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Peter Martin of the global power management company explains how a business transformation project started in Glasgow has delivered international benefits for the company.

Overhead shot of Glasgow city centre

In 2013, when I took on the role of Eaton's site director in Glasgow, it was already clear that the writing was on the wall for the financial shared service centre.

Eaton set up the office in 1997 at a time when other large global organisations were also choosing Glasgow as an ideal location for basic financial transaction services.

However, the market had changed and many companies were looking at new locations to base their centres.

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At Eaton we took a different view.

Instead of closing or relocating, we developed a new strategic vision for the Glasgow office, providing opportunities for people to re-skill, develop their careers or move elsewhere.

Now, four years on, we are running a successful business transformation organisation here in the centre of Glasgow.

We have a strong team providing leadership and business consultancy to Eaton operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) driving business change to strengthen organisation and functional capabilities, reduce costs, increase sales and improve profitability.

Strong leadership, vision and strategic direction

To me leadership is about more than just day-to-day operations. It is about raising your eyes and looking at the possibilities.

We had a strong team in Glasgow and could see the opportunities, so instead of winding up the operation, we looked at how the local skills and talent could be used to benefit Eaton as a whole.

Part of the trick was understanding key talent in the team, fostering creativity and 'out of the box' thinking across all business and operational functions.

So, you could say that we practised the art of business transformation on our own team, before we rolled it out elsewhere.

Of course, it was formative. We learned a lot through that initial change process.

Why it works to have the hub in Glasgow

Taken altogether, there is something incredibly compelling about how we do business here in Glasgow.

It’s difficult to put a finger on one specific factor, but the openness of the people, adaptability to change and the quality of life here probably sum it up.

Over the years people have come to work at the Glasgow office from all over Europe.

More interestingly, many of them have chosen to stay and make Glasgow their home.

It’s hard to say exactly why that is, but basically people find Glasgow a great place to live and work.

The city is open seven days a week with diverse culture and social environment.

It’s an exciting, vibrant place to live.

It is also a great place to bring up a family, with accessible suburbs and easy links to the countryside.

The proximity of the Glasgow and Edinburgh international airports also makes it easy to connect across the globe.

Humour is an important element in the mix too – we don’t take ourselves too seriously and people from across different cultures seem to respond well to our self-effacing approach and willingness to enjoy the occasional joke at our own expense.

Add to that the excellent talent that’s available here, with great European language capabilities, excellent business infrastructure and strong support from government and enterprise agencies and you have a winning combination.

There is also a strong presence and mindset of collaboration within the local Glasgow business network.

Building trust in our vision

As the vision came into focus we had to tackle local communications. It was vital to keep the team here well informed, to listen and involve everyone in what was happening.

We also had to influence and inspire the senior team at Eaton.

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Then, more gradually, we had to demonstrate our capabilities to design and execute upon new functional models, improve business processes and practices elsewhere.

Internally marketing the value proposition of our new organisation was key to engaging support and buy-in of Eaton’s senior leadership team.

Today we can look back on a successful change journey here in Glasgow, with not a single redundancy arising out of the strategic change in direction.

Our organisational footprint has expanded across the EMEA region with some of our team now located in countries such as Italy, Denmark, Germany and Czech Republic.

Creating an agile structure has been a great catalyst to engaging at a local level with our EMEA operations and internationally.

We were then able to apply many of the lessons learned as we have brought our business transformation skills to other part of the business, in areas as diverse as real estate, multi-divisional sales solutions and electro-hydraulics product technology.

We help teams and divisions to look at their organisational structures and business processes and become more effective, more efficient and more relevant.

Developing and valuing our people

From the start, people have been at the heart of the vision for change. The skills and personal qualities of the team here were the original reason why the shared services centre was successful. These same qualities enabled us to transform the business.

Another important aspect of change has been in creating a much less hierarchical structure to the business. I value a collaborative approach and flatter management structures have really supported this way of working.

Here in Glasgow it has always been about working together as a team, enabling individuals to achieve their potential and applying our skills to bring effective change.

Recognising and cultivating leadership at all levels of the team. Tapping in to the undiscovered talent and creativity.

Developing Eaton shared services facilities around the globe

As our focus in Glasgow was changing, we have been able to share our expertise in financial shared services with centres that were developing elsewhere in the world.

People from Glasgow have been able to visit Eaton sites in places where the company is developing such as Prague and Budapest in Eastern Europe, and Pune in India, to contribute ideas, experience and strategic direction.

We have since taken the transformation model approach into other functions of the business, such as sales, operations and customer service to create next generation functional models and implement new technologies.

Successful business transformation programmes

Today, from our hub in Glasgow, our eyes are firmly fixed on the business transformation opportunities that will help Eaton retain its strong position as a global power management business.

In essence we are providing the type of consultancy services that would often be delivered externally by the likes of Deloittes or McKinsey. Because we are operating from within the organisation, we can provide a much stronger knowledge base.

Deeper internal relations and networks are leveraged to nagivate the complexies that come with a global company which has grown through acquisition.

We can cross the boundaries between different divisions, or different areas of the business, avoiding the constraints that come from large organisations working in silos.

For example, working with our electrical hydraulics division based in Italy, we were able to improve the business processes across sales and technology.

We look for the pain points, focus on small improvements to internal processes and as a result build organisational capability.

Transformation brings success

Personally, I continue to be driven by my passion for leadership, people and end-to-end business transformation, next generation ideas and new technology.

There are challenges connected with offering the type of consultancy expertise we provide from within an organisation, but the value of knowing the people and understanding the business can’t be denied.

And there’s a privilege of being on the inside too, that you continue to see the impact of organisational change every day you come to work and can see the improvements filtering through to the end customers and suppliers.

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