Shared service solutions for accounting, document processing and other areas are seeing unprecedented adoption rates. In a 2017 survey on shared services, over 53% of respondents said they used shared services to perform three or more functions, up from just 20% in 2013.  The reason for this adoption is clear. Centralized services shared among business units help eliminate redundancy, improve consistency, increase productivity and reduce costs. Shared services are also continuing to contribute increasing value to companies, as 73% of respondents to the survey said adopting a shared service increased productivity by 5% or more, up from 70% in 2015.  Yet despite these benefits, as many as 72% of organization not using global shared services do not plan to implement them in the future.
The challenge of shared services
There are many reasons why companies are hesitant to adopt a shared service model. Although these solutions offer many benefits for those looking to improve their finance, document processing, accounting, invoicing and HR services, they can also come with increased complexity, initial investments and sometimes dramatic changes to day-to-day operations. Moving services to a shared environment can decrease process visibility from the business unit’s perspective and create problems with integration into existing ERP and other systems. Organizations invested in disparate services broken up among business units will need to make a coordinated effort to consolidate and ensure internal adoption.
How automation improves shared services
Given the numerous challenges associated with shared services, many companies are looking to new ways to streamline the process and increase the benefits of adoption. At the forefront of this trend is automation. New solutions can dramatically improve shared service visibility, governance, usability, integration and productivity, helping to compensate for the challenges of adoption.
Better visibility and governance – Moving a service from a business unit can make it difficult for end users to have visibility into the process and exert control over operations. Automated solutions offer a centralized platform for tracking, adjustments and analysis. This improves coordination between business units and allows for better governance. This makes them easier to use and provides more control for compliance and risk management.
Increased productivity – Implementing automation can further increase the productivity benefits of using shared services. Automation can significantly upscale the workforce, allowing fewer human employees to do more. This effectively lowers the cost of the service, making it a more attractive alternative to decentralized services.
Seamless integration – Many shared services are difficult to integrate into existing systems and processes, such as ERP. Automated platforms are usually better suited to communicate with other solutions and can be more seamlessly integrated into the established ecosystem.
Companies looking to make the switch to global business services but nervous about the increased difficulty introduced by the model should consider making automation a part of their strategy. By using automated solutions, companies can make shared services more productive, more usable and better integrated into existing workflows. This can amplify the benefits of shared services while minimizing many of their downsides.