Lina María Palacios H, Finance Transformation Manager SSC LATAM, Teva Pharmaceuticals
Companies are looking to maximize efforts and money through initiatives that leverage their core processes. To fulfill this purpose, support processes such as finance are being usually migrated into a Shared Service Center business model, thus enabling the reduction of costs while having more control and transparency over these transactions.
A Shared Service Center (SSC) can be defined as a business unit that provides transactional services to the entire organization based on standard policies and procedures, using the minimum number of resources and the highest automation possible to fulfill the promise of value to the organization (which is delivering services with quality and on time). For example, if an organization has 10 branches, and within each branch there is a Finance team of 10 people who perform the same transactional activities, there will be 100 people doing the same processes throughout the company. Each team operates under local guidelines (policies, processes, approvals, response time, etc.), so there may be differences in the execution and control of such transactions throughout the 10 branches. Furthermore, the 100 resources might not be using a hundred percent of their capacity due to various circumstances, for example, the number of requests can vary depending on the branch or period of the month. What SSC does, is centralize those efforts by putting in place improvements within the processes, standardizing them and offering them as services to the entire company. By doing so, all transactions for the 10 branches will be processed by the SSC under a unique guideline.
A SSC for the finance sector can specialize in running several types of transactions as services, such as recording and payment of supplier invoices, manual journal entries, application of collections from customers, issuance of documents; such as invoices that are not derived from the main business activity, etc. Transaction services provided by the SSC are characterized by being repetitive activities and tasks in large volumes and within defined time frames, leveraged by the standardization and automation of the processes. These economies of scale allow the organization to have dedicated teams within the SSC whose size is significantly lower, when compared to if they had Finance Teams in each branch. Together with other complementary activities, the SSC enables the organization to achieve a clear reduction of current costs. Anyhow to achieve this, the SSC needs to be supported by different technologies such as tools that can act as points of contact between the user and the SSC, and the main ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to register the requests as transactions. Having the best technology is considered a critical success factor for this type of business models, and therefore, an increasing amount of utilization of it can bring a significant added value to the company.
A key aspect of the Shared Services Centers is the Attention Model, understood as the ways and channels through which users (i.e., SSC clients) and the SSC interact. The most common channels are: specialized teams of customer service that attend via call center; physical personnel complying with a customer-facing role; lists of frequently asked questions, among others. One of the most important channels for a Finance SSC is the one that corresponds to the tool used by the users to create service requests to the SSC that have a direct impact on the accounting records via transactions within the ERP. A high level description on how this channel works is the following: Users enter into the tool and submit a service request through a standard template in which not only information is entered but support documents can be attached. Once it’s submitted, approvers will receive a notification of the existence of the request in order to be reviewed and approved within the tool. Then, the SSC receives that request, checks it, and subsequently processes it manually in the ERP. Finally, it notifies the user the completion of the request.
Vendors of these tools are generally limited to providing their service for the Attention Model channel only to generate and address service requests. However, they are leaving aside the possibility to create an impact over their customer’s objectives, by running interfaces with the companies ERP´s in order to achieve full recording automation over the transactions, and eliminating the manual input that currently exists in these types of processes. Nowadays some companies, in order to minimize these times of recording, are using alternative tools like data loaders that convert information from different tools into a single file to be automatically loaded into the ERP.
Furthermore, they could potentially generate performance indicators instantly from their tool as it is one of the main data sources. Although most of these tools can generate reports, there is not a lean synergy between the reports and what companies are seeking to measure, so they must allocate resources for manual generation of the KPIs results, which includes downloading different reports and extract from them the desired information.
It would be very valuable for companies to have an Attention Model technology partner, who can enable them to continue to reduce costs and automating by meeting their full needs with a single tool.