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Global In-house Center

Reduced Barriers for Small or Mid-Sized Firms Building Offshore Shared Service Centers | Blog

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

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.

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 [email protected] or [email protected].  To learn more about how we serve GICs, click here.