6 minute read 1 May 2019
Businesswoman using smart phone on moving walkway in airport

How digital disruption is affecting end-to-end process ownership


Christian Mertin

EY Global Advisory Solutions Leader – Global Business Services and EY Global Client Service Partner, Ernst & Young – Germany

Transformation leader in Global Business Services with deep knowledge in finance, shared services and other back-office functions. Strong capabilities in supporting technologies and digitalization.

6 minute read 1 May 2019

Getting closer to customers is a natural evolution for an entity whose values are in deep service understanding, responsiveness and availability.

For many, customer intimacy is an absolute necessity as this is precisely where value is created: for example, if an airline customer’s flight is delayed, a customer-centric Global Business Services (GBS)  could actively keep them informed; the availability of much more data and deeper analytics capabilities mean there is potential to deliver service to an “audience of one” level.

While some organizations are hesitant, even paranoid, about bringing GBS closer to the end customer, every GBS should invest attention in how to take the customer journey end-to-end. Organizations’ relationships with customers are fundamentally changing: there are multiple channels involved in individual journeys – some parts will be handled by machine (chatbots, for example), and the most valuable parts by a human.

No matter what touchpoints the journey involves – whether logging in from a smartphone, submitting a query via a desktop computer or calling to chat to an advisor – the interaction must be frictionless: meaning no multiple logins, not having to having to recap the history of a support ticket at each interaction, but instead having all of an individual customer’s data immediately to hand.

Some organizations are taking their customer service playbooks for external customers and giving them to GBS to apply to internal customers. Others are actively segmenting their customer base into “low margin,” who will wait for the first available agent or are served by a chatbot, and customers who want a dedicated point of contact – here, GBS can provide analytics services on order patterns, adjusting sales terms and conditions for individual customers or deliver high-touch HR services relating to major life events such as maternity leave or promotion.

These are effective ways for GBS to prove itself in the customer realm and answer key questions:

  • Which parts of customer care do we give to GBS and which do we keep in-market?
  • Is GBS ready to manage the customer journey?
  • Who really owns the customer experience?

The journey to end-to-end (E2E) processes and automation

Simply put, the hard nut to crack was process redesign and the organizational consequences. Robotics can help bypass this – implementations can be live in just a few weeks, compared to multi-year implementations for legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Simultaneously, new ERPs such as SAP HANA also promise to change the way data is delivered in the organization, and offer a level of speed and accessibility to drill down through data that organizations have never had before.

One way around this is to embrace IA: this starts a step sooner than RPA because it can use unstructured data, and where paper is in play, GBS can also deploy better optical character recognition (OCR) to leapfrog to digitalization. Alternatively, process mining may be a good start before the implementation of automation – and while this may not produce broad standardization (and some believe this is too ambitious), it gets closer to harmonization and the value it promises.

As a result, in the future we may not even have processes at all – just the data, with intelligent automation (IA) sitting on top of it.

The mandate for E2E

How far are organizations from getting a mandate for E2E processes? Some are already there; but for organizations who are less than five years into their shared services or GBS journey, there is still some way to go because processes will still be developing or stabilizing).

In terms of driving through the mandate for E2E, there are several potential models:

  • More mature GBS organizations (10+ years) have titled global process owners (GPOs), and some of the best ones actually sit in the business because processes involve activity both up and downstream of GBS. They have the mandate and remit for E2E, and pull in functions including procurement, finance and HR.
  • A GPO who falls outside of GBS has to drive collaboration across stakeholders within the GBS entity, outsourcing and functions. GBS leaders should sponsor the change, because they are the PR face of the operating unit, but for GPOs it can be an uphill battle to overcome resistance from business units. This means the GPO must be given a fair degree of authority to drive that change – if not the GPO will be frustrated and the turnover of these roles will increase significantly.
  • Some organizations believe that having a mandate is a sign of weakness and lack of authority. In this case a “top down and bottom up” approach must convince the Board of the right strategy, and bring together all stakeholders on a level playing field with internal employees engaged to drive the change – consensus and discussion is fundamental here.
  • A shortcut might be to move into phase where the mandate for E2E is taken away from the people who would normally handle it, and given to GBS instead. When control is taken away from functions, it doesn’t matter when governance switches to GBS.
  • Others put forward the idea of “one office” – collapsing front, middle and back office with GBS owning everything, from customer to processing transactions. The front office mentality of empathy and sentiment will rise across the whole organization, to deliver customer service in a way that the front office wants it delivered. Technology will mean GBS won’t even have to talk to the functions to overcome resistance.

How will functions change?

Some believe that functions will eventually disappear, but not functional thinking. The less extreme view is that even E2E processes will always need a final control point that’s not in GBS, even while siloed processes erode.

Either way, there will be major changes. Ultimately, the future of a function depends on its role – for example, finance has already done such a good job of value creation and processing, it’s made itself almost obsolete. But in other functions it’s different – for instance, in HR there are some irreplaceable skillsets around coaching and development, and because of the value they deliver these processes and activities will always stay close to the business.

When setting up GBS, it’s necessary to ask whether it will play more or less a housekeeping role with everyone still working in siloes and reporting as normal to the C-suite? Or should GBS be set up as a business unit, with have everyone reporting via center heads into a head of GBS? Some believe that there will only be GBS people having a coordinating role across functions and regions, with one global leader that will either have a seat on the board, or work very closely with the COO.

Some leaders have a mantra that you have to break functions to get the required speed of automation – but functions then need to be given a different role.

But with new functions and activities including supply chain and customer care now being moved into GBS, functions themselves need to consider how they can add value.

So where is your GBS on the journey to customer-centric E2E processes?


A customer-centric Global Business Services (GBS) can help companies reinvent themselves to craft exceptional customer experiences.

About this article


Christian Mertin

EY Global Advisory Solutions Leader – Global Business Services and EY Global Client Service Partner, Ernst & Young – Germany

Transformation leader in Global Business Services with deep knowledge in finance, shared services and other back-office functions. Strong capabilities in supporting technologies and digitalization.