Transformation of the business services sector in Poland: a 15-year perspective

Luc Williams

Today, the sector employs over 435,000. people, which according to estimates constitutes 6.7 percent. share in total employment in the enterprise sector, accounts for 4.5 percent. GDP and contributes to the export of knowledge-based services with a cumulative value of USD 30 billion. Many factors influenced the development of the sector, including: changing market dynamics, the development of the knowledge-based economy and technological progress.

The business services sector has evolved from outsourcing based on performing simple and repetitive tasks to the role of the “brain” of the organization. Today, simple transactional tasks are being replaced by more complex processes. For the last two years, the share of specialized knowledge-based work in the sector in Poland has been higher than the share of transactional work. This led to a record increase in the value of services exports to the level of USD 30 billion, which is equivalent to PLN 53,000 per employee. hole.

Knowledge-based services are works that require a combination of hard skills related to, among others, finance, data analysis, modern technologies, with universal soft skills such as: teamwork, change management, the ability to cooperate in an international business environment, but also imagination for design and implementation. processes. Such services are often critical to the functioning of parent companies, which are increasingly based on processes implemented in Poland. As a result, the increasing scope of competences of employees operating on the Polish market attracts more and more advanced roles of a regional and global nature, playing a key role in business processes of enterprises. One of the optimistic scenarios for the development of the business services sector is that decisions will be made in Polish service centers that affect the development of the entire global organization. This is a transformation towards decision-making centers and competence centers, rather than centers that recreate and sell services for other branches of a given business.

Simpler processes, on the other hand, are based mainly on technical instructions, according to which employees can usually perform their duties even a day after starting employment. Sooner or later they will be replaced – at least to some extent – ​​by artificial intelligence and automation. This trend can also be observed in Poland, because it is the next stage of the sector's transformation. Typical changes are taking place, such as increased efficiency and value of services, but also automation, leading to a shift from traditional employment dynamics to the need for modern competencies.

What becomes crucial is not only how many new jobs will be created, but what they will be. Fifteen years ago, employment in the sector was growing very rapidly, but in more repetitive tasks. In 2023, as much as 85 percent new positions in the sector concerned services requiring advanced competences, most often in the field of technology. Growth in qualitative terms, although at a slower pace, is a natural stage of the sector's maturation.

Thanks to increased investment in employee development and the latest technologies, business service centers have come to be seen as a key enabler of digital transformation throughout the company. Service centers use intelligent automation to deliver advanced analytics to partners across the enterprise, enabling better business decisions. This is another step in the development of the sector towards the creation of innovation centers.

Creating foundations

The approach to business services was significantly different in the 1990s, when the foundations of the sector began to be laid. With globalization and the rapid development of the production of goods and services, the burden on administrative and support functions focused on the provision of business services within enterprises has also increased. This resulted in an increase in costs related to handling non-standard processes, which differed both due to geographical dispersion and the functional preferences of individual groups within the company. The answer to this challenge was the creation of centralized Shared Service Centers (SSC), which, as an internal supplier, took over the obligation to provide business services to other groups within the enterprise, as well as outsourcing the services to specialized entities as part of business process outsourcing (BPO). ), the advantage of which was the ability to develop a significant level of specialization and offer proven technological solutions to a wide customer base.

Expansion and resilience

The business services sector used the economic crises that occurred after 2008 as a catalyst for change. There has been a process of accelerated digitization and changes in work patterns. Geopolitical tensions also accelerated reshoring processes (transfer of services previously provided to another location). The resilience of the sector in Poland has created opportunities to undertake more complex tasks. Many SSCs and BPOs in Poland have adapted to changed market conditions by offering higher value-added services such as data analysis, consulting and research and development (R&D). The shared services model that focused on a single function evolved into the GBS global business center, opening up cross-functional opportunities.

The flexibility and speed of adaptation to changes led to impressive growth in the sector, mainly thanks to reinvestments, as a result of which it was able to seize opportunities and convince global companies to increase their investments in Poland. Business models have evolved, with financial services being gradually joined by functions such as HR, IT, procurement, customer service and compliance. Thanks to the use of technology, the established global business centers (GBS) began to offer comprehensive 360-degree services. Today, GBS have become a driving force for change throughout the company.


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