How Shared Services Can Assist Finance Processes

  • by Katharina Reichert, Finance Solutions, SAP SE
  • July 17, 2012
Learn the software tools that can support shared service operating models. Identify which finance business processes could be redeployed or redesigned to work more effectively in a shared services environment, as supported by the SAP Shared Service Framework for Finance.
Key Concept

The shared service model enables companies to be efficient, transparent, and agile. Because shared service centers provide a menu of high-quality, standardized administrative services, a business can expand into new markets or geographies without having to build out additional expertise, locations, or processes. The shared service center just needs to service an additional location. This new scale of doing business means that, in addition to the cost advantage of potentially moving employees to lower-cost geographies, process automation and self-services that cut processing times lead to additional cost advantages. The SAP Shared Services Framework for Finance, available since 2011, is a software tool that can be implemented to help a shared services department do what they do today, but even better. It is deployed on top of one or more SAP ERP systems or non-SAP systems, and provides a user interface for the shared services department as well as access to transactional data systems, knowledge databases, and advanced analytical capabilities. It uses existing tools, such as SAP Business Workflow, to ensure that processing is optimized. 

The range of options businesses have for transforming their processes and business administration to improve service while reducing costs has grown over the past decade. A best practice for finance departments is managing to operate at a 50 percent lower cost than their peers – a significant cost savings that translates to better margins. One model that businesses using SAP systems are increasingly adopting for finance to help the chief financial officer (CFO) deliver on these goals is shared services supported by software automation tools. But how do managers decide which activities and processes should be moved to shared services? Choosing incorrectly can have significant consequences for the success of the shared services transformation.

3 Ways to Use Automation to Support Finance Organizations

In recent years, automation has become a routine next step in shared services transformations, following the initiation of the shared service organization and initial labor pool optimizations. Automation means using software tools to support shared services operations. There are three main ways managers can use software to offer high-quality, flexible support to the finance organization.

Support Agents

The first option is applying an optimized services delivery infrastructure to increase the productivity of each individual agent, who is a person working in the shared services department or call center. This infrastructure includes a common user interface, or workplace, and organizes the collaborative participation in the service delivery process.

It provides telephone and email or chat integration. It documents and tracks each service event with a service ticket. The tickets are automatically prioritized in an inbox based on rules and support service-level analytics. This functionality is standard in companies that have chosen a help desk user interface for their initial stage of shared services adoption. However, these help-desk interfaces usually cannot support the delivery of end-to-end processes, owing to their lack of integration with the back-end transactional business systems.

Katharina Reichert

Katharina Reichert is part of the Finance Solutions team at SAP SE, located in Walldorf, Germany. As the solution owner for receivables management, she focuses on applications for customer credit management, customer billing, dispute resolution, and collections management.

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