Should more shared services organisations adopt the global business services (GBS) model? | SSON Analytics

Despite global business services being the Holy Grail of service delivery, providing a maturity and sophistication of shared services that most can only aspire to, why is it that this model is still underutilised, according to SSON Analytics' data?

Global Business Services, or GBS – the integrated compilation of global service offerings for multiple support functions within a company – is the "Holy Grail" of service delivery, and the acronym most likely to lead to clicks when included in a headline. These three letters imply a maturity and sophistication of shared services that most can only aspire to. 

So, why are there still only 184 true GBS organisations in SSON Analytics’ database?

Plenty of reasons, as it turns out. Among other things, Global Business Services entails an authority and decision-making capability that extends across various country and regional demographics, as well as internal functions and administrative departments. And you don't need me to tell you that this presents a political minefield of sorts. In truth, the hurdles to implementing a global anything are significant. 

In a recent survey SSON conducted among Nordics-based shared services, nearly half the respondents confirmed that they were not currently moving towards GBS; and for the rest, the challenges named included establishing global process ownership, managing competing stakeholder claims or turf wars, and standardising delivery across regions.

Global business services model in shared services

Those tasks are not for the faint of heart.

In fact, these kinds of concerns mean that, of the 3,476 shared services organisations (SSOs) in SSON Analytics’ database, less than 200 currently qualify as having either embarked on or fully implemented Global Business Services. To provide a better context: that is just 5.3% of all SSOs.

SSON Analytics’ research team recently examined these GBS organisations to determine key characteristics around enterprise type, growth, and functions. In other words: what kind of companies are adopting a GBS strategy for service delivery, and what do these ‘services’ look like?

One of the most notable findings was that less than half of these GBS are fully implemented – in other words, six out of 10 are still in the "partial implementation" phase. The other key finding is that most GBS are run by enterprises with North American headquarters – and the kind of organisations that have the appetite and the commitment to take on global strategy like this are generally large (in excess of $10 billion annual revenue).

So, it would seem that size, or at least scale, matters.

But while overall implementations may be relatively few, GBS adoptions have also doubled since 2013, with the bulk of this growth represented by "partial" implementations. 

Evolution of global busicess services

 Source: SSON Analytics – Evolution of Global Business Services to 2017: The Story So Far

This growth is explained by the multiple advantages of the GBS model – namely, that it allows you to standardise services globally, position one individual as the process owner for all service delivery, and streamline technology implementations in support of efficiency and more effective service support. The benefits, apart from like-for-like support across global operations, include the ability to leverage best practices, and to analyse global transactional data for optimal resource allocation and to improve decision-making.

And yet, for many businesses, GBS is not the ideal solution. Even though enterprises may want to target "the best", the truth is that "just short of the best" may be absolutely good enough.

Global Business Services continues to dominate shared services’ headlines, with everybody trying to understand how to overcome implementation hurdles and how to qualify actual returns. In truth, you don't have to implement true "Global Business Services" to learn from and adopt some of the advantages of this model. Many organisations have evolved to a kind of halfway house of leveraging some of the characteristics (and therefore harvesting some of the wins) while avoiding the more sensitive issues associated with GBS implementation (and that is ignoring those centres that hang a GBS sign above their desks, professing a mature service delivery strategy, while having nothing more to show than a number of SSCs across a global landscape).

Note: SSON will be publishing a comprehensive GBS report later this year, referencing SSON Analytics’ data, and featuring indepth research with GBS leaders. Keep an eye out for the publication of this report online.

For more information, see SSON Analytics’ Evolution of Global Business Services to 2017: The Story So Far.

This interactive report identifies 184 shared services organisations (SSOs) that have embarked on their Global Business Services (GBS) journey. Play with the data to find out where they are, what functions they service, their maturity, growth trends, attrition rate, GPO model, and more.

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