What will the back office of tomorrow look like?

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In the UK, we have on-going anxiety about lack of productivity. We’re creating a lot of jobs, which is great, but unless we get more productive, we won’t create many that will really lift GDP as a whole. The numbers don’t lie: we produce on average 30 per cent less per hour than workers in Germany, the US and France and 10 per cent less than in Italy.

There’s no magic solution, but many experts are convinced that we need to go further with our automation of business processes, unleashing more time and resource for the average employee to dedicate themselves to real value-adding activities.

Key to that automation will be greater focus by enterprises, big, medium and even small businesses, on what they really need to do and what they are best at – conducting the activities that differentiate them and their service or brand. That’s where the “Back office of the future” comes in.

How much better would your business be if your staff were able to focus on what you actually needed them to do? For example, if only they had the time to collect and interpret data, enhance the customer experience, have thinking time to innovate to keep up with competitors and all the other great things that actually make business impact. But in order to get to this point, you more than likely need to strip out all the operational processes and tasks which are not done any differently by the competition, and performed better by others.

Step forward the “Back office of the future” is a global hidden back room where all routine, common business processes get done much more efficiently and cheaply than your organisation can do them – as they will be done at scale by partners whose sole purpose is getting those HR, legal, compliance workflows that take up your valuable corporate energy done speedily and efficiently.

If your most costly and specialist functions are outsourced, you are by definition left liberated to focus on what you are best at – innovating and building your brand in today’s unforgiving, global marketplace.

The Cloud: a vector to back office efficiency – at scale

Even as recently as five years ago, that vision could have been dismissed as boilerplate BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) advertisement, no doubt. Outsourcing was still a hit and miss affair, with very imperfect processes in place and a suspicion that the bottom line was all that the service provider really cared about.

Fast forward, and the explosive take-off of cloud has changed that picture beyond recognition. Service firms can now deliver slick, tailored services securely; a whole class of true enterprise class business software firms from Salesforce.com on down have taken centre stage; and the outsourcing industry itself is now mature and confident, with many more sophisticated delivery models for you to choose from and a wealth of expertise built up around Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that work for both parties.

As a result, global firms are looking for cloud-based delivery of business intelligence to continuously improve all operations, workforce management to empower better workflow, homeworking, flexi-working, and so on, as well as outsourced governance and compliance and good data management, too.

In other words – a global back office, enabling more and more of the ‘have to do’ parts of business being done by experts cheaply – and the ‘want to do’ parts occupying more and more of your company’s attention and intelligence.

And that, surely, is our best route to closing the productivity gap, do you not think?

Image source: Shutterstock

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