Questions for: Karl-Albert Bebber

Karl-Albert Bebber is head of the Solutions & Applications department of the Human Resources Services division of Bayer Business Services GmbH (BBS). This subsidiary of the Bayer group is a full-service provider for IT-based services in the core areas of IT and telecommunications, purchasing and logistics, personnel and management services and finance and accounting.

“Overall, we implemented Maturity’s recommendations as quickly as possible and have since begun to tackle the medium-term recommendations as well.”

Mr. Bebber, Bayer Business Services GmbH supports internal and external clients in their business processes through the provision of innovative services. You recently implemented a benchmarking project. Why did you choose HR Services for this purpose?

We wanted to know where we stood in the market with our portfolio of services. We chose HR Services for the benchmarking project because this department is consistently expanding towards the third market and is, if you like, meeting “new markets”. That presents a good opportunity for discovering just where we stand and adjusting our position if necessary.

What did you expect from benchmarking?

Benchmarking only makes sense if it takes place with a certain measure of continuity. Only then can you see how your own service portfolio is constantly developing when compared with others on the market. That’s why it was not our first project with Maturity either. While in the first project we analysed traditional processes such as payroll accounting, the second project took things a lot further.

What exactly was the second project to analyse?

We wanted to find out where we stood in the market with our service portfolio – not just in terms of price, but also in respect of the product structures. After all, what use is a low-cost service to the customer if it does not meet his requirements as regards content? That is why our considerations included how our services actually appear, what they include and whether the right service products are bundled in packages that are appropriate to the market. Of course, our prices also came under analysis.

Were you satisfied with the progress of the benchmarking project?

Initially there were some teething difficulties, with people speaking different languages. But even in the early stages the learning curve was very steep. After this first phase we were then able to implement the project quickly with a clear allocation of responsibilities. In my opinion, the key criterion here was the particular way Maturity went about doing things: they gathered the necessary data basis together with us in workshops and not – as if often the case – by questionnaire. This has the advantage that all the necessary information is actually recorded and we can follow things up directly if any statements are misunderstood. Questions such as “What do we mean by IT service?” would have been almost impossible to answer clearly on a questionnaire. Although the workshops entailed a considerable amount of expenditure on communication, they were indispensable for a clean data basis and a mutual understanding of methods of working.

And what was the outcome?

First of all, I have to say that I thought the preparations for the outcome went very well. We were extremely well prepared for what had to be done, not just at the start. We went through the results with Maturity in a workshop, which enabled us to clarify all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of all those involved. We were also very satisfied with the results in terms of content. We are in the lowest quartile in our pricing compared with the peer group, but of course here too there is still room for improvement. As for the bundling of services – the product structure – we can still do more. We must tailor the service packages more to the market and also offer minimal solutions. That was one of the key findings: what the market wants are modular, tailor-made “service nuggets”. In payroll accounting, for instance, this would be purely and simply calculating the salary – something that we now offer as a modular service component. Overall, we implemented Maturity’s recommendations as quickly as possible and have since begun to tackle the medium-term recommendations as well.

How did the project benefit you overall?

The project enabled us to create the prerequisites for an appropriate market alignment. The benchmarking was also helpful in terms of our customer relations. Benchmarking projects are frequently run jointly by service providers and customers in order to determine whether the services are appropriate to the market. We think differently: to create services and prices that are fair for both sides, we initiated the benchmarking process ourselves as the service provider, and this enables us to meet our customers halfway. And not only are the results flowing into new contracts: with existing contracts, too, we are seeking discussions with clients in order to ensure fair terms for all. That demands good, long-term relations between service provider and client.

Where do you think HR Service will go now?

When we started our human resources services around three years ago, it was with something of a bias towards Germany. We are now active around the world. What is needed today are global services: it is essential to have a presence at the most important locations and to improve the provision of services abroad. Functioning networks and experience in the international sphere strengthen our own market position. At international level, of course, it is also crucial to demonstrate market conformity, so benchmarking projects will also be essential in international business. I think it is particularly important that the same methods – the same benchmarker, as it were – are applied at international level as at national level. And since we are very satisfied with Maturity’s methods and know-how, I am very confident of global collaboration with Maturity.

How will globalisation impact on the service to be provided, and what challenges does it bring?

The key is to offer a global service from one source. As a group subsidiary, our global group structure gives us a considerable advantage here. But it is not only the structural conditions that must be right if we are to be successful internationally – the workforce must be on board too. And that means not forgetting local know-how alongside global know-how. As the saying goes, “Think global, act local!”

Mr. Bebber, thank you very much for talking to us.

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