If someone called you “back office”, I’d imagine you’d be a little bit offended. It’s probably not much worse than being called “useless”, or “about to be automated out of existence”…
But I have good news for you back-office rebels – your time spent festering in the backend of yonder is finally coming to an end. Why? Because the onset of digital and emerging automation solutions, coupled with the dire need to access meaningful data in real-time, is forcing the back and middle to support the customer experience needs of the front.
Our soon-to-be released study on achieving Intelligent Operations, which canvassed 371 major buyside enterprises, reveals two key dynamics that are unifying the front, middle and back offices:
- A “customer first mindset” is the leading business driver driving operations strategies. Over half of upper management (51%) view their customers’ experiences as impacting sourcing model change and strategy, which is placing the relevance and value of the back office in the spotlight.
- Three quarters of enterprises (75%) claim digital is having a radical impact. We can debate the meaning and relevance of digital forever, but the bottom line is that enterprise leaders need to (be seen) to have a digital strategy – and a support function which can facilitate these digital interactions and data needs. The old barriers where staff in the back office don’t need to think and merely oversee operational process delivery, and those in the middle, which only venture a part of the way to aligning processes to customer needs, are fading away.
Consequently, we’re evolving to an era where there is only “OneOffice” that matters anymore, creating the digital customer experience and an intelligent, single office to enable and support it:
Introducing the Intelligent OneOfficeTM, where the barriers between front, middle and back are forever going away
The Digitally-driven Front Office drives everything. Digital, in its purest form, is all about transforming the business to create, support and sustain the digital customer experience. It’s about leveraging the omnichannel (mobile, social, interactive tech etc) and accessing meaningful analytics to make it happen. But then you need a support function to service those customers, get their products/services to market when they want them, manage the financial metrics, understand their needs and future demands and make sure you’ve got the talent which truly understand the outcomes of their work.
The Digital Underbelly creates the building blocks. Hence, intelligent enterprises must create the Digital Underbelly to support this, but automating manual processes, digitizing manual documents and leveraging smart devices and IoT where they are present in the value chain. You can’t to digital without automating smartly.
Intelligent Digital Support breaks down the legacy functional silos. You need your support functions, such as IT, finance, HR and supply chain, to be aligned with supporting the customer experience, as opposed to operating in some sort of vacuum, hence, we are terming this “Intelligent Digital Support”, where broader roles can be created. Today’s college graduates are simply not coming out of school willing to perform mundane routine work: operations staff proactively need to support the fast-shifting needs of the front office. So the focus needs to shift towards creating a work culture where individuals are encouraged to spend more time interpreting data, understanding the needs of the front end of the business and ensuring the support functions keep pace with the front office. This is especially the case in industries that are more dependent than ever on real time data, using multiple channels to reach their customers and being able to think out-of-the-box with disruptive business models. Of course, we all need to make sure we can keep the operations functioning by paying the bills, responding to customers, processing the claims etc, but if we can’t be proactive and look at how we can create a better customer experience using digital channels, or challenging the logic of running a process a certain way, we’ll never create work cultures that will attract the bright minds to take us forward. People want to feel a part of something and that their work matters – and the best way to do this is to move away from rigid corporate structures of the past, with too many management layers and departments run siloed like mini-empires. We need to invest in driven managers which understand how to motivate and collaborate across business functions. Sales, marketing, customer service, IT, finance, HR and supply chain are functions that all depend on each other to be effective. Smart enterprises are already breaking down the silos and creating multidisciplinary teams, using collaborative tools and Design Thinking methods across delivery centers to help their staff be more motivated, creative and challenge the old way of doing things.
Intelligent Digital Processes can help us predict, as opposed to react. And finally… it’s all about designing business processes that align with your desired digital customer experience. It’s not about throwing off historical data just to discover what went wrong… it’s about being able to predict when things will go wrong and finding clever ways to get ahead of them. It’s about embedding smart cognitive applications into process chains, about learning from mistakes and new experiences along the way.
The Bottom-line: OneOffice is the real alignment of operations with the business end of the organization
We’ve been talking about aligning support functions with the goals / mission of the firm for decades now, but digital is realigning us all with the true uberlord of the organization – the customer. If our supporting technologies and people can finally respond to, interpret, predict and be part of our digital customer experience, we’ll finally see those barriers stagnating organizations come crashing down.
(Cross-posted @ Horses for Sources)