige and impact. With a new moniker, and more scope, will CXOs will suddenly be clamouring for GBS leaders—whose calling card is adept cost containment, reasonable customer service, some level of stakeholder management, and a track record of process excellence to join them, putting their two cents into every strategic decision.
But does organising under the banner GBS elevate the importance of business operations execution, making it more strategic? Will knitting services together really earn a seat at the corporate high table? Or is the value that business services ultimately delivers to the enterprise remain reliable, out of sight/out of mind operations? And, by the way, that’s no mean feat. As process operations become more sophisticated and industrialised, it not only increases cost-effectiveness, but boosts agility.
Any good corporate leader or manager aspires to create value for his or her organisation. There’s no doubt that the roles we variously group within shared services, sourcing or outsourcing leadership have as their mission to deliver consistent and predictable business processes that underpin operations to a range of corporate stakeholders by manipulating the levers consolidation, standardisation, process improvement, sourcing and technology enablement. But isn’t creating a reliable operating platform that delivers the ultimate means to an end – providing better service to the organisation so that they can get on with the business of being strategic good enough? What’s unimportant about taking over the management of the tasks critical to corporate operations to the next level, increasing efficiency and effectiveness, by performing them on a silent running basis?
There’s a difference between execution value and strategic value. I suspect that corporate leadership will look to GBS in any of its iterations as operations, not strategic direction; in fact, troll the internet for mention of GBS and the entries supports that observation: “GBS optimises the mix of resources, process acumen, and technology to deliver… services on an enterprise-wide basis to support business strategy” according to HfS Research. That’s still pretty important stuff.
It comes down to one word: service. The root of both service and servant is the same. Servants don’t dine with their families, and I’d posit that those who provide service don’t have a seat at the top table.