At the very beginning of 2020, we launched our Pinnacle Model analysis focused on innovation in shared services centers (SSCs)…also referred to as Global In-house Centers (GICs). This ground-breaking research identifies the characteristics of Pinnacle GICs™ – those global shared services centers that stand apart from others for their business outcomes and capability maturity. We study these best-of-the-best GICs to identify common trends among them, including the differentiated capabilities they’ve built to support and drive enterprises’ innovation agendas, and the best practices they’ve adopted to enable the desired transformation and overcome any operational challenges. Here’s a look at two of the top trends we’ve identified thus far from our current analysis of leading GICs spread across offshore and nearshore geographies.
Time to achieve the expected ROI
Realizing fast return on investment (ROI) is key to making an innovation agenda a win-win for both SSCs and their parent organizations. A quick ROI enables the GIC to gain the influence it needs to serve as an end-to-end innovation strategic partner to the parent enterprise. Our emerging findings show that approximately 90 percent of GICs/SSCs achieve expected ROI in less than 24 months. If you’re a GIC leader, you can confidently use this number to boost your parent enterprise’s confidence in further leveraging your team and its capabilities to drive its innovation agenda.
Extent of external ecosystem collaboration
GICs have a unique combined insider’s and market view that enables them to provide strategic insights to orchestrate enterprise-wide innovation. Our emerging analysis shows that Pinnacle GICs have invested extensively in and partnered with start-ups and academic institutions to source innovation ideas across their product and services portfolio. They leverage these partners across various stages of the innovation cycle, particularly in the idea generation and concept testing stages. Additionally, Pinnacle GICs strongly embrace start-ups to help drive an innovation-focused culture across the entire organization. We’re winding down our analysis of GICs’ innovation journeys and would love to incorporate your views into our report. Please click here to participate in this study. When we’ve finished our analysis, we’ll send you a complimentary report that will show you where you stand relative to the industry’s crème de la crème.
Companies today hold all business functions to a mandate for innovation. Innovation should create business value (a better experience for employees, customers, and partners). It should create agility and speed. It should make business functions more easily adaptable, easier to change. And it should also lower the cost of the functions over time. The benefits are clear and obvious. But the truth is innovation is illusive and hard to get. Read more in my blog on Forbes
As we presented in a recent blog, shared services centers (SSCs) – or what we refer to as Global In-House Centers (GICs) – must create their own innovation team to support their parent enterprises’ innovation agenda. But how should you structure your team to yield the desired outcomes?
Innovation maturity and mandate
You should start by determining your SSC’s innovation maturity and mandate. The maturity is determined by the strength of your existing internal capabilities, including talent, technology, and culture; the involvement and support you require from leadership; the primary focus area of the innovation, e.g., generate revenue, reduce costs, or mitigate risks; and the impact generated by your innovation initiatives e.g., dollar value of costs saved or revenues generated. The innovation mandate is outlined by the level of ownership and visibility for innovation initiatives; the extent of cross-collaboration between business units / functional teams; and overall alignment of your SSC with the parent enterprise’s structure and business model. Once you’re armed with that information, you can select one of the three SSC, or GIC, innovation team structures most prevalent today, based on the guidelines we present below.
Types of SSC innovation team structures
SSCs with low-to-medium maturity and innovation mandate
If this describes your SSC, you’ll do best with a centralized structure in which your parent enterprise drives the innovation and you have limited involvement. This structure allows the parent company to have greater control and ownership, and prevents the GIC’s low maturity from being an obstacle. Many organizations prefer this structure, as it enables faster implementation of enterprise-wide and business model-related innovations, promotes standardization, and improves governance of innovation initiatives. However, many SSCs are reluctant to operate in this structure, as it presents limited opportunities for them to breed an in-house culture of innovation and deliver higher-level transformational value.
SSCs with moderate-to-high maturity and innovation mandate in a specific domain
The best fit for these SSCs is a business unit-or functional team-led innovation structure. This allows the parent enterprise to adopt a decentralized innovation approach, enable direct communication and visibility between the SSC and business unit or functional stakeholders, leverage innovation teams placed within the GIC’s business units or functional teams, and provide better alignment on domain-specific end-business objectives. Key success factors include regular mentoring by the parent’s teams to build strong future-ready GIC leadership, and direct communication channels between SSC and business unit stakeholders.
SSCs with high overall maturity and innovation mandate
For GICs that fall into this category, a dedicated innovation team in which responsibility for innovation is fully in its hands works best. This structure allows the GIC to take more ownership of proposing and prototyping new, innovative solutions, and equips it with capabilities to better respond to enterprise-wide requirements. Achieving the right balance of ownership, accountability, and investment is the key to successfully implementing this structure and making it a win-win for both SSCs and parent enterprises. It enables the SSC to reach its true potential and gain recognition as a thought leadership partner and empowers the parent to implement innovation initiatives with relative ease and replicate best practices across business units and functions. Because every company’s innovation structure is inherently different, GIC leaders need to thoroughly investigate each of the models and decide on the most appropriate one based on their GICs’ overall maturity and mandate. If you’d like detailed insights and real-life case studies on how SSCs are driving their enterprises’ innovation agenda, please read our report Leading Innovation and Creating Value: The 2019 Imperative for GICs. In upcoming blogs, we’ll be discussing ways you can promote innovation and increase its impact in your shared services. Stay tuned!
In order to evolve from cost enablers to strategic partners that can drive competitive advantage, shared services centers (SSCs) – what we call Global In-House Centers (GICs) – must support their parent enterprises’ innovation agenda. And whether innovation means one, more, or all of the following to their enterprise, SSCs are quickly recognizing that creation of their own innovation team is one of the key ways they can deliver on that strategic requirement.
Types of innovation initiatives
What is an innovation team?
An innovation team is a group of dedicated resources mandated to evangelize innovation within the organization. The members typically have innovation-specific competency and relevant experience, and are unrestricted by business-as-usual constraints. While ad-hoc or informal innovation teams used to be the norm in most GICs, the forward-thinking ones realize that a formalized approach is becoming essential for long-term success.
SSCs’ innovation teams influence strategy, capabilities, and culture
Based on our discussions with and analysis of around 800 GICs spread across offshore geographies, we’ve grouped innovation teams’ focuses and capabilities into three areas.
Shaping the enterprise’s overall innovation strategy
SSC’s innovation teams help shape their enterprise’s innovation agenda by enabling decisions on key themes such as: improving the process/product/service mix, enhancing the customer/employee experience, and revamping the business model; impact areas like cost savings, risk management, and revenue generation; and innovation partnerships with start-ups, academic institutions, etc. For example, one GIC’s innovation team was given a mandate to ideate and develop innovative solutions/products to better engage customers. It led all the stages of the innovation journey (from ideation and concept testing to detailed design and development) to develop the enterprise’s flagship mobile payments app.
Enhancing capabilities by improving skills, tools, infrastructure, and technology
SSCs’ innovation teams support and lead capability and ecosystem development. Areas they become involved in include setting up the physical work environment including innovation labs, garages, and digital pods, and developing new methodologies, frameworks, and tools. For example, one GIC we work with – that of a leading U.S.-based financial services firm –assisted in development of a cloud-based, compliant platform for instant communication and content sharing. The platform is used by more than 20,000 employees across the organization for real-time collaboration.
Fostering a culture of innovation
Beyond their primary responsibilities of supporting core, business-as-usual activities, GICs’ innovation teams often serve as “innovation champions” or “innovation ambassadors” to shine a spotlight on best practices and key pitfalls to avoid. These teams primarily consist of employees embedded within the GIC’s business units/functional teams, and focus on domain-specific innovation. This enables direct development of an innovation culture in delivery teams. For example, in one insurance company’s GIC, the innovation team is mandated with promoting innovation at the grassroots level. So, it organizes trainings, workshops, and competitive events.
Innovation team make-up
At a broad level, innovation teams are comprised of the following key roles:
Innovation champions: Leadership members (typically C-level executives, and functional/business unit heads) for providing strategic guidance
Program managers: Senior management members and/or dedicated managers for driving innovation programs/projects
Process experts/technologists: Experts with deep knowledge of product, technology, and tools
Strategists: Typically, tenured senior resources with extensive experience with innovation programs and solid domain knowledge.
Of course, some SSC’s also include other roles, some very niche and company-specific, in their innovation teams.
Size your innovation team to your specific needs
Our research found that SSCs’ innovation teams are typically comprised of five to 20 dedicated FTEs, spread across the enterprise and the SSC. A relatively small number of GICs have 20-50 or more FTEs that are specifically part of their innovation team. While most GICs have a lean innovation team, we encountered multiple instances of recently bulked-up teams. Interestingly, there is a limited co-relationship between revenue/size of the SSC’s parent enterprise and the size of its innovation team. What tends to impact the size of the innovation team is the extent of the innovation focus, the level of innovation maturity, existing structures for driving innovation, and broader business requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. When designing your SSC’s innovation team, you should start by determining what aligns well with the existing structure and caters to evolving innovation needs. You can customize its size and composition once it’s up and running.