Posts Tagged ‘six sigma’

(Almost) perfect, at less cost and applicable in the outsourcing and shared services industry

May 22, 2010

Good quality does not cost – it pays. But many companies do not recognize it as they do not know how much things cost due to missing cost calculation in many areas. And that is the reason why it usually takes a long time for them to think their processes over and to implement simple measures assuring reduction in cost of delivering customer satisfaction. The latest one does not have to be as high as the cost of materials!

Good, better, (almost) perfect… – there is always a better way to make things. That is an old approach known as continuous improvement or kaizen and being an integral part of TQM (total quality management). It got very famous in Japan thank to quality gurus of Western origin and then the idea fascinated the rest of the world. Originally applied for industrial processes and by engineers, could be then successfully implemented for administrative tasks. And after the boom of outsourcing and shared services industry has begun, it has also been an attractive approach worth following to improve outsourced or insourced operations.

Six sigma, lean management – they are no more the domain of production, engineering or of in-house made operations. Even more insourcers and outsourcers recognize their importance to cut cost and increase customer satisfaction as quality pays. And the concept of “customer” itself does not just cover external but also internal clients you provide your work to.

While six sigma is a statistical method of quality control, lean management implies a qualitative approach. The main principles of lean / six sigma are as follows:

• they provide a system for improving the performance of a process, product or organisation,
• they help to understand performance from the customers’ perspective (how to put yourself into customers’ shoes),
• they provide a way of thinking in terms of end-to-end,
• they put a stress on making value flow and removing waste,
• they are in fact a pragmatic and rational approach to data and statistical variation.
• they help to treat causes not symptoms (in place of the fire-fighter approach).
• they focus on people, learning and continuous training being crucial to sustained competitiveness of the organisation.

Lean / Six Sigma
Source:Mike Way, Six Sigma and Lean in a shared services environment, presentation Prague 2009

Many organisations could reduce cost and/or increase revenue by reducing waste in existing processes thank to implementing lean / six sigma: Better, faster, safer with lean / six sigma implies quality improvement, reduction of response/reaction times and reduction of operational risks.

That all sounds nice, doesn’t it? Why not try it?

Magdalena Szarafin


Zero-defect quality: Management tools to meet the challenges of tomorrow

July 21, 2009

Can a shared service center be better, i.e. more efficient (quantitative aspects) and more effective (qualitative aspects)? How can performance be measured? What is the gap between our shared service center and the best ones?

Did you know that the most enterprises manage their shared service centers in form of cost centers, while a profit center model would be better for them in terms of delivering of the value added for the whole enterprise, customer orientation, operative cost cuts and shorter period of amortization? And although such instruments of continuous improvement as six sigma and total quality management (TQM) contribute to increased productivity and process standardization, only a few companies can successfully use them. The most shared service centers have relative big potential of improvement regarding the process and service standardization. Companies also experience problems with implementation of a complex internal control system, which could support them to transparently measure the performance and to deliver relevant information for strategic and operative management.

But: over 50 per cent of shared service centers use benchmarking as the instrument to measure performance. There are some performance measure tools available online, which deliver the gap analysis between our shared service center and the best in the class.

As the findings of a current study of The Hackett Group show, 65 per cent of companies could cut the costs of the finance function by minimum 21 per cent implementing the shared service organisation model. In some cases the cost reduction was up to 60 per cent. The Hackett Group expects the use of shared services to grow in the coming three years by 50 per cent.

For a shared service center to be successfully implemented, good leadership is needed. The reason why shared service center projects can fail is among others not sufficient support offered by the top management.

Six sigma, leadership for shared services, centralisation within decentralisation, the question of efficiency and effectiveness, profit center vs. cost center, process and systems harmonization, shared services vs. outsourcing and many other interesting topics will be presented in form of presentations, round-table discussions and case studies during the event “Financial Shared Services 2009” organized by Axiom Groupe and held on 17-18 September 2009 in Barcelona, Spain.

Why not learn the way to zero-defect quality and prolong the summer, spending a few days in Barcelona?

Magdalena Szarafin
Magdalena Szarafin has immense knowledge of the outsourcing sector and is one of the authorities in shared services and outsourcing industry analysis. Her research interests include insourcing and outsourcing in connection with the value chain. She is an author of many publications dealing with outsourcing, knowledge management and total quality management (TQM).
Magdalena lives in Frankfurt, Germany and she works as an International Management Accountant in a big multinational group, dealing with preparation of financial statements under IAS/IFRS and local GAAP. In her leisure time she prepares a PhD dissertation focused on shared service centers.
Contact her to leverage her knowledge and in-depth BPO and shared services industry penetration experience.


Axiom Groupe is a leader in production and communication, delivering business intelligence and strategic information. Offering e-marketing solutions, best practice conferences, business training, sales incentives, in-house training, first class corporate hospitality and privileged membership services to European executives, Axiom Groupe provides a significant competitive advantage for enterprises. more >>