Growth of shared service centres
- Influencing policy, practice and professional education
Research into the threats and opportunities presented by the growth of shared service centres has directly influenced the strategies and practices of a wide range of organisations confronted by major changes in the provision of business support services.
Such changes are creating novel models of organisation which in turn are leading to new challenges for organisations and professional bodies in terms of optimisation, education and training.
Loughborough researchers have addressed this issue through field and theoretical work on the transformation of the finance function and, in particular, the threats and opportunities arising from the growth of shared service centres.
At its most basic, the shared service centre model involves relocating, reconfiguring and re-engineering support services. In many cases, transaction-based tasks are also moved to service centres, leaving more analytical activities in the operating units.
Research revealed the extent to which the introduction of shared service centres can bring about changes in the nature of skill-sets and working behaviours. For instance, within the centres, tasks previously performed by professional workers tend to be taken over by white-collar technicians who are subject to work re-engineering and electronic surveillance.
The research also revealed that as finance professionals remaining in the operating units are released from routine accounting they are expected to augment their business-partnering roles which requires them to develop new technical and “soft” skills.
Business knowledge related to shared service centres has been enhanced through the creation of a series of employer forums, sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and led by the Loughborough research team.
MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING EDUCATION
CIMA – which represents more than 200,000 members and students in 173 countries – has used the research as the basis for developing a new course on shared service centres to add to their suite of courses.
The CIMA / Loughborough Shared Services Forum has brought together a variety of stakeholders to generate business knowledge through the circulation and sharing of ideas. A KPMG Director noted: “It is good to be involved in a forum...free from the sort of competitive pressures that are a feature of some other, more commercial, business forums.”
PRACTICE AND STRATEGY
In bridging the gap between practitioners, consultants, a professional accountancy institution (CIMA) and academics, the research and the forum have helped to influence practice and strategic thinking in dozens of participating organisations, including world-renowned multinational companies.
MyCSP – based in Cheadle, Greater Manchester and founded in 2012 to administer the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme and provide pensions for over 1.5m people – tested its strategic approach and organisational models against Loughborough’s research and made a profit of £1.7m in its first year – “greatly helped by efficiency savings”.