Improving Front-Office Efficiency: Take a Long, Hard Look at Your Back Office

A bag of popcorn in one hand and your favorite person in the world in tow, when you sit in front of that giant screen, you know what you both will be seeing – the movie, the finished product. Depending on the film’s genre, you can end up screaming your head off in fear, laughing like you’ve never laughed before, or falling in love all over again.

There are four truths at play in the scenario above:

  1. You came to see the movie, and it was what you paid for – on the surface, at least.
  2. The time, effort, technology and talent it collectively took to bring what once was a figment of the imagination to the big screen are what makes or breaks the success of a film.
  3. The experience you take home with you is what you tell your family and friends.
  4. Like “behind the scenes” and “actual scenes,” “up” and “down” and “over” and “under,” “front” and “back” are two words that go together.

back office

Front and back – why they go together

Let’s say you’re in the business of developing software. Post-sale, there’s a chance that a customer will need help with installation, configuration, bug fixing and testing. Customers remember experiences, not necessarily your brand logo or marketing, so that if you’re experiencing bottlenecks and losing clients despite your customer-facing personnel’s best effort, you’ve got some serious thinking to do.

One avenue to explore is your back office.

Support functions are there for a reason. Staff performing them may not be directly communicating with customers (hence, the term back office), but they’re equally significant in propelling your business to success. If your back-office operations (such as logistics, accounting, invoicing, record keeping, report generation, HR and finance administration) are anything but organized, expect a horde of angry customers and supplier partners, a smug competitor silently smirking at your fumbling attempts to rectify errors, a stressed-out workforce constantly squinting at the clock on the wall, and a bottom line that can bring even the most stoic of human beings to tears.

If your reports don’t make sense and your company’s data are all over the place, lost in numerous email threads and instant messaging platforms, you can’t expect your front liners to do a good job managing customer concerns, particularly if their concerns are tied to data your back-office people can’t seem to get a handle on.
If your payroll department is a problem area and the personnel in charge is unable to put a lid on recurring issues, you’re doing a bad job with employee motivation. Sooner rather than later, you’ll be losing your most competent staff, too.

Operational efficiency – the three pillars

Operational transformation is founded on a balanced investment on three key pillars: process, people and technology. Process is the way things are done, and people are the individuals and teams that carry out those processes. Technology refers to the systems and infrastructure that facilitate process execution.

Process

Processes are mapped out with the end result in mind. From there, tasks and sub-tasks are created, completion parameters and other details included. Without a map, like a driver in unfamiliar territory, it will take a while before he gets to his destination – if he ever gets there.

People

Do your people understand your processes and embrace the motivation behind such? Or is process knowledge confined in the brains of just a few people? In the event of a process change or rollout, is everyone on the same page? Are your people’s skills aligned with their duties?

Technology

One of the advantages of doing business in the modern world is the abundance of technological innovations borne from IT’s decades of investments in research, knowledge and information. Software systems that keep processes aligned and on track are no longer limited to big corporates with huge spending dollars. And with cloud computing, applications have gotten lighter, so light they can be taken anywhere.

Final word

By equipping your employees – be they in the front or back office – with process knowledge and the right set of tools to do the right tasks at the right place and time, you’re setting the stage for a collaborative work experience that can only do good for your business. Engaged and motivated employees equal excellent customer service, equals a healthy set of business financials.

About the Author: Maricel Rivera writes content for Comindware, a BPM software provider. If you’re in the market for software that can improve back-office efficiency and employee engagement in your company, Comindware Tracker is worth checking out.

2 Comments Improving Front-Office Efficiency: Take a Long, Hard Look at Your Back Office

  1. Harry

    Ivan – Excellent topic. Back office doesn’t get as much attention because it is not visible, but it can help you improve your business in 2 ways – by operational efficiency (reduce cost of doing business) and improved sales (by helping front office do their job better).

    Reply

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