Article: Improving productivity and compliance in back office operations

Technology

Improving productivity and compliance in back office operations

Often companies have invested in technology to automate their back-office workflow and processes, but these solutions concentrate on automating workflow not on optimizing employees productivity, proficiency and work compliance.
Improving productivity and compliance in back office operations

In most corporations, back office environments perform operations which are necessary for running the business itself. Although the operations of a back office are seldom prominent, they are a major contributor to a business. However, back-office operating areas that process orders, applications, claims, white mail, payments, etc., have historically been left to develop their own work and staff planning strategy. 

Often companies have invested in technology to automate their back-office workflow and processes, but these solutions concentrate on automating workflow– not on optimizing employees’ productivity, proficiency and work compliance. Senior management perception was that in this type of environment, it is very hard to know how much work is being completed and at what service level.  In addition, the perception was that there isn’t much that could be done to improve the performance of these people-intensive but non-strategic operating areas. 

Since employee costs are the largest budget category and tasks in the back office are usually more complex and require higher skills than those in front office, it makes sense to reduce expenses and improve quality. These improvements of optimizing staff performance and utilization should be management’s priority.  However, to achieve that, back-office operating departments need improved management and productivity tools.

What to focus on?

A survey of 100 global, back office decision makers found that more than 35% expect growth in their back-office populations in next two years and nearly 46% reported an increase of head counts in past two years.  The data from the study suggests growth for most back offices. 

In such business conditions, it becomes necessary to increase the efficiency of staff by increasing their capacity and utilization, by closely monitoring the work of employees, calculating staffing needs based on projected volumes, service goals, and the adherence to processes that maximize productivity. 

Before improving the productivity, organizations need to be able to measure it.

Productivity in back office can be measured, by capturing the true production time of the employees. Production time is a key metric for the back office and represents the percentage of time back office employees are working on their tasks.  Most organizations today, either are unable to measure this metric or measuring it incorrectly.  When desktop analytic software tools are deployed, we find that back offices run at a lower production time than the targeted production time goal in their back office environments. This low production time is mainly due to non-use of tools for visibility and tracking of employee productivity. 

A tool should be able to tackle the key challenges of the management that are required to run back office operations efficiently, by helping them to:

  • Understand which of the employees are working and which of them are working properly.  That is, who has the skill and who has the will to work.

  • Track handle time by transaction, schedule adherence, and overall productivity 

  • Anticipate spikes or drops in work volume to near accuracy and calculate most efficient number of required employees (for various groups) to fulfill SLAs

  • Improve employee performance and monitor their progress, having insights of department- or individual-level goals and missing targeted coaching for each employee 

  • Understand metrics for quality and customer satisfaction and not just efficiency

  • Cope with rapidly changing regulations and business compliances

  • Prioritize, route and manage workloads accurately among individual and groups 

Finding the best solution

Back offices are typically fragmented, with many siloed teams and departments, each using a multitude of systems, often resulting in long work-processing times. While managers need to understand their SLAs, identify any inefficiencies, reduce cost and manage the activities of their team, they are hampered by lack of real-time information and a “single source of truth” to drive the engagement and performance. 

The solution should have the capability to integrate with multiple applications, to manage the business and automate back office functions related to technology, services, and human resources.  It should facilitate effective back office management by enabling managers to: 

  • Identify real productivity by collecting data on applications used and processes undertaken by an employee to complete a task

  • Effectively forecast work volumes, schedule resources, and plan capacity 

  • Reduce costly overtimes by managing backlogs

  • Track schedule adherence in real time, in order to ensure a higher level of productivity

  • Perform root cause analysis to improve employee’s performance 

  • Empower employees with access to their KPIs and ownership of their schedule

  • Increase employee collaboration to improve engagement

  • Efficiently prioritize and distribute work thereby, avoiding cherry-picking of work by employees 

Enterprise solution for Back Office  

With so many unconnected and inefficient methods like - excel spreadsheets for workforce management and planning, tick sheets to tally tasks performed, time and motion studies to establish performance standards, it’s next to impossible to see the whole picture, establish meaningful benchmarks and develop informed recommendations. 

No matter what your business is, if you want a strong, productive back office team to support it, you need an enterprise solution with comprehensive monitoring, analytics and managerial components with enhanced historical and real-time capabilities that enables you to:

  • Measure limited visibility into employee’s activities to determine who is working hard, who is hardly working, and who are best at what they do.

  • Manage complexity by giving accurate forecasting of short and long term staffing requirements to meet SLAs, by effectively measuring productivity, proficiency, and employees’ schedule adherence.

  • Improve employees’ performance, by empowering them to own their schedule, performance and progress, as well coaching them on weak points and recognizing them on strong ones. 

  • Collect, correlate and consolidate work from multiple sources, prioritize and automate its distribution to employees

  • Streamlining operational processes by guiding employees via policy-driven workflows, critical to increase employee productivity and work compliance 

Such a back office enterprise solution provides a comprehensive, coherent, systematic and consistent program that combines intelligent work routing, performance management, workforce management and desktop analytics to measure and improve productivity, proficiency, and compliance while providing insight into employees’ best practices.

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Topics: Technology, Strategic HR, C-Suite

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