Atos Consulting believes that the creation of SSCs is a good development that must be continued, because SSCs contribute to the quality and efficiency of organisations. Appropriate introduction of the SSC needs emphasis, however. “Implementing the concept of an SCC doesn’t turn out to be all that easy,” says Wilco Bothof, partner at Atos Consulting. “The bottom line is that it has to be a service provider and a customer-focused organisation rather than an inflexible organisation that you do not control.”

Atos Consulting is presenting the results of three studies into SSCs (plus its own project experiences) in the book “Customers and Shared service centres, only successful by joining forces”. Some 65 Dutch organisations have allowed them to take a look behind the scenes at their SSCs. The key conclusions are:

More than half the customers are satisfied
The key conclusion is that customers seem pretty satisfied with SSC performance. According to them, SSCs mean cost reductions, quality improvements, innovation and more expertise. Even so, SSCs still get poor marks for aspects such as speed of delivery, demonstrability and commercialisation. Customers are insufficiently aware of the fact that an SSC can only be a success if a substantial amount of standardisation takes place. The SSC can build up a modular portfolio of services allowing it to offer tailored solutions to customers backed up by clear billing calculations.

The importance of change management and communications
The introduction of an SSC is complex, demanding a lot of capacity from an organisation (people, time and resources). Research shows that the business case that justifies the project is not often followed. With hindsight, the majority of organisations state that change management and careful communications were in the end more important for the successful introduction of the SSC. The financial justification during the feasibility study and the strategy during the migration play a less important part, according to Atos Consulting, but a less detailed business case does provide a guideline to follow.

The key concepts for further development are “more” and “better”
Migration of additional processes or organisational components and expansion of the range of services available are relatively safe ways for the SSC to grow further. The challenge for existing SSCs is the improvement of the services provided. Not skimping on account management, generating and using management information, restricting the formalities and providing insights into the cost prices are all contributory factors. Another requirement is a cultural switch from the “us/them” focus to “together”.

Working with integrated processes is the key to success
Atos Consulting believes that integration of the working processes of the customer and the SSC, supported by an integrated IT solution, is the success factor for further growth. However, there are still too few customers who realise that this will also have direct consequences for their own setup. Account management also has to be organised better and is definitely not an area for economising. One aspect of the process-oriented working method is proper reporting about the quality and cost prices of the services offered to customers, on which discussions about possible improvements can be centred.

Successful further development of an SSC is in other words something that the SSC and the customer must tackle together.