The BCG Approach to Digital in Support Functions

BCG can help you develop your company as a digital leader. We work with you to aggressively drive digital transformation throughout your support functions and shared services. 

Our work beings with BCG’s DAI Deep Dive into Support Functions. And the insights you gain from the results of this exercise position you to work with us on additional programs tailored to your specific needs.

Activating Three Enablers

To fully capture the opportunities on offer from digitizing support functions, companies must activate three enablers.

Digitization Tools

Cloud storage solutions, along with big data and advanced analytics, are enabling companies to use technologies to automate work performed in support functions. Two main technologies are involved:

  • RPA is already highly useful today for rule-based, well-structured tasks, such as accessing data or performing simple data processing
  • AI is still in an early stage of maturity, but it offers new opportunities for continuous improvement, thanks to its ability to learn from data; for instance, by emulating human decisions

RPA and AI can also complement each other; for example, through bots’ making broad data sources accessible to AI.
Using these technologies to assist human beings in such ways reduces costs while also enhancing customers’ satisfaction with the services they receive.

A Focus on Business Value

Digital enables organizations to slash costs in their support functions—through automation that reduces FTEs and accelerates processing speed. But digital also helps support functions create forms of value that go far beyond cost savings—such as enabling them to:

  • Deliver higher-quality service thanks to mass customization and around-the-clock availability
  • Shift support function employees’ focus from transactional activities to those that tap into their best competencies
  • Free up time for the internal customers of support functions so they, too, can concentrate on more value-adding activities  

When support functions create these forms of value, they can flexibly adapt to the business’s changing needs.

The Right Operating Model

Digitization enables companies to build the right operating model for their support functions. Such operating models have several defining characteristics:

  • Globalization—including providing globally consistent best-in-class experiences to employees and customers
  • Decentralization—including offering self-service options that give flexibility back to the business
  • Collaboration—including creating multidisciplinary teams, adopting agile ways of working (including colocation with customers), and leveraging global expert networks
  • Specialization—including drawing a clear distinction between transactional tasks and value-added activities, such as solution building and strategic consulting

The most valuable support functions reinforce their new operating model by using digital to boost efficiency and accuracy in all processes essential for delivering services to internal customers (such as record-to-report and order-to-cash in a finance group, hire-to-retire in an HR group, and connect-to-resolve in a call center).

The result is a consistent experience over the entire journey traveled by a support function’s internal customers. The functions designate a single decision maker for each process, to drastically reduce complexity. And can ensure that the data used to perform each process is consistent across all of its uses, thus boosting service quality and employee productivity.

Getting Started with a DAI Deep Dive into Support Functions

To help our clients activate these three enablers—digitization tools, a focus on business value, and the right operating model—we invite them to first engage in BCG’s DAI Deep Dive into Support Functions. Requiring just 30 minutes to complete, this online survey enables companies to assess their overall digital maturity and to diagnose and compare the digital maturity of each of their support functions and shared service organizations. They can also compare their scores against those of their peers.

For clients who complete the deep dive, the results serve as a springboard for discussions about the benefits of digitizing their support functions and for defining a digital strategy and transformation roadmap. During such discussions, participants can explore questions such as:

  • What is hindering digital implementation in our support functions?
  • Why is there no digital strategy in place for our organization?
  • What is our digital ambition level?

The survey analyzes the digital maturity of a support function or shared service organization along 7 dimensions: vision and strategy, mandate and governance, and 5 dimensions related to the operating model of the function or organization: people and working mode, organization, processes, systems and tools, and vendors and sourcing.

Once a client completes the survey, a score is calculated that indicates the maturity stage of the function and organization on each dimension, classifying from digital passive to digital leader. A customized results report is produced that includes not only these scores and classifications but also quantifies of the company’s digital potential as well as proposed next steps.

Taking the Next Steps

The insights that companies gain from the results of their DAI Deep Dive into Support Functions enable them to work with BCG on additional programs tailored to their specific needs. In addition to the deep dive, two additional offerings—the Digital Ambition Workshop and the E2E Process Diagnosis—help clients take stock of their current situation and digital ambition.

Digital Ambition Workshop

During this one-day session, BCG draws on findings from the DAI Deep Dive into Support Functions to help companies identify key strengths that they already possess and that they can build on. We also aid them in clarifying their digital ambition in the areas they wish to focus on; again, informed by their Deep Dive findings. While completion of the online survey ideally is done first, this is not a requirement for participation in the Digital Ambition Workshop.

E2E Process Diagnosis

Through this four-week diagnostic exercise, BCG assists companies in identifying the digital opportunities that hold the greatest promise and defining one or more E2E processes that they should set up, refine, or fully digitize, such as record-to-report, order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, hire-to-retire, and connect-to-resolve. 

Once clients have clarified their current situation and digital ambition, BCG offers two programs—the Single-Process Automation Pilot and the Digital Transformation Program—aimed at helping clients digitize their support functions.

Single-Process Lighthouse Project

Working closely with clients, we define digitization initiatives aimed at piloting the automation of a single process over a 10-week period. This comprises to establish a process specific overview of existing capabilities and to define the ambition including understanding the needs of the relevant target users. As an option, clients can choose to develop a minimum viable product within two months.

Digital Transformation Program

This service offering focuses on enabling clients to fully digitize all of their support functions and shared service organizations. This includes to assess clients’ digital maturity, define their future operating model of support and digital journey holistically, pilot minimum viable solutions in confined space and finally to roll out solutions full-scale.

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Digital Support Functions & Shared Services