Does Standardization and Business Partnering go Hand in Hand?

In many years the finance function has been focusing on standardization and centralization as a method for cost efficiency and creation of organizational competence centers. With the recent start of the Business Partnering Institute, the question that comes to mind is whether standardization and centralization is aligned with the value creation from business partnering.

Standardization is in many areas focusing on the principles of LEAN management but can also be viewed for adding some basic principles that standardize the quality of specific reporting. Often, we see businesses only working with one or the other of these setups and not combining these to the optimal mix of processes.

In example, many large companies have had a focus on creating Shared Service Centers that covers a large region based on LEAN management. Some of these projects has been cancelled and is returning to a decentralized solution as it did not match the expected value proposition but is this really the right call? This is where a true business partner could start creating great value: Instead of wasting big investments, the true business partner would be able to function as a project manager, analyzing the non-value adds in the process and figure how these can be optimized by applying more quality instead of LEAN approach or decentralize part of the scope to start adding value.

An opposite example is a decentralized solution where focus is on highly standardized quality. A set of principles are applied that everyone in all geographies/areas need to adhere to ensuring a standardized approach with high quality. Experience is that these tasks are often including some steps that could be centralized as basic standards and which adds demotivation to the people locally as they are required to span over too many different competences: Accounting, preparation, analysis and reporting. In many cases, the local organizations are often too small to split the competencies into people with the right motivation areas. Again, a true business partner will be able to find a solution that would add the right mix of decentralization/centralization and LEAN/quality.

So answering the question, I believe that what we often see in that business partnering are not going hand in hand with standardization and centralization but it can do if the business partnering approach will be the basis of implementing the principles of standardization and centralization.