I’ve spent most of my career managing Accounts Payable and Purchase to Pay teams. I’ve had a cracking time doing it and really developed a passion for it. I’ve seen the growth of technology and automation and had amazing opportunities to exploit systems to their full potential. I’ve lead teams and made them believe in the power of what they do. I’ve seen the amazing growth of the Accounts Payable Association and how they have developed a huge network, established some amazing qualifications and really elevated AP and P2P teams because what they do is amazing.

So, last year was time to broaden my horizons into leading a multi-discipline Shared Services team. As a good Yorkshire lass through and through, I had the most amazing opportunity to come work for one of Yorkshire’s finest anchor institutions. A company I truly believe in and, even though most people don’t think twice about it, a company who literally keep the county watered and clean.

Now, if I’m really honest I was biting my nails a bit at the thought of how much was going to sit under me – AP, Purchasing, AR, Payroll, People Services, L&D Support, IT Service Desk. Obviously, I bluffed it really well at the interview and got the job, but I was shaking a bit at the thought of it! Anyway, it’s gone well so far and I haven’t broken the company so that’s good!

I was challenged last year through the implementation of SAP4 Hana, Ariba, and Success Factors. As process managers, Shared Services were impacted by every aspect of the implementation. Now, if you have ever been involved or heard stories about any SAP implementation I need say no more. I’ve never heard of any business coming out of it saying “well, that was easy”. So, 2019 was about gearing up for it, implementing it and recovering from it. Early in 2020 we were getting back on our feet then a little Global Pandemic hit and we were in to the next challenge of deploying a full Shared Service team to work remotely, making sure everyone had what they needed, heaping care and attention to ensure everyone was supported. It was tough, but do you know what? Shared Service teams are tough, resilient, adaptable and able to deal with whatever is thrown at them.

Anyway, the real reason I sat down to write this is to celebrate Shared Services and hopefully raise a bit of awareness about what we do for our companies. There are many iterations of Shared Services and it’s all about what the company needs, but there may be SS teams managing one business process for multiple entities or there may be SS teams managing multiple business process for one company. Whatever the model, here’s what we can do:

  • We can take a process, strip it back and put it under the microscope. We think of every tap of a keyboard, click of a mouse and we try to eliminate steps at a really granular level. We have a unique understanding that one mouse click at that stage of a process can multiply over thousands, millions of similar steps and then it really starts to add up into a big inefficiency.
  • We can understand and appreciate the end users of our process, often our colleagues. We try to build processes that make their lives easier at work. We try to remove pain and bureaucracy by thinking smart and simple.
  • We deliver some pretty important services to a business, like paying suppliers or colleagues, managing colleague employment contracts, managing data and providing insight…. And I’m sorry to say, these are the really key business services that are sometimes not given the spotlight or recognition they deserve (sorry, I don’t mean to be all “woe is me” about it, but it’s true)
  • We can adapt. Quickly, easily and without blinking. We are used to it. As Process Managers and Process Owners, we get that the opportunity is often in being able to deal with the exceptions. When process runs smoothly, it just flows. What we do really well in Shared Services is handle the exceptions, iron them out, simplify, eliminate, automate then move on to the next. So, we are always looking out for the next issue, the next exception and we have a natural ability to work at pace, sort it out and logically work through problems to find solutions.

 I could go on and on about the value we add, but I do know that I will be lucky if you even got this far. If you did, here’s a little treat for you:

Q: What do BPM practitioners put in their sandwiches?
A: Processed cheese.

Q: Why was the process analyst team disqualified at the Olympics?
A: Because they kept switching swimlanes in the 100 metres freestyle.

 So, if you are still reading after that 😊 I’ll end my note by saying thank you for reading to the end. If you work in Shared Services, I think you are amazing and keep doing what your doing and fighting the good fight. If you don’t work in Shared Services I think you are amazing for reading this far but for goodness sake, go find someone who does work there and tell them you appreciate them! 
Samantha Ryan, Yorkshire Water



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