Global Business Services (GBS) can drive a polymodal business model that nurtures experimental new activities alongside the core business.
Businesses cannot rely on just one model any more. To navigate increasing disruption, they need to continuously innovate and experiment. GBS can be the driver of this polymodal business model.
As automation increases and removes humans from the repetitive tasks and processes typical of shared services, GBS will have resources freed up. More GBS centers will specialize in specific areas as centers of excellence (COEs). And the best back office employees, who are ready to upskill and take on challenging new tasks, can help to develop innovative solutions to support the wider organization in preparing and adapting to the Transformative Age.
One way this will happen is by GBS becoming an accelerator for testing new solutions and approaches for the organization.
Extending its role as the manager of an organization’s ecosystem of collaborations and technology partners, GBS will collaborate with start-ups in emerging technologies and test, validate and scale solutions for issues the parent company is facing.
EY has already trialed and deployed a machine learning application to pre-populate shipping invoices, cutting the process from eight days down to six. And it has run a blockchain POC that uses an app to help manage royalty payments from a technology company to its outsourced developers – the process used to take up to 90 days, and now it happens in almost real-time. In both these cases GBS played a leading role.
One of the challenges for start-ups is that new technology often has to be developed without data. GBS can provide that data. As a result, it can not only work with subsidiaries with minority interests, but also open up its services to smaller companies in the same or even different industries. For example, technological developments in the area of compliance and fraud will increase GBS transparency and this can help make operations more secure for external organizations.
Innovation within GBS
GBS and shared services are also increasingly driving innovations of their own – both within and beyond agreed standard services.
For example, a pharma company’s GBS had the task of reading medical journals to extract information about incidents with individual drugs, compiling it, sending it to doctors for validation and finally completing forms for the regulator. This was a standard service – but it was laborious and the GBS believed it was ripe for automation. Now reports can be scanned for keywords by an artificial intelligence (AI) bot, and other bots handle the process of corresponding and uploading reports.
To take another example, an automotive company’s shared service center had dozens of requests every day for cost center reports. This process involved retrieving data from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, exporting it to Excel for analysis and then presenting the report in PowerPoint. The shared service center employees highlighted that the summary comments were always a standard set – so they suggested the reports could be automated, despite this falling outside of the agreed services.
In this way, empowering GBS to lead their own evolution could produce completely unexpected new value.