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12 Reasons Why it’s Cool to Work in Shared Services

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Susie West
Feb 16, 2020

Shared services organizations are becoming more prominent. This is because shared services are:


  • Growing. Because of this, more people within companies are more aware of what shared services is, and more people have dealings with shared services. For one major telco, 25% of all the company FTEs will be employed by the SSO by 2020. These are impressive numbers. This means more of the working population are aware of shared services.


  • Becoming more strategic. It’s not happening with all shared services – some SSOs are still very transactional. But most are on a journey to becoming more than “just transactional.” This means, on the whole, that the SSO is rising within the collective thinking of the business generally, and sitting in a different position to where it sat 5 years ago.


  • Getting better at positioning. SSOs have a way to go before we can say “all SSOs are good at branding.” BUT SSOs are improving their positioning, branding and perception in the business. SSOs are aware they have a reputation, and that they have some influence over what that reputation looks like. This is raising their prominence.

These are some of the reasons why most SSOs are seeing an improvement in the quality of people joining their teams. SSOs are attracting and hiring “better quality people” who are problem-solvers, who display agility and a can-do approach and an ability to be well-rounded in their business disciplines. Before this gradual shift, SSOs were largely unseen. Who wants to apply for jobs in an entity that is invisible or very low-profile? SSOs now feature more highly in the catalogue of career opportunities for the brightest and the best.

This article lists 12 reasons detailing why it’s cool to work in shared services.


1- You can be fast tracked… quickly. While it's true you can say this about many job opportunities, my sense is that you can move that bit faster in an SSO. SSOs are growing, and are keen to develop the best. If you enter at the ground level, and make an impression, the SSO will want to tap into your skill set, and move you through the ranks quickly.


2- You develop business acumen. SSOs have eyes on nearly every part of the business – sales, production, supply chain, HR. This 360º view comes from SSOs taking on processes that connect business functions, and is a unique perspective. This position engenders business acumen – the ability to understand how one activity in one part of the business affects another process in a separate part of the business. This ability is golden.


3- You can acquire new skills quickly. If you are a trained and qualified accountant, for example, shared services would be an obvious route for you. Sharpening your accounting skills may be all you wish to focus on, and shared services would provide you with ample opportunity to do this. But you also might want to augment your accounting skills with excellent business skills. Shared services will tool up a professional in General Business Skills, Change Management, Communications, Sales, Project Management, even Sales and Marketing Skills.


4- You get experience in setting up a business. It is uncommon in large corporations to get the opportunity to be involved in a “start-up.” Shared services offers this chance. Shared services are businesses within businesses. Often an SSO or SSC will have its own facilities, vision, culture, P&L, targets. By being involved in the start-up of the SSO, you are equipping yourself with entrepreneurial skills. Training in these skills is rarely available to most corporate accountants. 


5- You become expert in communications. Working in the back office, you rarely have opportunities to be involved in communication and branding. Not so in shared services. The very purpose of shared services is to drive change, and this change will, for a limited time, cause trauma to the business. For the SSO’s work to be managed elegantly, and for the desired outcome to be achieved, SSO professionals need to be great communicators, and know how to actively listen to their internal customers. This is a skill that can take you far up the ladder in any profession. Shared services will teach you to: 

  • Ask the best questions to your internal customer
  • Actively listen, and present the coming change as something that will benefit the internal customer
  • Establish a relationship with the internal customer that positions you as a trusted advisor, rather than “just” a supplier
  • Help you excel in relationship management


6- You get to sharpen your change management skills. If change is ahead of you, it needs managing. With change comes insecurity, fear, anxiety, rumour-mongering, bad-mouthing. By working in an SSO, you can be the one that takes on the challenge to ensure that change is seen as a “positive” by the organization. There are not many projects in Finance outside shared services that are on this scale. This is a rare opportunity to help manage change gracefully, and develop this skill.

 

7- You become highly skilled in politics. “And this is supposed to be a good thing?!” you ask. It is. Because of the change, people in the business can become defensive, protective, and lobby against shared services. As a well-rounded professional, it is your role to identify who these individuals are, and get close to them. Shared services will offer you ample opportunity to develop your skills in diplomacy and character-management.

 

8- You will hone your ability to secure buy-in. Another way of phrasing this is: “You will become a great sales person!” A great sales person makes a great business person. Securing buy-in is not a straight-forward task. You need to get close to your sponsor (the person you need to buy in to your idea), and understand their key concerns (in general), their key objectives (in general), and then position your proposition as the thing that will help them journey from their current concerns to their future objectives. Shared services is the part of finance and HR and procurement that can help you master selling.

 

9- You become close to the heartbeat of the business. Shared services need to know where the business is going, and where the business wants to be in 6, 12, 18 months’ time. This knowledge is essential for helping the SSO determine and sort out its own objectives, and be a successful partner. By being the Head of Shared Services or Global Business Services, or by being within the SSO’s Leadership Team, you secure a privileged position of being in step with the C-suite of the business, and at the heart of it.

 

10- Shared services gives you options. You can stay in your core area (I.e. finance, procurement, HR) or you can branch off into another business area. As an accountant, you may want to stay on a path where your accountancy skills are sharpened. Or you might wish to branch off into Project Management, Management and Leadership, or Change Management. Shared services offers options.

 

11- You develop a knack for being agile. Being agile in business is a very attractive trait! Shared services helps professionals become increasingly agile and adept. Because shared services is changing its form, its location, its strategy, its scope fairly regularly, it trains its team to adapt. This is an excellent business skill.

 

12- You get to experience the supplier/customer dynamic. This isn’t on offer elsewhere in most finance and procurement roles. Working with this dynamic makes professionals more caring, more aware – and, arguably, more sophisticated in their general business approach, as well as more successful in their business achievements.


Please use this list as a tool to help inspire possible recruits to shared services. Shared services is a great business opportunity, attracting exciting, like-minded people who are change-agents at heart, seeking a better future.

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