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Future of Global Business Services

Catalyst for enterprise digital transformation

Can cross-functional, cross-regional models such as global business services (GBS) be catalysts for enterprise-wide digital transformation?

Business leaders are grappling with this question in the face of unprecedented change—growing connectivity, competition, and consumer power—while the case studies are out there. At the heart of it all is an understanding of what is meant by “digital,” and spoiler alert, it’s more than tools and devices.

Customised experiences. Predictive insights. Unparalleled speed

Digital isn’t a technology. It’s a strategy.

Cross-functional and global organisational models such as global business services (GBS) are becoming more relevant in fostering and enabling enterprise-wide change. GBS provides improved access to cross-functional data, draws talent from dispersed business units and regions, and shifts focus to customer service and continuous improvement. This creates an ideal position from which to incubate new ideas and lead digital business transformation, which is about having:

  • The right strategy
  • Appropriate processes and governance
  • A different kind of talent and culture to support becoming digital


Three impact areas of digital:


  • Personalisation
  • Accessibility
  • Collaboration/engagement


  • Data/information availability
  • Proactive decision making
  • Creativity/innovation


  • Agility 
  • Standardisation and integration
  • Automation 

Why digital?

The world is changing so dramatically that real-time, customised experiences with predictive insights at unparalleled speed are becoming the norm. To what end? The goal is to drive operating costs down to better fuel and sustain growth. Today, winners and losers are differentiated by their ability to thrive in uncertainty while balancing costs and growth.

As humans, we’ve been generating insights from our experiences and information throughout our history. What has changed is the speed at which the underlying assumptions of businesses are being threatened...creating a need for agility and decision-making at unprecedented speeds.

Growing competition and consumer power have eroded traditional product-based advantages, forcing companies to shift to a new battlefield: experience. This requires integration across the enterprise to demonstrate value at every touchpoint with both customers and employees, delivering an experience that’s personalised yet consistent—no matter where or how we access it.


Who can “make digital happen?”

The world around us is becoming more intuitive. Yet most organisations continue to be burdened by structures and practices that were developed more than a hundred years ago. Deloitte, in cooperation with MIT Sloan Management Review, conducted a study on digital maturity, in which almost 50 percent of the executives interviewed felt they didn’t have the right structure or practices to achieve digital maturity.

How does an organisation attain digital maturity? What data do we need to effect change? Where is the data? Who in the organisation, or outside of it, has the vision and capabilities to engineer a drive toward digital maturity? The answers are out there.

Many organisations successfully pursuing digital maturity leverage GBS or GBS-like models. Might GBS grow from “providing them what they ask for” to being a core business element, delivering proactive insights, enabling a consistent experience for end customers, providing a testing ground for innovation, and being a strategic asset to enable the digital ecosystem?

How to make it happen

It’s hard to enable digital for the enterprise without embracing digital within GBS. Traditional investments in technology have focused on solving specific problems or enhancing a given function. Since digital is about looking at the big picture and embracing the chance to rethink everything, it’s vital to assess and understand your GBS as well as the broader organisation’s digital maturity and readiness for taking the next steps. It’s important to carefully assess maturity across four key elements, as each relates to the three impact areas discussed earlier, to determine where you are today, where you want to be, and the actions needed to get there. Reflecting on and placing your “today” and “tomorrow” on the maturity spectrum is critical in determining the kind of journey to undertake and the role GBS could play―incubator, center of excellence (CoE), or full-service provider.

What does the journey look like?

Becoming “digital” is about achieving a level of exponential connection that can shape or reshape every aspect of business and operations. Leading GBS organisations embrace the challenge as an opportunity. They’re clear about the characteristics of the digital impact they need to create. By identifying the right level of maturity and enabling movement in that direction, they will ultimately create capacity to do “more with less” and drive down operating costs to reinvest in growth.

Digital operating models of high-performing GBS organisations lower operating costs to fuel and sustain growth. It’s a business transformation journey that requires answering some hard questions as part of deliberate self-reflection.

You must consider where you are today and where you’d like to go. And this must align with the overall vision and strategy of you company.

Wooden bridge go to mangrove forest; Shutterstock ID 132000398; PO: LPX15962-01-01-0000; Job: Potentials for; Other:  Alexa Steinberg

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