Shared Services: harnessing what we’ve learned for 2021 and beyond

COVID-19 has caused organisations to reconsider their continuity plans, shift their priorities, and focus on the here and now. We surveyed finance, accounting, technology, shared services, GBS and process improvement leaders for insights.

Shared Services: Harnessing What We've Learned for 2021 & Beyond

The Road Ahead survey, and what it means for future business priorities

From brick-and-mortar closings and quarantines, to changing consumer behaviours, and from supply chain disruptions to increasing fraud and new tax and regulatory mandates, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the global economy — and how we conduct business. 

Prior to the pandemic, shared services and GBS leaders, CFOs, and controllers were tasked with cutting costs, improving cash flow, shortening cycle times, and facilitating end-to-end business collaboration; COVID didn’t change these core responsibilities, but it forced a full reevaluation of how to achieve the desired results. 

In other words, the shift to remote, separated, and contactless work has “emphasized the importance of technology modernization, digital labor, and automation. “Many of the technologies that some CIOs have been trying to implement for years are suddenly being utilized and leveraged.”

Tungsten Network and Consider Solutions surveyed finance, accounting, technology, shared services, GBS, and process improvement leaders to determine how the pandemic has impacted their organisations, how they’ve responded to the threat, what they’ve learned, and what we can do to not only survive but thrive in 2021 and beyond. 

For more detail and additional findings from the Road Ahead survey, continue reading, or:

Watch the Webinar: The Road Ahead with Tungsten and Consider Solutions

In sum, we discovered that businesses are (and should be):

  • Prioritising quick changes with incremental benefits, over large-scale transformation projects
  • Implementing and optimising existing technological investments, instead of funding all-new investments
  • Augmenting with rapid-response services
  • Eliminating inefficiencies and pain points
  • Focusing on global end-to-end process value
  • Digitising accounts payable and accounts receivable to combat supply chain delays, cash flow shortages, and inconsistencies in purchase-to-pay and order-to-cash processes

Ten Takeaways from the Road Ahead Survey

  1. 80% of businesses had already experienced a significant financial impact from COVID-19.
  2. About half thought the pandemic would be over by January 2021.
  3. While 27% predicted staff cuts, respondents expected the biggest issues facing their businesses to be the need for cost reductions (54%), the need to conserve cash (48%), and weak consumer demand (43%).
  4. More than 50% planned to pursue strategies for cash generation and conservation (57%), as well as accelerating digital transformation (56%).
  5. 65% felt confident their strategies for short-term recovery would not negatively impact their organisation’s ability to thrive long term.
  6. More than three fourths agreed or strongly agreed that their business will shift its emphasis from large-scale transformation to targeted process changes and continuous improvements.
  7. At 46%, the purchase-to-pay process was regarded as highest priority for optimisation and automation in the near term, followed closely by order to cash (43%), driven by the need to sustain remote, distanced and touchless process execution.
  8. Nearly two thirds (63%) consider streamlining internal processes as a top priority, while nearly half (47%) are focused on doing more with less and maximising their returns from existing technological investments.
  9. The most prevalent factor influencing business priorities was not the extent of the impact (53%), but how long it would take to realise the benefit (56%), demonstrating the urgency inherent in a period of economic crisis. Not surprisingly, total estimated cost was also a key consideration, at 50%.
  10. Overall business performance drivers have not changed for about half of all businesses. 

Infographic: Ten Takeaways from the Road Ahead Survey

Conclusions from the Road Ahead Survey

From the results of our survey, conducted at the height of the first wave of COVID-19, and conversations with current and prospective clients, we’ve concluded that:

  • The pandemic isn’t over, and until it is we must continue to focus on the here and now
  • Remote, separated and contactless work will continue long after the pandemic
  • Contactless interfaces and interactions will be increasingly centralised
  • Our focus should be on implementing global, integrated end-to-end processes
  • Elimination, whenever possible, is the best form of automation
  • Existing technology should be augmented with rapid-response services
  • Research and data are more important than ever in demonstrating the business case for competing investment priorities 
  • We can respond and change quickly in emergencies, and this should be harnessed to our long-term advantage
  • What we’ve learned from the pandemic will continue to inform us for years to come

In addition, it’s clear that streamlining, automating and optimising purchase-to-pay and order-to-cash processes will enable businesses to reduce costs and generate and conserve cash in the near term, while accelerating their longer-term digital transformation.

To learn more, watch the webinar we hosted with Dan French of Consider Solutions.