Historically, many companies have gone through channels to communicate about services and products with potential consumers. Insurance companies are a great example of this, as they typically go through broker-dealers, agents or wholesalers. But in today’s world where millennials and younger generations want to engage themselves in the buy, exclusively going through channels is not acceptable. Ideally, these consumers look for an e-platform, an experience on their phone or the Internet in which to engage. They like to do the research themselves and like to make their own decisions. But for companies, providing this kind of experience to consumers is far more complicated than it seems at first.
The role of CPOs and their organizations grew over the last 10 to 15 years by institutionalizing consistent disciplines in acquiring products and services. There is no doubt that they made a strong contribution to the earnings of organizations. But in the context of digital technologies and services, the nature of the buying process is changing. Thus, digital transformation poses an existential threat to CPO organizations.
The importance of corporate CPO organizations was based on the foundation that there was tremendous value in introducing consistent disciplines in acquiring products and services. This resulted in a practice of “three bids and a buy,” which is the practice for most current purchasing vehicles and the classic request for proposal process in the case of third-party services. Most products and services, particularly for indirect spend, now are shepherded under the domain of the CPO organization.
The shared services market is growing quickly. US and European firms are either expanding their existing shared service centers (also referred to as “Global in-house Centers” (GICs)) or building new centers. Let’s look at what’s happening and the factors that are driving the growth.
Since the inception of offshored shared services, sometimes referred to as “Global In-house Centers” (GICs), the underlying assumptions were that (a) size matters and (b) the choice of functions (transactional, scale-driven processes) was a driver for gaining offshoring benefits. But the world has changed. The size and functions constraints no longer pose a barrier to entry when building offshore shared services centers.
The assumption that size matters developed because of the complexities and long learning curves in building centers offshore, including:
- Finding leadership
- Negotiating for real estate
- Navigating complex tax regulations
- Understanding cultural differences for talent management
- Navigating the complex telecommunications labyrinth
- Technology barriers to effective collaboration
- Building institutional knowledge about how to transfer work at scale to an offshore party.
These complexities required a minimum level of scale for offshore shared services to justify the investment and deliver value.
In 2019, most of these challenges no longer exist or pose a high barrier for building a new shared service center as they did a few years ago. Several factors evolved to expand opportunities for building shared service centers of all sizes.
For example, sophisticated leadership is readily available. Today, in India or the Philippines, there is a large pool of executives that have successfully built and run shared service units or GICs. When you hire them, they can quickly assemble a complete team across all dimensions to equip a new shared service center.
Likewise, the complexity and difficulty in finding and securing real estate is now dramatically simpler. Offshore facilities today can rely on improved infrastructure and connectivity. Facilities are readily available and often already furnished with real estate brokers ready and able to facilitate the transactions. There is a broad market acceptance that India and the Philippines have good hotels and retail facilities, good food, are safe, and have good air transport.
Advisors now understand the tax treaties. Accountants and lawyers know how to construct the appropriate legal entities (e.g., LLPs vs. wholly owned subsidiaries) and structure them to be tax and compliance efficient. They also understand the government entities and licensing and are eager to assist new entrants.
The services industry’s current level of maturity enables successful practices based on past lessons learned for offshore shared service centers. The philosophies and methodologies to transfer work and run the work effectively are widely available with training available for the uninitiated. Today, we understand the role of the center and how to integrate it with the parent organization. Furthermore, we now have technology tools and collaboration platforms that facilitate remote workforce management.
So, the barrier to entry, which was prevalent earlier, now is dramatically lower. Today, it’s much easier and cheaper to start a new center. This results in two areas of growth for shared service centers:
- Small to mid-sized organizations
- Larger firms moving away from third-party services
Small to Mid-sized Organizations
In the past, companies needed to spread the learning curve and expense over a large number of FTEs and many functions. In addition, technology platforms enable better collaboration, thus dramatically reducing dependence of colocation. These factors change the return on investment or viability of small entities.
Now that the need to scale is reduced, companies can get a strong return, even for sometimes as few as 50 seats, depending on the function. They can also make a significant impact to EBIDTA for their parent companies, even at a much smaller scale.
The reduced scale factor dramatically changes the landscape in which companies can, and should, consider having an offshore facility. Until now, the prevailing wisdom was that companies sized at $50 million to $2 billion were too small to tap into having their own shared service center and must, instead, go through third parties. Everest Group’s market benchmarking reveals that almost half the new shared service centers set up since 2014 were established by small (<$1.5 billion revenue) and mid-sized (<$10 billion revenue) enterprises. Today, with the lower barrier to entry and reduced scale factor, even a small $50 million firm (depending on what the services involve) could and should confidently look at building its own offshore shared service capability.
Clearly, the economics change significantly, depending upon the function or skill set the company seeks to acquire. The highest return is in IT engineering functions and areas such as analytics. But even the threshold for corporate functions is dramatically shifting for shared services with 100-150 people.
Looking at the relative market penetration of GICs or offshore shared services in the $50 million to $2 billion marketplace, it’s clear that only a very small proportion of these firms are taking advantage of this now-affordable and high-return mechanism. The reduced barrier to entry and reduced scale factor suggests that these firms should now pay attention; as they do, we could well see an explosion of small shared service entities being established offshore.
Larger Firms Shifting Away from Third Parties
The shift in economics also impacts larger firms, leading them away from third-party service providers and opting for the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement. We’re seeing rapid growth of the number of new shared service centers as well as the growing size of the shared service or GIC communities in locations such as India, the Philippines and Eastern Europe.
The offshore shared services market is growing rapidly for companies of all sizes. The earlier constraints for entry and need for large scale are no longer a factor. In fact, the constraint facing firms today is one of mind-set, not of ability.
Digital transformation disrupts the way companies create value that improves the customer, employee or partner experience. But it involves a multiyear journey and changing a company’s operating model, which is painful and difficult. Building executive and organizational conviction on the vision for what the transformation is and sustaining it over a three-to-five-year journey requires thinking differently about business transformation and its challenges. Let’s look at the “moments that matter” in how your company must handle challenges on that journey and sustain the conviction that the pain is worth it.
Digital transformation is sweeping through businesses, giving rise to new to new business models, new and different constraints, and presenting a need for more focused organizational attention and resources in a new way. It is also upending the C-suite, bringing in new corporate titles and functions such as the Chief Security Officer emerge, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer. These new roles seemingly pose an existential threat to existing roles – for example, the CIO.
Over the last year, it seemed that CIOs faced an existential threat. This threat was coming from new roles – Chief Digital Officer, Chief Security Officer, Chief Data Officer – as well as the business becoming more and more involved in digital transformation, and looking to inject its influence into IT.
It even got to the point early on last year, where there were questions as to whether or not the CIO’s role would continue, or would it dissolve or devolve into these different roles.
During the course of the year, we investigated this, and have come up with a strong point of view that in fact, the CIO has survived this challenge, redrawn its charter, and has emerged as a very powerful and sustaining executive role in the organization.
You know, in this new charter, what we find is there is no other executive in the organization that has the breadth of vision across all the different operating parts of the organization or the depth of resources to be able to deliver on digital transformation and support the new digital operating models that are emerging – leaving the CIO as the natural place for this responsibility to stay in.
And the new breed of CIO, therefore, is redrawing their charter to support this new vision. Now, redrawing this charter is not easy, and it requires substantial changes in organization, IT organization, as well as a substantial commitment to deepen the relationship with both the business and the board so that the CIO in the organization can play this transformative role.
I look forward to hearing from you this year on how your progress toward this new charter and your experiences as you build this very important role in your organization.
When your company undertakes digital transformation, undoubtedly a primary activity will be building a digital platform. As digital transforms companies, their digital platform becomes a differentiator. Building your platform is a crucial activity, as it will enable your company to change to a new digital operating model, and that model is how your company will create new value and new competitive positioning. But digital operations and technologies are still new and evolving quickly, and the business world lacks 10-20 years of experience and benchmarking data that could help your company determine the effectiveness of your platform’s performance. This is one of the reasons so many initiatives fail. To avoid that risk, let’s look at how to understand whether your digital platform will deliver your intended outcome.
Digital transformation gives companies new opportunities to change their competitive position. Typically, the objective for using powerful digital technologies is to create new value that changes the customer experience, the employee experience or the ecosystem partner experience. However, executives become frustrated when they need to communicate to their boards or peers on how quickly they can deliver on the promises of digital transformation. We live in a world of instant gratification, agile methodologies and sprints. This leads to an impression that a company can quickly achieve a new competitive position in the marketplace or quickly get meaningful benefit from the investments. Inconveniently, this impression is not the truth.
DXC Technology yesterday announced its acquisition of Luxoft, a global-scale digital innovator with world-class digital talent. I think this is an interesting acquisition, not only from a services industry perspective but also from the perspective of benefits to enterprise customers undertaking digital transformation.