UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School: Global IT services a new industrial revolution

A new course at UCD aims to introduce students to best practice within the shared services industry


A new MSc programme from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School aims to prepare Ireland to take a leading position in what professor of marketing Mary Lambkin describes as “the new industrial revolution”.

“Global business services is the new industrial revolution,” she claims. “The first was driven by steam and coal and this one is being fuelled by the internet and IT. This time around Ireland is at the forefront of the revolution and it is up to all of us to grasp the opportunities it presents with both hands and secure first mover advantage to make sure that we are seen to be the best country in the world to locate shared services hubs and to be the place where most value can be added to those services.”

This is the motivation behind the launch of Ireland’s first MSc in Global Services Management, a part-time course which will begin in September 2014 and is aimed at managers of shared service centres and other types of business services in Ireland who wish to upgrade their skills and knowledge in this rapidly growing business area.

The scale of the opportunity is vast with the IT and business process outsourcing market expected to reach more than €717 billion in global spend in 2014, and to continue to grow at more than 5 percent annually. Ireland is already a European hub for companies such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as for leading financial services companies such as Citigroup, State St, BNY Mellon and many others, who use shared and outsourcing service processes.

“Shared service centres and outsourcing have developed on a large scale for most companies doing business today,” says UCD business dean Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh.

“This service delivery requires leadership, insight and collaboration between stakeholders. Employers are finding it difficult to recruit people who have these critical skills. This innovative new course will introduce students to best practice within the world’s leading companies and identify emerging trends that will be critical for the future of this vital sector.”

According to Prof Lambkin, the emergence of global business services is changing the way large companies operate and behave. “Big companies have lots of business processes supporting them. These include accounts, human resources, procurement, marketing and distribution and every one of them can be automated. These companies are now achieving economies of scale by automating the processes and bringing them together in shared services centres. A company can run all of its accounts functions from one location in the world and have hubs for other services in different locations.

“You can have hubs for innovation, for marketing, and you can manage some of them yourself while others can be outsourced. Cost savings were once the main objective of shared service centres in the early days. Today the objectives are far more strategic, focused on adding value to the whole business value chain, to driving innovation and improving analytics. Business process outsourcing has now become an industry in itself.”

And this trend is by no means confined to large multinationals. “It has spread to the public sector as well,” Lambkin points out. “The establishment of Irish Water is an example of the government centralising a particular service in one body. Also, there was a recent advertisement for a civil service post of head of shared services.”

Ireland has been a beneficiary of the changing structure of global corporations. “The big companies have become very decoupled now. They don’t have any real central core any more just a series of different centres performing different functions. Almost every new investment announcement by the IDA is related to this area in some way. The contact centre sector in Ireland employs around 35,000 people while the IFSC employs the same number again. Altogether, we estimate that the global business services sector in Ireland employs more than 100,000 and it is growing every day.”

She believes Ireland can secure for itself a leading position at the high-value end of this emerging global industry. “Managing corporations with services distributed around the globe in this way is a difficult, complex task. Also, managing the individual centres and hubs to add the maximum value is a challenge and the issue is how you train people to do that. We looked around the world and couldn’t find any other programmes specifically designed to educate people in this space. That was the key driver behind the creation of the MSc in Global Services Management. It really is a very pioneering programme.”

The part-time masters will be taught via twice-weekly evening classes, enabling participants to apply best practice in the management of their own businesses.

“We have designed it as a part-time course so that participants can continue working in their own jobs and hopefully put what they are learning into action almost straight away. We also hope that the students will engage with each other and learn from what is happening in each other’s companies.”

The course will draw on a range of expertise with delivery combining inputs from highly experienced, international academic faculty members and from leading practitioners in the global business services sector. “We are breaking new ground with the programme and it is very exciting. There was no roadmap for us to follow and we were very much entering uncharted territory with new templates to apply. It is very much innovation and entrepreneurship in action here within the Smurfit School. We developed the curriculum by talking to the global services industry, to companies here who have established global business services centres, as well as to organisations like the IDA. They all told us the course is hugely needed and their inputs have helped us design a course which we believe will be a valuable and critical component in building on the necessary skills required by employers today to maintain the success of this dynamic sector in Ireland.”

The first MSc in Global Services Management programme commences in September and applications from participants a re being accepted at the moment. Smurfitschool.ie