Analytics helps global business services fuel resilience and return


Analytics helps global business services fuel resilience and return

As companies navigate the COVID-19 reset, global business services organizations can deploy advanced analytics to equip leaders with the information needed for better, faster decision making.

Companies everywhere were suddenly thrust into rapid-fire decision-making mode when the COVID19 pandemic struck. They needed to ensure workers’ safety and maintain business continuity—to mobilize teams for remote working, sustain operations (to the extent possible), manage customers and channel partners, and steady disrupted supply chains—all while adjusting to seismic shifts in customer demand.

But to make the right decisions, companies needed the right data, and they needed it in a timely fashion. How many actually had it?

In any rapidly unfolding situation, particularly in the uncharted territory of a pandemic, it would be an understatement to say that decision-making is challenging. Traditional KPIs, as lagging indicators, are inadequate. Last quarter’s sales numbers won’t help much in forecasting demand when a sales channel suddenly goes dark, or customer needs make 180-degree turns, or other tried-and-true assumptions become moot overnight. Companies need reliable micro- and macroeconomic indicators to discern emerging trends, new behaviors, and new correlations. The insights derived from these indicators can give companies the ability to be proactive, which can mean the difference between securing competitive advantage and enduring prolonged performance woes. In starker terms, it can also mean the difference between a sustainable business and a slide into irrelevance.

These insights are actually at companies’ fingertips. Global business services (GBS), the central organization for general and administrative functions including finance, HR, IT, procurement, and legal, has often played an important role as data “first responder” when reliable data were needed fast. As the central data repository of financial, HR, procurement, and other crucial processes that touch every aspect of a company’s operations, GBS can be a gold mine of information.

With the right analytic capabilities in place, GBS organizations are well-positioned to help the enterprise quickly harvest actionable insights from the wealth of enterprise data they handle—data that are processed and updated regularly, often in real time. Carefully designed advanced-analytics algorithms, applied to GBS data in analyzing a specific business issue, can dramatically reduce subjectivity and bias in supporting clearer-eyed decision-making. Moreover, GBS functions’ ongoing analytic work gives their people the skills and mind-sets needed to draw insights from the data.

As companies navigate the COVID-19 recovery, an advanced-analytics program can help GBS serve as an even more effective information broker, equipping leaders with the information they need to make proactive decisions quickly. GBS is designed to reap economies of scale, so playing this data role represents a natural evolution. Such an arrangement also allows GBS to work more efficiently, freeing it from the manual reporting it must sometimes perform so it can serve the enterprise more strategically.

From retrospective analysis to forward-looking insights

The pandemic—and institutional responses to it—triggered all sorts of operational challenges for businesses: supply-chain disruption, collapses (or spikes) in demand, worker shortages, stoppages of indeterminate length, and cash-flow interruptions. These challenges were compounded by the gamut of policies that varied by region.

In times of disruption, a GBS-led advanced-analytics capability can help companies answer multiple questions in determing the right strategic levers to pull:

  • What if, in assessing the order-to-cash cycle time, companies could at any moment know their numbers on sales orders, renewals, and customer revenue—replacing the indicators they often rely on today, such as bills per fulltime employee (FTE)?
  • What if, instead of cash apps per FTE, companies could access customer short-pay and payment-data trends—that is, they could see the direction and speed of these trends at any point in time?
  • In assessing the procure-to-pay cycle, companies normally must wait for payments to be made before they can track on-time payments. What if they could compare the value of extending payment terms to that of offering early-payment discounts—or better yet, evaluate the effects of those changes dynamically?
  • What if, instead of waiting for monthly KPIs on inventory aging, or on maintenance, repair and operations, companies were able to forecast these KPIs with greater accuracy?

The impact on spending, cash-management, and resource-allocation decisions could be dramatic, which in a time of crisis or volatility could have significant business repercussions.

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Analytics helps global business services fuel resilience and return