Agility in Controlling at Bosch Service Solutions26.10.2022
In a dynamic and rapidly growing service market environment, Bosch Service Solutions' Finance and Controlling function focuses on customer and employee orientation, flexibility, and speed to ensure sustainable and effective corporate success. The achievement of those objectives is strengthened by applying agile methods such as "Agile Leadership", "User Experience", and "Design Thinking". The advantages of agile methods and leadership are demonstrated along a project, targeting the introduction of a “Cost Centre Self-Reporting”.
Bosch Service Solutions (SO) is a leading global provider of Business Process Outsourcing for complex business processes and services. Using the latest technology and the Internet of Things, the Bosch division develops integrated and innovative service solutions in the areas of Mobility, Monitoring, and Customer Experience. Around 10,000 associates at 36 locations support national and international customers in around 40 languages, primarily from the automotive, travel and logistics sectors as well as information and communication technology.
As one of 14 divisions in the Bosch Group, SO has the global product and profit responsibility for its business activities. The Finance and Controlling function is responsible for financial planning and analysis, strategic controlling initiatives as well as operational activities including risk management, global reporting, and a wide range of profitability analyses. Both the active sales (i.e., pricing of services) and operations support (i.e., improving productivity and efficiency) are central elements of the controlling activities. The strategic development of the Finance and Controlling function is part of the Bosch Finance Transformation initiative. The transformation constitutes a joint concept development on group level and a corresponding implementation in all divisions.
Agile Leadership and Mission Statement
"We LEAD Bosch" is the building block for collaboration and leadership at Bosch. It consists of ten principles providing strong guidance for some 400,000 employees and managers worldwide across all functions and business sectors. From an agile leadership perspective, core components are quick decision-making, goal-oriented and transparent communication across all hierarchical levels, and an innovation culture which perceives mistakes as an opportunity to learn. This agile leadership approach is proactively used in the Finance and Controlling function of Bosch Service Solutions.
Moreover, the global Controlling team sharpened the value proposition of the function and closely aligned it with the needs of the internal customers. The insights were summarised in the mission statement "We are valued Business Partners with passion". In addition to role clarity for internal customers and increased role identification for employees, the mission statement also addresses the very important emotional and human-related factors and so supports an effective day-to-day collaboration with “passion”. The individual letters of “passion” describe major tasks and responsibilities of the Finance and Controlling function. It further conveys the mindset of the Controlling team and guarantees compliance with legal requirements and internal regulations of the Bosch Group. This mission statement guides all activities of the employees, promotes agile and customer-centric behaviour, and is valued throughout the organisation.
Internal and external changes play a decisive role in the overall Bosch Finance Transformation. Digitisation as a megatrend of the twenty-first century offers new opportunities for the Controlling organisation. Additionally, the Controlling team plays a substantial role in the development of new business models. To sum it up, in today's VUCA world dynamics and changes are continuously increasing and need to be answered appropriately. Therefore, also the Finance and Controlling function must always remain flexible and adaptable by using appropriate tools and methods. To meet these requirements, Bosch Service Solutions launched “Agile Controlling” defined as "the release of gridlocked processes to become more flexible by increasing customer orientation and focusing on customer needs". The ongoing enhancement of the leadership culture towards more agility provides employees with more autonomy and responsibility and promotes the path towards an agile organisation in general. The consistent use of agile and digital methods increases process speed, triggers efficiency gains, and ultimately offers employees the opportunity to use their skills for more valuecreating activities and less manual reporting tasks.
Implementation of Cost Centre Self-Reporting using UX and Design Thinking
User Experience (UX) is a core agile method supporting the objective of customer-centricity. UX focuses on all aspects of the customer’s perception of a product or service, including the current product status, its functionalities, the interfaces between humans and machines, available features, relevant services, and the customer experience during the purchase process. Consequently, a positive UX directly increases customer satisfaction. Structured UX interviews are an instrument for collecting essential customer needs and aggregating them into relevant clusters. In another step, the clusters can be used for defining appropriate measures to improve the UX.
The agile methods described above were initially used as a pilot for the introduction of a Cost Centre Self-Reporting System at the headquarters of SO in Frankfurt, Germany.
The first step addresses the identification of the core users of the Cost Centre Self-Reporting System. Knowing the users of the application is highly important for analysing and optimising the process. Only those who know their users and needs can empathise with them to generate a positive UX.
To understand and identify user needs of the Cost Centre Reporting System, UX interviews were conducted with several cost centre managers from different functional areas. The goal of the interviews was to obtain a holistic picture of the current Cost Centre Reporting process. Both personal experiences and expectations were described by various customers. Therefore, open questions were asked to provide customers with the opportunity to express their needs and wishes. UX made it possible to understand the situation of the customers and to identify key elements of the current process. All participants welcomed and gratefully accepted the implementation of the agile method UX. The findings of the UX interviews were evaluated on the UX board.
The feedback of all interview partners was processed, evaluated, and categorised into clusters. This served the project team with the opportunity to generate an overall picture of the user feedback and to obtain important input and aspects for the agile Cost Centre SelfReporting System. The results summarise user challenges, their subjective experiences, and their future needs. Afterwards, a distinction was made between "Top Findings" and "General Findings". Top Findings represent the user’s most critical aspects when it comes to Cost Centre Self-Reporting. In contrast, General Findings do not specifically relate to the topic but can be valuable and interesting in the overall context of the system for potential optimisation. After clustering the results into the two categories, possible solutions were discussed and elaborated on in the team. The evaluation quickly showed the need of a flexible, constantly available, and Controllingindependent data access by cost centre managers. In addition, it is important for customers that newly developed solutions deliver fast and stable performance, as well as being user-friendly and easy to use. The findings of the UX interviews also suggest a "one-click solution" without the need to enter passwords multiple times for different systems. Finally, the evaluation showed that individual cost elements via a drill-down function, a graphic display of the results, and the option to select and compare different scenarios (actual, forecast, plan) were frequently mentioned by customers.
The second phase of the project focused on the technical implementation of the system, which was carried out in collaboration with corporate headquarters to use available knowhow and synergy effects across divisions. The development of the Power BI solution was conducted by using the agile method "Design Thinking". The agile work approach aims for a flexible and lean development process and thus gets the software up and running more quickly than in a classic, plan-driven process model. Therefore, the design phase was reduced to a minimum to deploy functional software features as quickly and early in the development process as possible.
The individual development steps are carried out in so-called sprints with a fixed development cycle length, usually a few weeks only. In addition to design and development activities, sprints always include testing and reviewing software functions by relevant users to ultimately increase their customer satisfaction. Sprints belong to the agile method Scrum and replace work packages of the traditional project management approach.
After several sprints, a Power BI prototype was developed and ready for use. Final design changes were realised based on further intensive user tests. The most important features from the customer's point of view were integrated and visualised in Cost Centre SelfReporting.
Now, cost centre managers have direct access to their data, can flexibly select reporting months and years, and choose individual cost centres or cost centre groups. In addition, it is possible to compare data with selected reference periods (previous year, plan, forecast, still-to-go). Another feature represents the drilldown function for selecting individual cost types and their detailed information (i.e., for personnel costs, further details according to remuneration, overtime, special payments, pension scheme, etc.) to analyse deviations. Finally, a positive UX is generated by dashboards, displaying selected KPIs, e.g., cost development in a monthly graph. The user onboarding was supported by an expert team with online training for the installation and application of the most important features. The new Power BI solution increased not only customer satisfaction but also improved employee satisfaction in the Controlling team. The positive customer feedback during the pilot project in Germany triggered the next step, namely the worldwide rollout of Cost Centre Self-Reporting.
Within the dynamic service market environment, the Finance and Controlling team of Bosch Service Solutions applies agile methods for the IGC Controlling & Agility 60 sustainable development of the function and so contributes to the overall business success. Two aspects are crucial for agile operations of the SO Controlling team. The first is an actively promoted agile corporate culture based on common leadership principles and the second is the mission statement of the Controlling team, including a high degree of role identification for employees and expectation management for internal customers. The positive experience with the agile methods UX and Design Thinking applied along the project of Cost Centre Self-Reporting encouraged the Controlling team to advance other topics in a similar way, which will inspire customers and employees along the further finance transformation journey.
Sven is responsible for the global Finance and Controlling organization, Purchasing, Facility Management, Risk Management, Health Safety and Environmental Matters, Legal Services as well as for the global coordination of our Shared Services for the Bosch Group. He has been working for Bosch Service Solutions and its predecessor organizations since 2014.
Moritz is Executive Assistant of the CFO of Bosch Service Solutions, Germany.