Many finance executives have long appreciated shared services' potential to yield cost and control benefits. At many companies, the finance organization is the first to adopt shared services to perform functional enabling services: In Deloitte's 2011 global shared services survey, more shared services organizations (SSOs) included finance processes than processes in any other function. The use of shared services can allow finance executives to not only cut functional operating costs, but also reduce the cost and complexity of the internal control environment. In fact, 85 percent of respondents said that shared services had a positive impact on the company's level of controls.
As more and more companies implement shared services for their own finance organizations, however, any competitive advantage a company may derive from such gains will likely diminish. What forward-thinking finance executives should now explore are strategies for pursuing benefits beyond the "baseline" gains afforded by the standardization, consolidation, and automation inherent in many shared services implementations.
Fortunately, we see at least two potential ways in which they can do so. The first is to enhance shared services' cost-saving value by pursuing tax opportunities associated with implementing and expanding an SSO. The second is to leverage shared services to strengthen the company's internal controls over financial reporting in ways that go beyond the efficiencies that shared services typically generates.