The Shared Services model has been a great success story and people tell us that one of the most important keys to success is getting and keeping support from top management.
In the first of two articles about the people in Shared Services, Ian Herbert, Deputy Director, Centre for Global Sourcing and Services at Loughborough University, puts the tough questions about how to get the senior people to stay on-side to John Gregory, Global Finance Lead - Kellogg’s and Andrea Schaffell, VP EMEA Shared Services – Ricoh Europe.
Ian: The latest SSON survey suggests that people are a key issue in Shared Services and that resonates with the emphasis on communication and talent management that we see in our research. Fundamental to success is top management sponsorship. I’d be very interested to have your views on this – but first, could you start by telling us about your respective SSC journeys?
John: Thanks Ian. Yes, I’ve been in Shared Services in Kellogg’s now for around about 15 years, so I’m a one-company man, unlike Andrea, next to me, who will tell you a different story! I was the director of the SSC operations for Kellogg’s in Europe between 2000 and 2008. I went back into a wider business role in 2009 with a few projects in the US, but came back to the SSC the following year to build a Finance Centre of Excellence in Dublin. For the past two years I’ve been living in the US and running the finance GBS leg of our transformation project that has the objective to move Kellogg’s from what might be seen as some way behind our peer group, to hopefully being ahead of the game by the end of 2016.
Ian: That surprises me somewhat because Kellogg’s was always been seen as an early mover in Shared Services and has been a consistent contributor to the advancement of the movement generally, through participation in SSON events for example. Perhaps you could expand on that?
John: It’s true that we were early movers in creating Finance Shared Services in North America, Latin America and Europe in the late 1990s. However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t also a difficult time. We were pretty leading edge but I think that we actually suffered from being early movers in some ways. Don’t forget being first means that you’re going to make the mistakes first and we were also the company that people came to see to see how not to do it! It was a painful transformation. However, we took away some significant learnings, and over the time we got things stabilised and, indeed, became a valued partner for our various businesses across EMEA.
One consequence of getting the SSC operations under control and operating efficiently was that our senior leaders no longer saw a significant benefit with back-office transformation and so the SSO transformation paused – perhaps because there was a reticence to go further given the upheaval that the initial transformation caused. It took a number of years to get the appetite for additional change back, although we now have a strong drive and globally sponsored remit for change and are moving at speed!
“A key learning from that time was that, as the Shared Services lead, I needed to be better at marketing and, especially, at articulating a vision of what the next steps would be, making sure that the SSC was kept at the forefront of our sponsors’ minds.”
Global Finance Lead - Kellogg’s
Ian: Thanks. Andrea your experience is somewhat different?
Andrea: Yes, I’ve a slight different story from John although like him I’ve been in Shared Services since the late 1990s. I’ve worked with several different organisations in different stages of the journey and I’ve started up Shared Services, including Financial Shared Services in the US. Also, I’ve worked in multi-functional, global business service set-ups, and done a stint in consulting. Now I’m with Ricoh, running their Financial Shared Services across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
I think what is very interesting is that all the industries I’ve been in are very different to one another, yet the Shared Services is pretty much the same. So, although John’s been going through quite a journey at Kellogg’s, you can see those iterations speed up and slow down in other organisations, as well. Today, at Ricoh, I’m working through a new stage in our journey. The objective is to be a much more virtual organisation. We’ve got SSC bases in multiple countries, supporting Europe and South Africa, and we try to see how we can work together and think more about talent, and how we can manage this across the region - working together as one organisation.
Ian: John, could I ask you to elaborate on the issue of top management sponsorship that you touched upon. How do you keep the people in the front-line business on board?
John: I guess one of our key learnings was the value of sponsorship from the European leadership team when we set up the European SSCs. Obviously it was a big thing for us and fortunately that sponsorship largely stayed with us through the first phase of change to the end of 2002/2003. Whilst support started to wane a little when things got sticky, we managed to get the migration plan fully implemented and stabilised the operations. Less fortunate was that after we had got to Base 1, things started to drift as the senior people refocused on running the business again, and kind of lost interest in Shared Services. I think a key learning from that time was that, as the Shared Services lead, I needed to be better at marketing and, especially, at articulating a vision of what the next steps would be – making sure that the SSC was kept at the forefront of our sponsors’ minds. We needed to explain and to demonstrate exactly why there’s such great value in the Shared Services model, and how we could move to more of a value-adding type of operation. I think it’s fair to say that in those early days we probably didn’t sell that idea well enough.
Although the change process was painful at times, the learnings have been invaluable. It’s good to have a number of people on the team who carry scars from previous implementations as we move through the GBS transition. The remit is wide: HR, Supply chain, IT and Finance. We also have high-level sponsorship from a sub-group of our C-Suite, who are committed to helping us drive a huge change across our organization.
Ian: I reckon if I had a £1 for every time that I’d heard an SSC manager say ‘we have top management buy-in’ I’d be a good bit richer than I am today. What else should you be telling us?
John: Alright, you can get the top leaders involved but the real issues come when you take that down two or three levels from the C-Suite, and that’s what we’re working through now. It cannot be assumed that everyone in management has the same view as the top management team. But, again we’ve had to go through a learning process and I’m pretty confident in saying that the systems we’ve got in place at the moment are working. Let me explain.
“It’s not just about selling and marketing to your front-line operating divisions that you support, but it’s also selling to your SSC employees the importance of what they’re doing to help to support the overall company, and it’s very, very, challenging!”
Andrea Schaffell, VP EMEA Shared Services
First, we’ve undertake a high level risk assessment with our senior sponsor group which helps us to identify specific risk areas and risk categories that we might encounter as we go through the present transformation journey; we’re about halfway through it at the moment. In addition to that, we’re also identifying critical populations within the organisation that we need to connect and engage with. We need to make sure that they are all on board at the start and that they stay on board as we go through the change programme. We have developed an engagement plan to cover all of those critical populations (and individuals), which involves meeting with them regularly, and we make sure there’s an open forum for feedback. We found that right at the beginning of each project there can a pretty good level of buy-in to the idea from people in the business. But as we get into actually making changes, people can start to get a bit nervous. They get a bit jittery, so we need to keep communication channels open, engage frequently and address concerns early. This is quite intensive from a time commitment standpoint but is really working for us.
Ian: But, surely you can’t keep everyone happy?
John: Absolutely! Although we do try hard there are always going to be some people that we know are not aligned for what can be a variety of reasons. These people are much more difficult, and I haven’t got a panacea for how to tackle them. We do work hard to identify who they are and their background. The idea is to understand each one’s motivations /concerns and address these with them on an individual basis. Frankly, this does not always work and sometimes you have to work around or above a roadblock but we have managed to persuade the majority of our doubters of the benefits of GBS. Once we are through the transformation we will get back to showing the organisation the value that GBS can deliver on an on-going basis. Some of the future effectiveness benefits that we already have in the pipeline are certainly keeping the interests of our sponsors.
So, we’ve learnt a lot and we are still learning, but hopefully there are some ideas that we’ve sometimes painfully learned at Kellogg’s that will help people here, at whatever stage of their transformation journey they may be at.
Ian: Thank you very much. Andrea, it occurred to me as John was talking that he was describing an internal marketing project, in other words: identifying the stakeholders and the objectives and then actually selling it on the ground. But, in Shared Services, the people in the back office may work there because they’re not natural sales people. And whilst it’s important for the SSC management to continually convince the business that the SSC is still there and adding value – the same goes for every worker in the SSC. Any thoughts on that?
Andrea: I think many of us have worked in companies where there’s a central mandate to use Shared Services. In other words, the senior leadership has decided that Shared Services are the way forward, this is the right thing to do and this is what we are going to do. However, that doesn’t stop us from constantly having to sell the concept of the SSC and the service we provide.
And it’s not just about selling and marketing to your front-line operating divisions that you support, but it’s also selling to your SSC employees the importance of what they’re doing to help to support the overall company, and it’s very, very, challenging! I’ve worked in many companies that are very brand-oriented, and it’s hard when you take employees and pull them together in a Shared Services. Then you need to come up with your own brand that explains both the what and the who of the Shared Services in your organisation. Only then can you go out and share that vision with the rest of the company.
A clear idea of what the SSC stands for and how it’s trying to help the business brings everybody along, not just those challenging individuals who don’t want to do Shared Services. It also helps your employees to really focus on what’s exciting about the back office job that they’re doing and how they can contribute. But as for the selling aspect of it, I would say that it’s not incorrect to say that in the SSC we’re not natural marketers, and it’s then down to how we work with our PR and marketing departments. They can help you to craft some messages around what you want to do; for example, what is your vision? What is your mission? And how do you turn that around and really work with your business customers to express who you are? Why is what you’re doing right for the company as a whole? That’s when you can start to develop the idea of a brand for the SSC.
Ian: OK, thanks very much. I don’t often come across someone with the title of marketing communications in Shared Services but I did the other day, so I can see the way things are going! So here are some key learnings:
- Get top management on board and work hard to keep their interest.
- Also think about the next 2-3 levels down and have a plan to work with individuals that may not be as supportive.
- Accept that success is a two-edged sword and that management interest has to be refreshed even during the more stable/unexciting periods.
- Think of the SSC as a marketing project, everyone needs to be an ambassador but they need to understand the vision and their role in it.
- Ask the marketing experts for help.
By: Andrea Schaffell, Ricoh and John Gregory, Kellogg’s, from: http://www.ssonetwork.com/communication-culture/articles/tough-talking-two-veterans-of-the-shared-services/?utm_source=1-5990877975&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=SSON+IQ+-+Newsletter+-+July+21+2015+Americas&utm_term=Middle&utm_content=News&mac=SSON1-3D9ATS5&disc=