Or will it go the way of the woolly mammoth?
By Deborah Kops
Okay, a few global business services (GBS) models bit the dust last year, but as Mark Twain said when a newspaper printed his obituary, ‘the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’ Some pundits are saying that GBS is on a death watch because of the advances in digital, but these enfants terrible are posting such obituaries …having never taken the time to look under the covers. The truth is, digital alone won’t kill GBS, in fact far from it, but a suboptimal approach to people, process and technology could.
As much as we’d like to think that GBS has reached maturity and is hard-wired into our enterprise structure, it’s not. As a model, not a function, it is always subject to the vagaries of leadership direction, sponsorship, politics, personality…and don’t forget fear and loathing of substantive change.
Is GBS as an operating model endangered? Might be but shouldn’t be. The promise of GBS is predicated upon a sum-of-the-parts-is-greater-than-the-whole argument which we’ve printed on the tee-shirts; scale and scope justifies innovation, delivers experience and aligns stakeholders. Without the infrastructure that creates more value for the enterprise than efficiency and effectiveness for a function, it’s relatively easy for GBS to deconstruct into shared services. Over the past year, there have been a few quiet dis-assemblies; with focus, these should be the exception, not the rule.
With the pandemic as the impetus for unprecedented business transformation, it’s time for GBS leaders to take stock to see if they have the right stuff to create a sustainable model. Success closing the books and not missing an operating beat in the face of unprecedented disruption won’t necessarily create a sustainable GBS lovefest, future- proofing the model for all time. And the plague (I jest; I was one of them) of management consultants swarming around the C-suite might just question whether GBS creates incrementally more value than a simpler shared services model.
To see my GBS must-haves, read on:
GBS organizations that look like a rinse-wash-repeat cycle where the only change is more service coverage and the additional of a few more transactional processes are not future-proof. The lifecycle of a resilient GBS is a continuous cycle of challenge, recovery, change and transformation; maintaining continuity is no longer sufficient for survival. If tomorrow’s GBS looks like that of two years ago, the model will be called into question as to whether it is providing incremental value.
2. End-to-end delivery
When it comes to GBS resiliency, the complexity of end-to-end process delivery is its saving grace. It is difficult to deconstruct a GBS that operates end-to-end, up- and downstream across functions driven by accurate demand management (juxtaposition of what the business wants as well as needs) and linked by embedded automation that can’t easily be severed into functional silos.
3. Service layer management
It’s nice to see that our enterprises now aspire to create customer or employee experiences that not only delight, but also drive productivity. Don’t take this as an advert for ServiceNow or other similar apps, but when the GBS service delivery model is centralized across the enterprise with a singular customer experience and one catalog, it’s harder to justify a move back to shared services.
4. Comprehensive stakeholder engagement processes
Yes, it’s critical to invest in the primary reason to implement GBS—service delivery–but stakeholder engagement is equally as important—and it is a process, not a series of one-off events or interventions. In the majority of GBS organizations, there has been limited investment in a singular approach to business engagement—an overarching, synchronized initiative to engage with the business, consistently, creating a GBS brand, effective feedback loops, and one business solutions platform.
5. Intelligent, invisible service placement
Not to sound like I’m not a fan of transparency, but sometimes what GBS needs is a black box approach to the business. In the era of competent outsourcing providers, it should not matter who is delivering the service—captive or hybrid or fully sourced operations—as long as the GBS organization owns the customer interface, and ensures the service is delivered, at a minimum, to specification. When the business is allowed to call the shots relative to resourcing delivery, it’s hard to see GBS in much more than a governance role.
6. Pan-GBS operation measurement
One of the biggest challenges facing GBS organizations is the heavy dependence on process and functional metrics as opposed to developing GBS operations and journey metrics. Developing these metrics backed by data is hard work, especially without end-to-end processes and a single service management layer. Too few are able to properly justify what the enterprise may perceive as an additional layer of cost for unknown return.
7. Evolved talent models
Unfortunately, with a legacy of “your mess for less,” the resourcing North Star of most GBS organizations is minimum viable talent—in-or outsourced–at the most advantageous price point. But in a world where digital is changing the talent equation, any GBS that does not assemble specialized, future-ready talent from whatever source—in, out, interim or gig, is going to cement a reputation as a transaction factory.
8. Deep, visible leadership bench
Perhaps the biggest challenge to GBS resiliency is an organization that, in the eyes of stakeholders, is synonymous with the name of the leader, not the team. When that leader steps down, GBS organizations become easy pickings for a functional land grab, especially when enterprise leadership has not been exposed to anyone else of stature and competence across GBS as a business, and sees no viable successor.
So, if you are thinking that the alphabet soup of AI, RPA, NLG, and others will be the death knell for the GBS model–taking out the tedium of work, reducing cost, eliminating errors—I’d suggest you’re barking up the wrong tree. The digital revolution may displace some workers but won’t fundamentally destroy the model. More likely, the inability to implement interconnected people and processes with technology will ensure GBS won’t go the way of the woolly mammoth.