Vivek Bhatia
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Vivek Bhatia

Shared Services Centers and the Myth of Scale | Blog

By | Blog, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

Shared Services Centers (SSCs) – what we refer to as Global In-house Centers (GICs) – need to achieve breakeven to be financially viable. The breakeven equation is straightforward: the point at which total labor arbitrage (the average difference in labor cost between the SSC and a center at home) is equal to the SSC’s run cost (all non-labor costs such as facility rent, utilities, training, recruitment, travel, and other miscellaneous costs.)

Conventional wisdom says that that only large centers with a minimum of 1,000 FTEs can achieve breakeven. But that’s old-school thinking, and old-world reality.

We analyzed the breakeven point for 850 GICs in today’s digital world across a variety of factors, including the scope and complexity of services delivered, locations leveraged, and employee profiles. And we found that even an SSC with as few as 25 FTEs can be financially viable if it is delivering high-end, judgment-intensive services.

The rise of small SSCs/GICs

In the last three years, the average SSC scale, as measured by the number of FTEs, has declined by about 60 percent.

Why are we seeing this significant increase in small-scale centers? Several reasons:

  • Lower barriers to entry: Technology advancements facilitate better collaboration and knowledge transfer among leadership and peers
  • More robust ecosystem: Better infrastructure, access to a large talent pool with relevant technical and functional skills, and multiple professional services firms to provide on-ground support
  • Lower cost: Easier access to cost-competitive real estate, and wider availability of talent with the relevant functional, and managerial skills.

Today, it’s not about scale…it’s about alignment with the broader sourcing strategy

Ever since the inception of the SSC model, enterprises have been relying on their centers to improve products, processes, customer and employee experiences, build high-value skills, and drive operational excellence. But in today’s environment, scale no longer matters. Why? Because some of the main levers for SSC success, such as enhancing cultural integration, accelerating the strategic agenda (e.g., innovation, digital transformation), facilitating cross-functional collaboration, and promoting process ownership, are scale-agnostic.

Today, the decision on whether or not to establish a delivery center must be based on how it aligns with the enterprise’s broader sourcing strategy. In particular, enterprises should assess whether the SSC/GIC can help them:

  • Retain and strengthen in-house capabilities, especially for core intellectual property intensive work
  • Develop tighter integration (better control and governance) and stronger alignment on culture and brand
  • Accelerate the adoption of digital and other disruptive technologies such as automation, analytics, and artificial intelligence.

The next time you’re thinking about setting up a new SSC/GIC, don’t let the scale of the center – or lack thereof – stop you from exploring the possibilities!

Shared Services Set-up Success: Intent is as Important as Execution | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

Clients considering establishing a shared services center – or what we refer to as a Global In-house Center (GIC) – to deliver services, almost invariably ask us how successful the model is and whether it delivers on the expected business impacts.

To set the stage for answering the first question – how successful is the model? – the following chart shows that the number of new annual GIC set-ups has increased from <100 centers in 2015 to 145 centers in 2017, indicating a preference by companies to join the DIY bandwagon.

Shared Services Set-up Success Intent is as Important as Execution blog - GICMultiple factors contribute to this DIY trend, including: the need/desire to take a digital-first approach to service delivery; capacity/growth constraints in onshore locations; challenges with service provider performance; increased adoption of agile/DevOps; pressure to replicate the success of early adopters; and focus on end-to-end ownership in internal delivery.

Related: Is a Bigger Shared Services Center (or GIC) Always Better Performing? Maybe Not

But that chart only tells part of the pervasiveness story. While it would be reasonable to state that the primary adopters of the GIC model are large enterprises, almost half of the new centers set up since 2014 have been established by small (USD <1.5 billion revenue) and mid-sized (USD <10 billion revenue) enterprises.  This adoption – seen across technology, telecom, manufacturing, healthcare, and BFSI verticals – reflects that small and small and medium enterprises recognize the successes the large organizations in their sectors have achieved with the model. By all accounts and measures, it’s clear that use of GICs is becoming truly broad-based.

Related: Learn more about Everest Group’s Shared Services Center capabilities

Expected Business Impacts

Here are a few examples of the business impact real-world GICs are delivering beyond arbitrage.

  • Improve Customer Experience – a European insurance firm’s GIC developed a mobile app for auto insurance customers; the app has reduced claims turnaround time from 2-5 days to 3-6 hours
  • Drive Innovation – a leading snacks company’s GIC developed an app for selling in-store displays to retailers; the app has reduced the rejection rate by 20 percent
  • Contribute to Revenue – a financial services firm’s GIC has helped increase product revenue by 17 percent through analytics on product positioning in the retail market
  • Drive Operational Excellence – a leading bank’s GIC has delivered savings of ~40 percent with substantial reduction in end-to-end delivery time for the customer by deploying robotic process automation
  • Reduce Errors – a leading financial institution’s GIC has improved the commercial lending analytical models, resulting in identification of additional US$15 million worth of deals that would otherwise have been ignored.

Getting Intentional with Business Impacts

Of course, the only way to ensure business impact beyond arbitrage is by intentionally establishing the GIC to deliver business impact.

For example, we’re currently supporting a global investment management firm through the “impact-first” approach to its GIC set-up. Instead of starting operations with low-value transactional processing, the GIC will predominantly deliver high-end technology services to build tools and systems for quantitative research. The talent model is skill-centric, not scale-centric, and geared to build high-end skills in a sustainable manner. And because a key enabler of delivering business impact is ownership, the GIC will have end-to-end delivery ownership and a seat at the parent’s table to shape its evolution journey from the beginning. All these intentional actions will give the GIC a head-start in delivering business impact, and enable it to leapfrog its more tenured peers.

Overall, having an intentional approach during set-up can significantly influence and enhance the type of business impact the GIC delivers, and how soon it kicks in. And a well-thought-out approach is more likely to keep the expectations from the GIC in check, and its performance assessment objective.

Have you taken an intentional business impact approach with your GIC? Please share your experiences with us at aditya.verm[email protected] or [email protected].  To learn more about how we serve GICs, click here.

Commercial Options for India GIC Setups | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Onshoring, Shared Services/Global In-house Centers

There are two primary commercial options – or export-oriented schemes – available to GICs looking to export IT/ITES services from India. One is setting up a 100 percent Export Oriented Unit (EOU) under the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme. This allows operations to be carried out from any location in the country. The other is setting up a delivery center in a specified, demarcated, duty-free enclave called a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). These offer additional economic benefits (e.g., tax holiday) in lieu of positive net foreign exchange earnings from the export of IT/BP services.

Which option is best for your company? Read on to learn the differences, the trade-offs, and the variables you should factor into your decision.

The Major Differences

  • Income tax holiday: SEZ units enjoy a graded income tax holiday period that translates to significant tax savings for a large-scale setup in India. The tax holiday incentive for STPI units expired in March 2011
  • Indirect tax benefits: both SEZ and STPI schemes provide custom duty exemption on imports of capital goods. However, SEZ units are also eligible for a “zero-rated” Goods and Services Tax (GST) that effectively decreases the cost input for domestically procured goods and services
  • Location: STPI units can set up operations in any location in the country. SEZ units are restricted to a designated area.

Key Decision Variables in Selecting SEZ or STPI

  • Financial attractiveness: SEZs outweigh STPIs in both direct and indirect tax incentives. Where cost savings are significant (e.g., a large-scale setup) and need to be prioritized, SEZ is a clear choice for many enterprises
  • Access to a broader ecosystem: Many SEZs offer a complete ecosystem, with easy access to commercial, residential, healthcare, and educational options. Further, SEZs offer quality infrastructure and business continuity planning advantages including:
    • Large reputed SEZs offer a more reliable supply of utilities including electricity, water, telecommunications, and overall security
    • The office space standards and building compliances (e.g., natural disaster preparedness) are typically more stringent in SEZs
  • Access to large talent pool: Given their size, SEZs offer ready access to a large, skilled talent pool with relevant technical, functional, and managerial skills. And the ecosystem often developed in and around SEZs is a significant attraction for the talent pool to work in them
  • Site and scale flexibility: STPI units provide far more location (e.g., financial district or central business district) and scale options than do SEZs. Many small-sized GICs tend to prefer this flexibility
  • Ease of compliance: Compliance and statutory reporting requirements in STPIs are relatively more lenient than in SEZs. For instance, introduction of GST has increased the compliance and record maintenance burden on SEZ units. Exiting SEZs may involve more scrutiny given the higher economic benefits involved.

SEZ vs STPI

How a Financial Services Firm Made the Decision

Everest Group recently supported a U.S.-headquartered financial services company looking to set up a small-scaled GIC in India to deliver high-end niche IT services. Our setup advisory team used a three-step process to ultimately recommend the right facility and commercial model to meet all the client’s requirements: outlining the space, handover timeline, and proximity to the central and/or secondary business districts; assessing potential savings in operating from an SEZ; and evaluating and scoring the additional pros and cons of shortlisted sites to make our final recommendation.

When we evaluated and scored the client’s “must-haves” — scope for expansion or relocation, access to social infrastructure, lower commute time, and proximity to talent hubs – against the limited SEZ options available, it became clear that an SEZ was not the right answer for the client.

Thus, we recommended that the client go ahead with an STPI option in a large IT business park, and register the unit with the STPI to benefit from indirect tax benefits. This option allows the client to take advantage of all the business park’s large talent pool, marquee tenant profile, social infrastructure, and other amenities, and gives it flexibility for any future expansion or potential relocation within or outside the business park.

More than 30 new GICs are set up in India annually, and half of these are first-time center setups. In order to ensure their success, the enterprises establishing these centers must take the time upfront to clearly understand their objectives and requirements against the trade-offs of SEZs and STPIs.