Unfortunately, most of us have participated in a strategic planning session that resulted in the plan sitting on the shelf, only to be revisited at next year’s session.

A positive trend, however, is the desire by most SSO leaders for a meaningful, useful and flexible document from which to work. It is our experience that the value question for SSOs never seems to go away. ZT squanders time either defending its position to business units and executive management or being asked to contribute more in terms of quality and cost reduction. The better-performing SSOs understand this continued challenge and have responded by leveraging the strategic plan to define its value, document its case and clearly communicate to its stakeholders.

We believe it is imperative for us to be focused and take control of SSO’s destiny.

Common Themes Coming From the Strategy Sessions

When we reflect upon the strategy work we’ve managed in recent years, there are a couple of basic themes that emerge for operating successfully. They are:

  • importance of a strategic plan
  • balance of cost and quality
  • expansion capability


Importance of a Strategic Plan

Our clients have expressed many valuable uses for a well-developed, solid strategic plan beyond the obvious value of guiding the SSO over the next few years. First, all of our clients tell us that the plan continues to have unexpected value in terms of improved communication within the organization, primarily because the our leaders now have one consistent and solid story to tell so that they are able to fan out and reach many more stakeholders. Second, the strategic plan becomes the historical document that highlights the reasons for the actions taken within the SSO.


 Balance of Cost and Quality

The challenge of balancing the cost of service with the quality of service is a dilemma that every business operation faces. For the SSO, it is no less challenging. ZT have taken the management of this dilemma to another level by leveraging their data and management information and then rolling it back into their strategic plan. We have a clear understanding of the cost of service, their price of service and in particular, the customer’s usage and buying patterns. By leveraging this information, the we are able to review the service offerings, determine how to adjust or improve the offerings and stop delivering non-profitable services.
This information is also extremely useful in determining technology investment for the future. In fact, this is a critical element of the strategic plan. Product and service cost information, customer usage and buying patterns and technology tools appear to be the key ingredients of effectively and efficiently managing the balance between cost and quality. The key element here is the timeline. When to do what, with whom, and with what technology are key components of a strategic plan.


Expansion Capability

Those SSOs that have been operating for a longer period of time all seem to be struggling with expansion questions. How best to serve the global company after beginning as a domestic SSO is a common question. As the SSOs become experts for the company in compliance and risk management, executives are demanding that they take on more work because they provide comfort.

The questions important for expansion are as follows –

  • Why do we have all these independent shared services operations throughout our company?
  • Can we get efficiencies by putting them together?
  • How do we take on or get the work that still remains in the business unit (work the business units were unwilling to give up the first time around but which belongs in a shared services environment)?
  • How do we prepare ourselves to take on work from a newly acquired company, efficiently and effectively, without adding staff?