Empowering Business – Optimizing through NextGen Automation

Essel group, An Indian multinational, is a conglomerate with diversified interests in Media, Entertainment, Infrastructure, Education, Mining, Finance, packaging and technology.

Having accredited with many “first mover” titles, this conglomerate had already set high benchmarks in the Indian market. Be it the private TV channel (ZEE), or the DTH (Dishtv), or Amusement theme Park (Essel world) – there are many firsts which Essel Group has pioneered. Essel Business Excellence (EBEX), was again, the first Shared Service Center in the Media and Entertainment segment in India.

The vastly broadened portfolio of business brings with it a highly challenging organizational need of being process oriented, at the same time being agile and compliant.

The solution – A highly diligent, consolidated process oriented governance model with standardization, measurable metrics and global benchmarks with the ability to let business RUN, GROW and TRANSFORM.

Flashback: EBEX V1.0: The journey So far – RUN

2015 –The marathon begins. EBEX, the shared services arm of Essel group is born with an endeavor to provide the State of art services to its varied internal customers.

The objective at this stage was to achieve service excellence and cost-efficiencies by leveraging economies of scale. From a wide scale of business portfolio, HR and F&A functions were selected to be the forerunners. The transition of these two processes from an operating to a delivery model resulted in benefits and improvement in multiple areas:

  • Productivity
    1. Online MIS and analytics
    2. Automated reporting and escalation
  • Efficiency
    1.  A step towards paperless office
    2. Improved TAT and Cost Saving
  • Accountability
    1. Defined Roles and responsibility
    2. SLA based metrics
  • Governance
    1. Process Transparency and Visibility to measure KPI and take action
    2. System Checks and Controls
    3. Replication of best practices across internal organizations

2016 – The learnings from the journey so far has provided EBEX a mature outlook in terms of an evolved roadmap for the practices resulting in greater value for the business.

There were couple of fronts which we were fighting simultaneously at – timelines, budgets, uncertainty and resistance (internal as well as external). And with my experience of past 4 businesses, I was clear, that sequential moves would only help in such a scenario- it was imperative to avoid any business disruption, at the same time to take all the stakeholders along in the journey. This required an effective Change Management Strategy.

To list a few critical learnings as one initiates the RUN,

  • Create an evolution roadmap considering various attributes like organization environment, existing processes and baselined metrics, proposed benefits, business values, service levels.
  • Share the evolution roadmap and develop the relationships and collaboration required
  • Building consensus and sign off on Transition state metrics
  • Initiate and handhold the change management process with benchmarked service levels
  • Measure and report the new KPI’s
  • Allow flexibility in adaption strategy accounting for the business dynamics.

The learning from V1.0 has created readiness and maturity to move towards the next leap. So while the modules HR and F&A now move onto phase 2 into a state of GROW, they have laid a foundation of a robust and scalable shared service which can expand its wings in functions like IT, Procurement , R2R ( Record to Report), Collection & Legal.

Managing is thing of the past, next was – GROW – EBEX V2.0

EBEX had started changing the perception by now – it was no longer merely a transaction processing arm. It had started delivering value, Stakeholders and customers had started expecting more. In V2.0 the goal set was to deliver “grow the business” value to the organization.

This matured lap envisioned to move further to achieve newer objectives – Global harmonization, Consistency, Uniformly propagated changes, and short defined response times.

“Defined input – predictable output – reduces anxienty, builts acceptance”

Initiatives were taken to visibly and measurably improve business operations, resulting in increased customer retention, market share, revenue, earnings, operational throughput and other business performance metrics.

With periodic MIS reports, Audit Assistance, Book closure activities, the R2R ( record to report ) function has not only shifted the ownership of the Entity balance sheets to EBEX, but also has given a lot of progressive insights for the future road map.

The mantra to a long term sustainable success lies in the multi-facet strategy focusing on the 3 pillars of organization:

1. People – Stakeholder Ownership

“What services do the clients need? Can we provide efficiently with high levels of accuracy at attractive prices?” It requires a permanent and very close relationship with your clients. Clients should be equally engaged and committed in shaping the services they will buy from the Shared Service. Doing this lowers the risk and cost of implementing the business-balanced scorecard by putting in place the required operational controls.

2. Process – Automation, Turnaround time, consolidation

Business Activity Monitoring – Monitoring critical business processes for exceptional performance is an emerging response to the need for more agile, cost-effective enterprises.
By putting a thoroughly evaluated process across different industry verticals within the Essel group, we:

  • Could save 80+ FTE’s in first 2 years of operations
  •  Brought down the wage bill by more than INR 50 mn.
  •  Improved efficiencies by upto 30% by re- engineering and automated processes
  •  Reduced TAT for the AP process from 15 days to 2 days, digitization of the invoices is an add-on to it.
  •  Quarterly book closure window reduced from 23-25 days to 7 days.
  •  Unified helpdesk – Single window to attend issues related to all process as well as vendor / Employee queries.
  •  Created a standard template – onboarding new entities takes us less than a week’s time now.
  •  Direct savings of more than INR 1000 mn. through consolidation of requirements and centralized procurement.
  • Exploiting the available resources within the group, which were otherwise lying idle –resulting in further savings of INR 50 mn.

3. Technology

We are all aware of the examples of institutions which were once considered to be invincible, are now almost extinct –reason for the same, again, as we all know is due to failure in keeping pace with the ever changing technologies.

Gone are those days when implementation of some technology was considered to be an expense- it is now an investment. An investment which differentiates you from the traditional masses, gives you an edge over your competitors, helps you in being future ready.

Businesses are demanding, compliances and governance are getting tighter, transparency is at its peak with the social media platforms in abundance, requirements from the different stake holders are dynamic – to be able to even meet the expectations, one needs to be abreast of the environment all the time.

We implemented Bolton tools which sat on our existing ERP platforms – Workflow tools, Travel Portal, helpdesk Master data tool, Intranet – which became the foundation for digital transformation.

This sets the prologue for our next lap V3.0

The winning Strategy – TRANSFORM – EBEX V3.0

We now see the emergence of EBEX V3.0, which aims even higher — helping the organization transform its business. Instead of looking at improvising the existing services, we now look at the business roadmap to identify areas where we can fit in to accelerate the pace, we try to envisage what will be needed in future to support the business, and moves to make them available when they are needed.

Clients will not look out for different vendors for their different requirements. We have to be, and we are available, anytime, anywhere – for anything, and everything. And we are aligned to the business outcome:

  • Client outsourcing F & A would always ask – what is the working capital efficiency brought in by EBEX?
  •  Similarly for procurement services – a client can always ask for the savings brought by the shared service.

Though the pillars discussed above (People, Process and Technology) are ubiquitous in the RUN and GROW phase, in V3.0 they attain a very critical position in the way they are to be handled and the value that is expected to be accrued out of transformation.

Having harmonized processes and created a consistent delivery model in V2.0, the need now is to create an innovative streak that raises the already set high benchmarks. At each step, the EBEX adds more processes and more sophisticated services to its portfolio. In doing so, it offers additional classes of benefits, moving from the operational, to the tactical, to the strategic.

This is the stage when the value, relevance and efficacy of Shared Services has to be maximized. To do so we follow the approach of evaluating Readiness, Risk and Benefits.

For the interest of the readers, I would like to bust a myth: Digitization is not equal to digital transformation

While the former may construe a paperless office scenario, or making a document available in soft copy, later is a much bigger concept. SMAC, Bots, Mobility, Integrated Automated processes, defined workflows – these are few enablers which can be playing a disruptive role in mending the rules of the game for future.

Let me now take all of you through the approach for transformation where digitization is one of the pivots of shared services. At Essel group our customers can approach us through multiple channels:

  • Mobile App
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Web portal

Irrespective of the channel, we should be able to provide an indifferent experience to the user, take feedback which includes responsiveness, business understanding and business resolution. To make this happen, it was imperative to create a self-service interactive portal where the standard queries & FAQ’s are present.

Our approach:

1. Integrate Stakeholder:

  • We launched a web based feedback channel by leveraging the ESSEL Connect intranet portal. The portal provides real time feedback and C-Sat of stakeholders with respect to the services provided/ consumed.
  • Essel connect intranet portal was also leveraged to provide updates on:
  1. New Process Changes
  2. Significant operational highlights
  3. Update of major government policy changes impacting operations (e Invoicing, GST, law  amendments etc.)
  • One of the key area of focus at EBEX is to align its service delivery to measurable Business outcomes. Further it is also required that a common and consistent view of the process is defined and understood both within EBEX as well as Entities. For this process design workshops involving business stakeholders and EBEX team was conducted. Through the above workshops an integrated performance dashboard linking the business outcomes to the operational measures was developed
  • To service our employees and stakeholders better – Case Management System developed within the Intranet system where employees/ stakeholders raise queries and EBEX resolves in time bound manner. The service feedback captured at the point of closure giving an additional measure of service satisfaction.

2. Create capability and to be a Centre of Excellence:

A set of actions and initiatives to develop Process competency were under taken

  • Process SOP repository on Intranet. This provided a single source of process view to all stakeholders internal as well as external. There is only one version of the process and if any changes are required, it has to pass through a stringent jury of Change Control Board.
  • Trained the EBEX team on lean six sigma tools to drive continuous improvement paradigm
  • An EBEX wide Digital quotient appreciation and training program was rolled out where employees were exposed to Digital and Social media platforms and were able to understand and appreciate the impact of such tools on organization transformation.

3. Performance, Analytics and Insights:

Leveraging the investments in HANA, EBEX started providing HR, F&A and Procurement analytics & insights to the CXO’s. To ensure that analytics output is consumed and internalized by senior business stakeholders, industry standard data visualization tool like Tableau was implemented. Ebex raised the capability of analytics which is more visual and stakeholders do not need to open an excel and see what is mentioned at the bottom of each line and then interpret the reports.

4. Digital Transformation:

  • Leverage Robotic Process Automation to eliminate manual data validation and entry for Bank, Vendor, Inter co. reconciliation and PR_PO conversion. We have partnered with vendors to create above capabilities.
  • Extension of SAP to provide Employee Self Services as well as extending to e -separation and E Payment modules was rolled out. This ensured that the entire Hire to Retire and Procure to Pay value chain was digitally transformed.
  • As our customers are sitting across globe and training them not only expensive but time consuming, we have setup a simulation lab where users/ employees/ stakeholders can are trained to make process adoption, adherence and compliance more effective.

And the results are:

  • Management/Leadership : Instant Dashboards, better Compliance and Bank/Interco reconciliation
  •  Entities : Access to Online Helpdesk and portals for status updates and delivery of services
  •  Vendors : Online status from Vendor Portal
  •  Employees: Communication through Social Media, E-News-Letters
  •  New Hires/ External world: Visibility of our organization, Brand value

Looking back, it gives me immense pride to see EBEX where it has reached today, at the same time, looking forward gives a lot of confidence and relentless faith of becoming a trendsetter. We are Essel group. We are young @ 90.

Andrew Mason: One thing I’ve come to learn about myself is that I have to keep going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *