Steve Rudderham, Head of Global Business Services, AkzoNobel

In this three part series, Atul Vashistha, Chairman, Neo Group speaks to Steve Rudderham, Head of Global Business Services at AkzoNobel. Rudderham tells us why Process transformation and People agenda are his top priorities in these uncertain times. He identifies challenges in the GBS environment and what can be done to address them, from attrition to automation and more.
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Episode 1.B Expert Wisdom- Steve Rudderham, Head of Global Business Services, AkzoNobel on Challenges and Solutions for GBS

Episode 1.C Career Advice- Steve Rudderham, Head of Global Business Services, AkzoNobel on how you can make it in GBS | Ep 1.C

Atul:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of Sourcing.guru. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Steve Rotheram, who’s the head of GBS at noble. Steve, welcome.
Steve :
Thank you. Good to be here.
Atul:
So Steve let’s begin by talking a little bit about you and your current role before we kind of dig deeper into GBS.
Steve :
Sure. So I look after global business services for Acts and a Bell that is a paint and coatings company, it’s based out of the Netherlands. So I’m actually based in Amsterdam, but we’ve got six centers around the world and just shy of 3,000 people that we look after with all the usual suspects of P2P, R2R, Order-to-Cash and on the people service’s side as well.
Atul:
Wonderful. So, Steve, how did your career begin in GBS and more importantly, why did you choose GBS?
Steve :
So I got into GPS really from BPO. So I’ve been in the BPO industry for about 15 years, started off with Genpact then through Capgemini, and then eventually Accenture. And I actually thought it’d be a little bit of fun to be on the customer side as well. So that actually brought a nice bit of insight when dealing with third-party provider as well, what’s been said, what can be delivered, timelines, that kind of thing. So, I think part of it was I thought it would be a lot more fun and it has.
Atul:
Wonderful. So Steve, when you think about your priorities today, people are always curious about right as times are changing. What would your priorities be today?
Steve :
I think in the current environment, we’re obviously working from home and we’re moving towards this hybrid model of some time in the office some time from home, which is always difficult in this GBS environment and talking to a lot of my peers, we’re all struggling with at the moment of how to drive process transformation at the same time of balancing where people are. And I think for me, the second piece is really around the people agenda. That’s obviously the big thing within GBS. That is our biggest capital, is the people side. So really driving the talent management, that career path thing, those type of things. So I’d say process transformation in this world of hybrid working and then the people agenda as well.
Atul:
Right, right. We’ve been used to having some level of work from home as time has progressed but the reality is, never at the scale that we are experiencing today and for the length of time. So, Steve, I think you started talking about some of your challenges, but also talk about some of your other challenges.

Atul:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of sourcing.globe. Talk about some of your other challenges and more importantly, is there anything that keeps you up at night? Professionally of course.
Steve:
Yeah. Yeah. I think on the challenges side, talent is really the biggest piece for us at the moment. And it’s keeping that retention of key talent in those key markets as well. Kind of coming out of the BPO industry where we always have to deal with attrition of some kind. And how do you build the right knowledge management capacity within your business? Seeing that as well now within in GBS, there’s certain markets that are kind of starting to pick up turnover a little more. And I think in the beginning of COVID, we actually had quite a relaxed workforce. They weren’t looking out, there was maybe a little bit of anxiety in people, in the system. Should I look to move roles? But now I think everybody’s got really good at remote onboarding. We’ve got a lot of people that have never seen the inside of a GBS office, but that’s the same for everybody.
Steve:
So switching companies is now becoming a lot easier and we’re starting to see those attrition levels. Just start to trickle up a little bit. So that’s probably one of my biggest concerns at the moment, one of the challenges to those priorities that we’ve got.
Atul:
Yeah. Steve, in fact, some of the services I’ve seen talk about up to 30, 40% of the workforce is considering a change.
Steve:
Yeah. Yeah. So, there was, I was on a call yesterday and somebody called it “the great resignation” which is quite a powerful statement, but hopefully we won’t be operating under that. But yeah, it seems to be a lot of people are starting to look out and what are their options and what kind of flexibility do they want going forward. So we’ve got to keep agile and got to keep moving fast, really on this.
Atul:
So Steve, on that note of agile and keep moving faster, one of the biggest changes we’re starting to see of course is the pace of change, right? And often this change is sudden and really it at high speed. So when you think about in your leadership role, how do you enable your organization to adapt and be able to respond to sometimes fast and sometimes sudden change?
Steve:
Yeah. I think I used the word a moment ago regarding agility. You’ve got to be agile. And for me in a position I may in, you think of an organization with nearly 3,000 people and trying to move them all in a direction, you got to surround yourself with good people, and then you’ve got to empower them and let them get on with it. And that’s not just at the next level down, but two and three layers down in the organization, that’s the only way you can do it and make sure they feel trusted. It’s usually a big world that’s banded around, but make sure that they feel trusted to really get on. Make the decisions and it’s okay to make mistakes, just keep, don’t keep making the same mistakes, but it’s okay to make those mistakes as long as you’re staying agile. And you’re keeping up with the changes that are going on at the moment.
Atul:
So trust, empowerment, learning mindset, agile, it seems those are the areas that are working for you. As we look at GPS. The other thing we’re seeing is the application of automation. Talk to us a little bit about kind of benefits, challenges, and kind of just how you think about automation.
Steve:
Yeah. I think we can all see the benefits of automation. I think the biggest difficulty we all have is how to sell this internally, particularly when you’re right at the beginning of the journey, because there’s that chicken-and-egg scenario of, “do you invest?” And “what’s the returns going to be?” And there was initially a lot of smoke and mirrors out there in terms of what can be promised and all the heads that could come out. But I think just doing in small bite sized chunks and then start to accelerate, people get comfortable with the idea and then you’ll see the investment kind of like the self-investment, self-funding that goes on. And that’s how we’re seeing it work at the moment.
Atul:
Steve, along with that, we’re seeing tremendous attention to diversity, equity, inclusion, environmental issues, climate issues, societal areas, as we just talked about. So when you think about ESG or socially responsible sourcing, kind of, how do you think about that in the context of applying it, both in your operations and kind of the benefits and challenges that you’ve seen in that area?
Steve:
Yeah. I mean, it was good to see the pairing company, AkzoNobel. They just put out in the last week that they were committing to reducing carbon emissions, I think by 30%. So by 42% by 2030. And what it did is really say, we want this up and down the value chain. So not just within the accident about factories, but also all the suppliers that come to us as well. So that gives us a good platform to then go out to our partners, to our suppliers, demanding the same thing. The thing around impact sourcing, I really like, and if I look at my centers, places like Brazil, they actually have a mandate for ensuring you’ve got a certain percentage, not only of the diversity, but things like disabled workers as well. So it’s driving that through the organization.
Steve:
And I think of kind of the social responsibility in the community work. When you take a step back when you’ve got 3,000 people, that’s a lot of people and a lot of hands that can help. So we actually put a mandate out. This was pre COVID and we’re seeing how we can work at during these COVID times, but we’re trying to give 10,000 hours back into the community. And this has really taken teams at a time. And it’s actually, the byproduct is a great team-building exercise. You go out and being a paint company, we can go and paint local areas, maybe some of the rundown areas, we’ve done it in Brazil, we’ve done it in Turkey. And that’s our way of kind of giving back to the community as well. So it really is front and center in everything we’re doing at the moment.
Atul:
Steve. Is actually great to hear, it’s not just adoption of the practices, but you’re actually setting goals and engaging your oral team and participating.
Steve:
Yeah. Everybody’s measured on that. All the supervisors are, and they’ve got a chunk of that 10,000 hours and that’s part of their objectives for the year.
Atul:
Great idea. So Steve, we were just talking about locations, talent, and then let’s talk about partners. What role do suppliers play in your ecosystem?
Steve:
Yeah. I think you said the two keywords there, is don’t be a supplier. And I think a lot of people tend to fall back into that. And some of the governance meetings I sit on, we talk about pricing, we talk about the contract, when’s the contract being renewed. That should almost never be on the table. It’s, be a trusted partner. That’s what I always default to. And what I’ve looked for from my suppliers is share the learnings, share the best practices often. They’re the experts and particular within GPS, kind of the people that we deal with, they deal with a lot of companies like us. So they’ve got a lot more experience. They can bring good benchmark and good best practice and talk about innovation, make that the first item on the agenda, not all of the pricing and how’s the contract go in that type of thing. Tell me something I don’t know that builds the trust and then let’s be a partner together on this journey.
Atul:
Steve, this is really helpful because I was going to follow on and ask you kind of what makes a good partner, right? So when you look at your entire partner base, say who actually stands out, and more importantly, you just talked about there’s certain things you ought to stop doing.
Steve:
Absolutely. If a partner can come in and tell me stuff that I don’t know and tell me, “Hey, this is what good looks like” and “This is how you get there” that very quickly becomes “how do we get there?” So that’s more of a powerful conversation when we get the partners in.
Atul:
So Steve, when you think about the next 12, 24 months, are there areas you plan to invest more in? Are there areas you plan to invest less? Any insights for all of us?
Steve:
Yeah. We spoke earlier a little bit around the digital roadmap that we’ll look at and an automation, what we can do there. But I think the second piece is around the whole data and analytics as well. How do we bring that added value to the rest of the organization, some of the predictive analytics as well. So it’ll really be investment in the human side of that as well. And the whole data scientist part, but also on what’s the right platform that we need to be using, what data mining process mining can we do. So I think we’ll see a lot more investment going into that to really simplify our processes the go-forward.
Atul:
Well, hint, hint for those suppliers who want to be partners so that you just give some of it away.
Steve:
Exactly. Yeah.
Atul:
What do you rely on to make yourself a better GBS leader? What resources? What people?

Atul:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to an episode of sourcing.guru. What do you rely on to make yourself a better GBS leader? What resources, what people?
Steve:
Yeah, I think on the resource side, there are quite a few of the GBS leaders out there, and it’s good to get into these peer groups that we do and the ability to bounce ideas off each other, but then also separate. Some people are on their journey a lot further, whether that’s in the automation, the data and analytics, and others may just be having issues on procurement.
Steve:
Without going into it being a therapy session, which sometimes it can be, as we all share sometimes the horror stories and the struggles that we’ve got, what I get most out of is these peer groups that we tap into and other people that are on the journey. I think that’s the best way. And if suppliers can help us with that and make connects and they can identify, “Well, here’s where you are in the journey and these people have already been there, why don’t you talk to these three people that they have as customers”? I think that’s very powerful as well.
Atul:
Yeah, Steve, I know I’m personally grateful that you’re part of the GBSBoard.org peer group. What advice would you give to future GBS leaders? How can they progress in their career to be doing the kind of roles that you are doing?
Steve:
I always say two things to people that want to join GBS, have a thick skin and a sense of humor. GBS is to me, definitely the best learning environment that’s out there. If you think of the issues that you have to face, but also being on the leading edge of things, it’s an immense learning environment, but you also take some stick along the way. The second processes don’t work, you hear about them. You rarely get the praise if things are going right, it’s expected, it’s expected your invoices to be paid, for the cash to be collected, or for your IT services to work.
Steve:
But the second they don’t, you tend to get a lot of… People call them escalations, others call it abuse. Just keep life in perspective, see it as a learning environment, but that thick skin and a sense of humor goes a long, long way.
Atul:
Well, on the note of thick skin and sense of humor, Steve, thank you so much for joining this episode.
Steve:
No problem. Appreciate it. Thanks.

In This Episode

Steve Rudderham

Head of Global Business Services

AkzoNobel

Results-oriented Global Operations Executive with 20 years of experience in developing and leading high performing teams, on the ground, in Europe, USA, India, and Latin America. Skilled at creating and executing transformational strategies that drive revenue growth, operational efficiencies and maximize employee engagement across multi-site operations. Achieved quality, productivity, and customer service excellence, enabled by digital transformation. Self-motivated thought leader with excellent business acumen, relationship building and communication skills. Proven success in executing both growth and cost initiatives. Extensive Six Sigma experience transformed into passionate focus on a metrics driven culture in operations.
Atul Vashistha is recognized globally as a leading expert on globalization, governance, and risk. He has authored three best-selling books: The Offshore Nation, Globalization Wisdom and Outsourcing Wisdom. Atul pioneered the global sourcing advisory space in 1999 when he founded Neo Group which collaborates with Global 2000 enterprises, empowering them to build new capabilities and generate rapid savings by leveraging global talent, analytics and automation. Neo Group offers Global Sourcing Advisory, Data Governance, and Risk Management services. Atul serves on the boards of the US Department of Defense Business Board (Vice Chair), IAOP, Shared Assessments, and Zemoga.

Atul Vashistha

Chairman

Neogroup

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