From Knowledge-based Work to Intelligent Automation: analysing emerging trends in Shared Services Organisations

Posted on April 18, 2018 by Grant White
Article image: From Knowledge-based Work to Intelligent Automation


Over the last few years, Shared Services Organisations (SSOs) – typically responsible for back-of-house processes such as Finance, Payroll, HR, and IT – have been embracing new technology with the aim of using innovation to deliver more value to their internal customers or as outsourced external providers.

Reflecting on my personal experience as a Finance functional specialist in Executive Search – partnering with organisations on Shared Services and Finance Transformation assignments – Technology, along with People and Process, have always been central in our discussions.

In recent years though technology, and topics such as embracing Intelligent Automation and how Shared Services Organisations are delivering more value by moving towards knowledge-based work, dominate these conversations.

SSON Analytics recently released its Annual State of Shared Services & Outsourcing Industry Survey Results 2018, which focuses on popular Shared Service organisational models, considers why strategy is evolving from transactional to knowledge work, and looks at how the Shared Services community is embracing Intelligent Automation (IA). You can read the full report here (free subscription required).  

Key take outs from the Report are:

  • Six out of ten SSOs are planning to add IA solutions to their agendas (if not already implemented). IA certainly has the power for disruption, offering far greater capacity for volume, analysis and consistency of transactions than can be delivered by humans.
  • The emergence of front office support is a significant trend. Sales and marketing, alongside data analytics for example, are now in scope for SSO delivery.
  • A scarcity of relevant skills and experience in the local market is a major challenge for Australian SSOs. Australian organisations have typically relied on third party solution providers, as opposed to our Asian neighbours, who are investing in these new, emerging resources. For SSOs looking to embrace automation, having the right talent to implement those solutions will be essential.
  • The greatest skill deficiencies observed are in data analytics, innovation, automation and process excellence. SSOs need to proactively hire and develop talent to meet the gaps in these skill-sets.
  • SSO recruitment priorities are changing. Hiring strategies for SSOs will need to prioritise process excellence, continuous improvement, innovation and customer service focus for future success.

Staying abreast of these changes is key to any executive operating in the business world, and if you’re a Shared Services leader, CFO or CEO, understanding the emerging trends and embracing IA will be key to your success. Clients and SSOs with whom I liaise provide great insights into these emerging trends. I’m keen to hear your thoughts, discuss any challenges you may be facing and exchange ideas.