The shift to Global Business Services – Part 2

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The move to a Global Business Service (GBS) model has some interesting effects on the finance function. According to the ACCA report, Global business services: a game changer for the finance organisation, GBS is evolving into a genuinely different way to attack back office delivery cross-functional, under single management and reconfigured processes to cut across functions, to deliver an enhanced level of value to the enterprise. For the finance organisation, the GBS model fundamentally represents not only a further refinement in both scope and scale but notably, it essentially becomes GBS’ customer. No longer does finance run its own operations; it has the opportunity to leverage investment facilities, technology and infrastructure in concert with other GBS functions. No longer are finance operations run vertically: its processes are now linked and governed with other enterprise-wide tasks in more efficient ways.

While this shift can create exceptional value for the organisation as a whole, as well as the finance function itself, making the change work in the finance function needs to be carefully mapped out and managed. To do this, the change drivers in the finance function need to ask the following key questions:

  1. How fast or how slow should the organisation move?

The ACCA report, Transformation challenges in finance sums it up perfectly. “There is no recipe when it comes to the velocity and extent of change; leaders approach finance transformation in various ways, depending upon the institutional, contextual and structural markers that characterise their organisations.” Essentially there are two speeds – revolution or evolution. The benefit of revolution is getting everyone on board quickly which has the potential to decrease debate and confusion and get everyone working. However, revolution is expensive and demands that adequate resources are invested in making the necessary changes. Evolution, according to Unisys’s Chris Gunning, “Is size and scale dependent. Not every organisation has the wherewithal to create a revolution. If there is no money, it’s a matter of delivering small, quick wins to build credibility.”

  1. What is the best step forward?

This is a critical question in changing to GBS. In order for any organisation to determine a firm starting point, those leading the change need to look at their organisation in terms of size, geography and culture. For instance, Anirvan Sen of Chazey Partners looks at size as a key factor, saying, “For us, it’s a matter of getting started in areas big enough to deliver some early wins.” Describing how their organisation handled transformation, John Ashworth of Pearson says, “We sequenced in the right cultural order.” Size, geography and culture are key factors in determining an organisation’s first step.

  1. Old hand or external expert?

Effective leadership drives successful change. Organisations need to examine whether its current leadership holds adequate expertise to drive the change to GBS. The question of whether to bring in external experts or not greatly depends on the organisational context and the scale of the change. Whatever is decided, communication is always key, as is building and maintaining good working relationships both within leadership and between leadership as well as the rest of the stakeholders – whether leadership is ‘old hand’ or external expert.

  1. What does our corporate culture dictate?

One of the critical success factors in any change management programme, regardless of scale or model, is understanding the culture of an organisation. This means looking at the various demographics of your organisation. For instance, how many baby boomers, gen XY and noughties does the organisation have? How does each of these segments react to change and how can the organisation then guide them appropriately? How do the employees of the organisation in different countries adopt change and how does the organisation tailor its change management programme to accommodate them?

Once these four questions have been answered, it will be easier to create an effective change management programme for the move to a Global Business Service model that actually takes the people of the organisation into consideration along with the strategic reasons for the shift, and the processes and programmes that will effectively drive the shift.

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