Case Study: Standardize Policies and Processes in a Shared Service Center

Client: Global Media & Advertising Firm

Function: Finance Department

Project: Standardize Policies and Processes in a Shared Service Center

Overall Project Mission

The UK Finance Shared Service Centre (SSC) for a global market research business needed to standardize its policies and processes covering services provided to multiple operating companies in order to simplify and improve the efficiency of its operations.

The Challenge

The SSC was formed a number of years previously by co-locating the transactional Finance teams supporting multiple operating companies (OpCos) but had not standardized Finance policies and processes, continuing to maintain different ways of working per OpCo.

These variations increased the complexity of operating the SSC and led to dedicated teams by OpCo within the SSC, preventing flexible deployment of staff and increasing overall headcount and cost. Longer term options to outsource the service were also more difficult to implement and costly as a result.

Many SSC staff had transferred in from and were still supporting the same OpCo multiple years later, limiting the sharing of best practices across teams and creating resistance to change both in the SSC and the OpCos they served.

In addition, processes were often incompletely documented and relied on the knowledge of key individuals, leading to further inconsistency in execution.

The Project

Planning

The project started with a short discovery period where current processes and policies were reviewed with the SSC leadership and staff, and specific activities were prioritized for change.

Implementing a single set of Finance policies across all UK OpCos was identified as the logical first step to provide a consistent framework for processes to operate within, followed by other detailed activities to standardize processes.

Dependencies on system changes to support process standardization were also identified and prioritized based on their importance and ease of implementation.

Project Delivery

Policies

Region-wide policies had been already implemented for North America and were used as the starting point to support moving as close as possible to a standard global approach. The North America policies were localized to include UK legal requirements and practices and then issued for review by the UK OpCo CFOs.

CFO comments were centrally logged, and duplicate comments and common themes identified. Where CFOs had a particular interest in a policy, calls or face to face meetings were used to understand their points of view and discuss the available options.

Responses were identified for all CFO comments and added to the control log in case of future queries or disagreements with the decisions made, and any items which could not be decided locally were resolved through a pre-agreed approach to escalate to global Finance.

Updated policies were re-issued to CFOs along with responses to all comments received, with one further round of feedback used to address any final queries before the policies were baselined and issued for release. This stage required change management to explain why some changes proposed by CFOs could not be implemented, for example where these clashed with global approach.

Policies were released through a phased roll-out to prevent overloading employees, with supporting communications and FAQs to explain the key changes, and subject matter experts identified to provide additional support if needed.

Business Processes

With policies harmonized for the UK business, the next stage was to standardize the related processes, for example implementing a UK-wide standard solution of Finance system modules, online approval hierarchies and back-office processes to support the newly released policies for Employee Travel & Expenses and Supplier Purchase Orders.

System changes were planned and managed with support from the Finance systems team using a structured design, build, test, deploy approach.

A network of change champions was established with representatives from each OpCo and the SSC to coordinate local data gathering and cleaning, training and communication, system testing; and to provide a focal point in the OpCo for any post go-live issues and queries.

Regular calls were held with the change champions throughout the implementation and maintained until after the changes were implemented and had become a stable part of business as usual.

SSC Processes

SSC processes were improved and standardized in parallel with the business process changes. Existing process documentation was reviewed where this existed, and process walkthroughs were held with subject matter experts to understand the current process in detail, along with key reasons for exceptions, delays and re-work.

Intellilink had previously developed a best-practice Finance process model for this client which was used as the basis for standardizing SSC processes, along with reference to the equivalent processes in the more mature North America SSC.

Variations in processes between OpCos were differentiated between those related to different historical approaches which could now be aligned, and those which had to be maintained due to differences in the underlying OpCo business.

Process changes with no dependency on system implementations or changes were implemented first to build momentum, involving SSC team leads and staff in defining and documenting the revised processes to build knowledge and commitment to the changes, followed by more complex changes and those with longer lead times due to reliance on system changes.