The accounting process that organizations are most likely to move to a shared service center (SSC) is accounts payable. In fact, of the organizations that have shifted their finance processes to an SSC, 82 percent also have moved accounts payable functions there, according to Deloitte’ 2009 Global Shared Services Survey.

Given that so many companies move AP processes to shared services centers, it seemed worthwhile to check how companies that move to a shared service model are faring. Another study – this one from Accenture – highlights the actions of companies that have developed high performing shared service organizations – the “masters,” as Accenture calls them. To determine what distinguished leading SSCs from the rest of the pack, Accenture talked with 275 SSC execs from around the globe. 

Some of their findings:

–       High performing SSCs spanned a range of sizes, locations, industries and parent firm revenue levels.

–       Nearly one-third of the shared service masters offer national, regional and global coverage, compared with about ten percent of all shared service centers.

–       Age and experience have their benefits, at least when it comes to SSCs. More than one-third of the execs who run the top SSCs have been doing so for more than 10 years; that compares with 20 percent for the other respondents. Moreover, 15 percent of the remaining respondents, but none of the masters, had fewer than three years experience.

–       Perhaps not surprisingly, the leading SSCs were more focused on objectives and goals. When asked to rank the importance of a list of goals, such as meeting process excellence targets, the masters gave their immediate goals an overall ranking of 6.51, versus 4.88 for the other survey respondents.

–       Similarly, leading SSCs invest more in their operations. For instance, 80-plus percent of masters were planning to deploy a lean or Six Sigma approach within the next year. That was more than double the response from the other survey participants.

–       At the same time, the masters appear to be less daunted by the challenges facing their organizations. When asked to determine the impact to performance of a range of issues, from the availability of skilled employees to cultural differences, leading SSCs were less likely to see these are barriers to success.

Overall, the top shared service organizations treat their organizations as businesses. They identify and work toward goals and best practices, and continue to invest in and improve their operations and people. Employing this approach will be critical going forward as the expectations placed on shared service centers continue to increase.