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6 Benefits of Process Automation for Shared Services Centers

Authors Photo Precisely Editor | December 11, 2023

Over the past four years, business leaders have come to recognize that agility and resilience are vital. That has led to a wave of process automation initiatives aimed at streamlining business processes, improving operational efficiency, and increasing accuracy.

For many, the automation journey is well underway. Numerous others have made steps in the right direction, but they’re wondering how to accelerate those efforts into hyperautomation. Still others are at the very beginning of their journey, considering where to start.

For shared services centers, automation presents an especially attractive opportunity. Shared services organizations are mission-driven to seek efficiencies while also improving performance. Their leaders understand that effective data management is pivotal for efficiency, and that process automation can deliver a win-win on both cost and quality.

team meeting to discuss process automation opportunities - process automation

Key Challenges for Shared Services Centers

Earlier this year, Precisely engaged the market research firm Sapio to survey owners, directors, C-level executives, and managers at companies with 1,000 or more employees operating shared services centers in the UK & Ireland.

As part of our effort to help companies digitize and streamline their operations, we wanted to better understand the automation journeys of shared services centers, which are heavily driven by process and cost efficiency targets. We wanted to understand which kinds of manual processes these shared service centers have begun to automate and what their future automation plans look like.

A majority of the respondents in this survey came from businesses with between 1,001 and 5,000 employees, while nearly 40% work for businesses with more than 5,000 employees. 62% of survey respondents were shared services center managers, with the remainder consisting of directors, C-level executives, and business owners.


Process Automation - The benefits and realities for shared service centers

Read this eBook to learn more about Process Automation and the benefits and realities for shared service centers Research into shared service center managers using ERP platforms.

One of the survey’s key findings was that shared services managers understand how important effective data management is for overall efficiency. Concerns about data quality were especially significant, with 96% of respondents worrying about the quality of their business data.

Specifically, our study revealed four major concerns about data quality:

  1. Nearly half (47%) believe that poor data quality is standing in the way of operational efficiency.
  2. 45% were concerned about a lack of data validation in their organizations.
  3. Corrupt data in the ERP system was a problem expressed by 41% of respondents.
  4. Over one-third of executives in the survey (38%) said that incomplete or incorrect data plagues their organizations. 

The Automation Journey

Some shared service centers have already begun their journey toward hyperautomation, focusing initially on the routine, rule-driven tasks that center around the ERP system. But many are playing catch-up. Nearly 80% of the respondents in our survey acknowledge the importance of automating digital processes, but nearly three-quarters have yet to reap the benefits of doing so.

Things are moving in the right direction, though. Among the executives who responded to our survey, 76% said their organizations were already in the pilot phase of an automation initiative, or have invested in fully integrated automation tools. Just 5% have not yet embarked on their automation journey.

Automation provides particularly high value for finance teams inundated with vast amounts of data and escalating transactional demands. Without raising staff numbers or expenses, automation tools can efficiently expedite processes ranging from accounts payable to general ledgers and journal entries. That’s especially valuable during end-of-period crunch times, as finance teams rush to complete large amounts of work in a very short period of time.

The Benefits of Automation

Manual data entry, which is often slow and susceptible to errors, frustrates many business users and frequently leads to decreased productivity and data quality problems. Automation offers a vast array of advantages that drive notable enhancements in business operations.

If you manage a shared services center and you are considering introducing automation tools into your organization, here are some key benefits to keep in mind:

  1. Reduced cost of services. With automation handling so many routine tasks, companies benefit from improved scalability, labor cost savings, and reduced need for on-site infrastructure. Automation eliminates the most tedious and time-consuming tasks, helping employees to be far more productive than they would otherwise be.
  2. Greater speed and agility. Most organizations inevitably face periods during which they must apply intensive effort to meet short-term deadlines. Finance teams deal with this on a monthly basis, for example. Mass updates to pricing can have a similar impact, as can the need to create a host of new general ledger accounts. Automation enables organizations to deliver faster and with greater agility. This is especially valuable during crunch times like month-end closings. 
  3. Improved accuracy. Using rules-based automation, shared services centers can avoid many of the pitfalls associated with manual data entry. That includes incomplete records, duplicate entries, or inaccuracies caused by misspellings or simple oversights.
  4. Ability to start new projects. Like many organizations, shared services centers struggle to balance day-to-day execution with new projects that have strategic value to the business. Automation creates an opening for innovative new initiatives, without adding more people to the team.
  5. Focus on more value-added work. Automation frees employees from the burdens of manual data entry and cumbersome workarounds, providing them with an opportunity to perform higher-value tasks that contribute to better business outcomes for the organization.
  6. Better staff utilization. Many shared services centers have taken advantage of automation to improve conditions for their employees. By eliminating routine manual tasks, managers can reassign some of their employees to perform new responsibilities. Nearly one-third of the respondents in our survey were able to assign employees to new roles as a result of automation, including to new departments elsewhere in the organization.

meeting about Benefits of Process Automation for Shared Services Centers - process automation

Successfully Implementing Automation Technology

Like any other change within your organization, automation can prompt resistance among members of the staff. For a successful rollout, experts recommend clear communication, with attention to the following concerns:

  • Reassure staff that their jobs are not at risk. Instead of just calming fears, go on the offensive by highlighting the opportunities that staff will have to take on new roles that generate greater value for the organization.
  • Communicate the benefits of automation throughout the business at large. 42% of the respondents in our study used small wins as a way of demonstrating the value of automation to the wider business.
  • Align business and user expectations. In addition to being crystal clear about the benefits that process automation provides, it’s important to align the needs of the business with employee concerns, such that everyone understands how automation is a “win” for them.

Ready to learn more about process automation? Are you interested in building into the details of our shared services survey? Read about it in our free ebook, Process Automation – The Benefits and Realities for Shared Service Centers.