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Whatever Happened To Shared Service Centers?

Ten years ago, every accounting job description contained the words "shared service center" somewhere in the text.  I haven't seen a reference anywhere in the last couple years.  Were shared service centers (a) an organizational experiment that failed to deliver the promised results, or (b) a rhetorical overlay to existing processes that changed nothing except the verbiage that accompanies workflows, or (c) something else?

Answers

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

I think shared service centers still exist but it certainly does not fit with every accounting role nor is the model appropriate for every company which may be why it does not appear in every job description.

Enterprises who have shared service centers will still have finance people embedded in the operations. Certain things like strategic guidance, budgeting and reporting, and often client facing functions like billing/collections need people on the ground locally.

Topic Expert
Rex Jackson
Title: EVP and Chief Financial Officer
Company: JDS Uniphase
(EVP and Chief Financial Officer, JDS Uniphase) |

Shared services centers are not a thing of the past in my experience, but a very useful and cost effective way for finance teams to consolidate certain back office functions into a single, typically lower cost location. The key thing is to think of it as an "outsource," which means you need to have very well-defined, transferable systems and processes in place before moving a given function/set of functions to a single, shared location.

I suspect that shared services centers started out with a much grander scope, but finance professionals have since figured out that, properly done, they are really for the more "mechanical" tasks in Finance (e.g., A/R, A/P). This might explain why you, as an accountant, probably see fewer references to them in the types of jobs you are likely reviewing.

Robert Rochester
Title: VP & CFO
Company: Edcor Data Services LLC
(VP & CFO, Edcor Data Services LLC) |

Sometimes new concepts get over-hyped. Shared service centers, just like "offshoring", or "lean" or "ABC" and other such concepts that, when introduced, tend to hit the business community with a lot of fanfare. But once they are fully vetted, they become mainstream and they don't get the prominence in management attention, literature, job descriptions, etc. like they did when they were the "latest new thing" everyone was buzzing over.

Shared service centers still exist and flourish at larger companies, (as does ABC accounting, offshoring, and lean concepts), but they just don't get the special attention like when they were first introduced. Today, the latest new thing that people are buzzing about appears to be the concept of "cloud" and "cloud computing", which in my world is the same as outsourcing some of your computer infrastructure or software applications. In a few years, this too willl be no big deal and will give way to the next latest new thing.

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