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Human powered Shared Services

What relevance do Shared Services have in business today? Where is the future of Shared Services heading? And what does it mean for our teams, customers and clients? These are the questions facing Shared Services that our 'Humanising the Future of Work' podcast explored. We wanted to take a closer look at Episode 2: Human powered Shared Services and pick out the key insights below.

What is a Shared Service?

In its simplest form a Shared Service is an organisational construct that starts with a group of people; that group of people will share a common way of working, delivery model and scope. Sharing their resource, technology and infrastructure across departments like IT, Facilities, and HR. Broadly it's an umbrella term for teams who offer internal services that boil down to the same thing, supporting colleagues in their daily tasks.

What does the future of Shared Services look like?

Shared services, by themselves, have been around for a long time. What's different now is companies need to make sure they have the workforce and skillsets to provide an integrated service. Coupled with the fact that expectations around user experience and functionality have also increased. This means Shared Service helpfulness, interfaces, and response times need to cater for the next generation of employees.

Ultimately, there are three strategic pillars to base the future of an organisation's Shared Services around, which are:

1. Experience

An outcome-driven centralised organisation that is made up of networked teams will provide richer and deeper insights. Those insights can then feed into the technology disruptors like AI and automation to overhaul and digitise existing models. Creating a system that is better organised and augmented around teams, adding a new level of personalisation. And its success will depend on how quickly and thoroughly an organisation can embrace and adapt to change.

2. Insight

Good insight has the power to modernise and transform agendas, challenging a broad range of technology, functions and process operations. It needs to be an organisations priority to harvest the correct data and analytics to see where Shared Services can add value higher up the chain. Acting as a strategic ecosystem and the bridge between technology and humans. Allowing for better, more proactive decision making so that issues are solved before they become problems.

3. Speed
As the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, most organisations are getting prepared for hybrid working. Where people want to be able to access Shared Services on their terms quickly. This means how these service layers are layered becomes increasingly essential to keep up with demand. So, the question is not whether you need to update or upgrade your Shared Service operations. It's how soon can you innovate and integrate the processes and technology.

What does it mean for teams?

Even before 2020, the shift toward a hybrid model of working was already underway. The pandemic has accelerated it, but in doing so, it has brought into question where work will be done in the future?

Historically, service centres have been physical structures and are usually placed in low-cost locations. Where productivity would have been monitored through walking the floor and watching for visual cues. Allowing leaders to take temperature checks on people, projects, processes and maintain high standards by influencing morale.

So, there needs to be some technology that supports teams and managers more, especially as video conferencing software like Zoom and Teams can only do so much. This is why the role of Shared Service Centres will be brought into focus. And it will be interesting to see how teams utilise the spaces they own and how often they use them. Particularly with direct reporting lines becoming rarer, it could mean talent availability has a significant influence on how and where Shared Services operates.

A hybrid model will undoubtedly impact the workforce and workplace, but in the short term, at least, Shared Service Centres are here to stay. Remember that for the last 20 to 30 years, talent pools and university graduates have been geared towards going to work. And that won't change overnight.

What does it mean for customers?

Most of the time, Shared Services customers want to solve an immediate and urgent problem. And much like any customer service function, it's all about demonstrating ownership of the issue and setting reasonable expectations. This means being clear about what to expect from an interaction with Shared Services and the next steps.

Sounds obvious and trivial, but the implications are massive. It's usually the first step towards building trust, rapport and keeping satisfaction high. Ultimately, when people are informed and understand the work in the background, they are immediately less anxious and more confident their query will be resolved.

And this is where self-service can come into a league of its own. Helping services and organisations run smoother, freeing up teams from frequently asked questions and routine queries. Yet, organisations should be wary and make sure their escalation system is fit for purpose. Once a query becomes unique or complicated, all trust and rapport will be lost if the customer needs aren't delivered quickly.

What does it mean for clients?

There's no doubt that when dealing with large numbers in centres and remote environments, the challenge will be to keep Shared Services seamless. So that, when anyone - customer or employee - engages with a Shared Service its technology is interactive and intuitive.

Striking the balance between human and machine should be the goal of all Shared Services. Where clients are thinking deeply about how the user experience provides a human touch. Appreciating there will, of course, always be a functional, transactional element. Still, it is also their responsibility to consider peoples human behaviours - keeping the person at the heart of the thinking and decision making behind Shared Services is so important.

While nobody has solved it yet, the journey to automation, artificial intelligence, and augmented technologies has begun. New Shared Service Solutions are inevitable, but hybrid models will coexist for some time yet. Though the trend is only going one way, clients and organisations should consider investment sooner rather than later.

The last word

Shared Services must be a priority for the Future of Work. That said, don't rush into implanting solutions. For sustainable transformation that fits your organisation's needs, suitable investment takes time. The big thing to recognise is that Shared Services are at the top of any organisations agenda and are seen as a powerful asset both internally and externally. Change doesn't have to happen immediately but if you identify the weakest areas first and prioritising investment systematically, you're more likely to decrease internal resistance and increase productivity quicker through incremental change – not wholesale.

For more Future of Work insights, check out our Humanising the Future of Work podcast

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