ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
GBS potentially has benefits such as enabling even quicker market entry and business integration as organisations evolve their business models. It should also give a much better 'end-to-end' view of business processes, and that means opportunities to drive further efficiencies. But it also necessitates CFOs looking across the entire finance activity map and determining what remains in 'finance', and what can move into a GBS operation. It essentially redefines what is 'core' and 'non-core' to the finance organisation
—Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA

Finance chiefs could drive more business value under new global business services (GBS) model yet risks prevail

New research from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) suggests that finance leaders see challenges in implementing global business service (GBS) models as well as recognising the significant impact they may have on the traditional role of the finance organisation. 

With many finance functions within businesses having moved into outsourced or shared services models, for some businesses the next phase is GBS – the aggregation of functions such as finance, human resources, IT, property and facilities into one organisational construct and governance model.  

ACCA’s report suggests chief financial officers could bring even more value to the business through this structure, but the model poses potential risks for finance chiefs and the finance function remit, and may alter traditional finance career opportunities. 

Deborah Kops, principal, Sourcing Change and co-author of the report, says: 'Today’s CFOs should be prepared for GBS, and understand what it means for the finance function as a whole. Will GBS free them up to focus on more strategic objectives?'

Jamie Lyon, ACCA head of corporate sector, said: 'Finance leaders see advantages and disadvantages in moving to a GBS model. While it may enable CFOs to bring more value to the business and play a much more strategic role across the whole enterprise, it could be a distraction to the further transformation of the finance function, particularly if the CFO becomes the corporate owner.'

Creating more value

The ACCA report Global business services: a game changer for the finance organisation? reveals that GBS could increase the impact of finance by combining comprehensive data, technology and capability across business functions to provide more accurate and actionable business insights, and free up finance chiefs to focus more on all their other responsibilities. 

Jamie Lyon said: 'GBS potentially has benefits such as enabling even quicker market entry and business integration as organisations evolve their business models. It should also give a much better 'end-to-end' view of business processes, and that means opportunities to drive further efficiencies. But it also necessitates CFOs looking across the entire finance activity map and determining what remains in 'finance', and what can move into a GBS operation. It essentially redefines what is 'core' and 'non-core' to the finance organisation.'

Leadership and capability implications

In its assessment of GBS, ACCA looked at what the model meant for the career pathway of future finance leaders. With many finance activities no longer in the finance function under this new business construct, and instead placed in a global business services function,  finance professionals will need to adapt their ways of working to be better prepared for working and reporting cross-functionally. 

Deborah Kops explained: 'The ways in which finance professionals interact with professionals in other functional areas becomes of paramount importance in a GBS model. That’s easier said than done when historically most business models have been demarcated along functional vertical lines. 

'To make GBS work, you must develop different capabilities in your finance professionals so that they can operate effectively in a cross functional, matrixed construct. They need to be able to break down those functional barriers, and develop a broader business perspective rather than a narrower finance orientated viewpoint. It’s a big cultural shift for the finance organisation, and the implications for traditional finance career paths could be profound.'

Jamie Lyon added: 'The other significant question when transitioning to global business services is who leads the operation. For those businesses which may be considered to be well on the road to GBS, often we see ownership residing with the CFO. But this could simply be because finance has traditionally led the way on transformation initiatives within the organisation.  

'With the breadth of priorities facing CFOs today, perhaps there is a strong case for ownership to rest elsewhere, for example, with Chief Operating Officers. One thing is certain, the scale and impact across the enterprise of GBS is potentially very significant, and the benefits possibly very rewarding. It’s got to have the mandate and ownership at board level for these to be fully realised.' 

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For more information, please contact 

Steve Rudaini, ACCA Newsroom
+ 44 (0) 207 059 5622
+44 (0) 7801 133985
steve.rudaini@accaglobal.com  

Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom
+44 (0)20 7059 5759
+44 (0)7725 498654
helen.thompson@accaglobal.com 

Notes to Editors

  1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
  2. We support our 162,000 members and 428,000 students in 173 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 89 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
  3. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.