Are your back-office operations a symphony or a cacophony? Do they run smoothly, with each team and department working in harmony to create a pleasant outcome? Do you have precision timing in your hand-offs? Do your workers know what to do during crescendos in work volumes, and when their role is silent?
Or do you continually deal with a cacophony of fire drills and missed SLAs? Is one team rushing to keep up the tempo needed to meet your SLAs, while another team is slowing their tempo to stretch the work in front of them to last the afternoon? How many team members are following the score and how many are deviating, adding their own steps and twists on how work should be done? At the end of the day, do you have a stress headache from all the discords and clashing of priorities across functions?
This might sound like an odd analogy but hear me out. I look at the director of back-office support functions like an orchestra conductor. Believe it or not, their jobs are very similar. Let me explain.
Orchestra Conductor vs. Back-Office Operations Director
The Musical Score vs. Process Maps
In addition to the conductor, the other unifying factor in a symphony is the musical score. In back-office operations, this would equate to the process maps, often built into workflow or business process management (BPM) systems.
In the ideal world, all work items would flow through the same score or system. Unfortunately, in the back-office, this is rarely the case.
Typically, we find multiple workflow or BPM systems used across teams and functions. Sometimes there are multiple instances of the same BPM solution, but purpose built for different processes. Operations lack a single view of all the work and processes being executed. It’s like the conductor can see the notes for the strings and woodwinds, but not the percussion section.
There are a number of similarities between a conductor and operations director, but there’s really one key difference—sight lines.
Lack of Back-Office Sight Lines
When an orchestra performs a symphony, every musician can see the conductor. Even during Covid and virtual concerts, stages were extended so musicians could keep a six-foot distance from each other and still see the conductor. They wait for his (or her) queue for when to enter, when to speed up or slow down, when to crescendo, or go pianissimo.
In back-office operations, there is no clear line of sight. Operations are made up of multiple teams, working on different systems and work types, often at the same time. Team members are located on different floors, centres and more recently are remote.
How’s an operations manager supposed to know:
- Who is doing what, when, and for how long?
- If the right piece of work is being done, at the right time, in the right way?
- If a staff member is falling behind and needs extra coaching or training?
- Whether the end product is delivered on time and error free?
Physical sight lines, and the traditional approach of “walk-around management,” are rarely possible in today’s back-office operations. Instead, operations managers need “digital” sight lines that give them real-time insights into how the work is being processed and how the staff are performing.
Multi-Skilled vs. Virtuoso at One Task or Process
Here’s another difference and a back-office challenge. Unlike in the orchestra, where most of the musicians play one instrument over and over again, in the back-office employees can work on multiple systems, executing different work tasks and processes. As with the musician, the “work” is executed on one instrument. For the back-office employee, that instrument is typically the desktop.
As on a musical instrument, there are many strings, buttons or keys used to create sound. On the desktop, these are the application interfaces with the various business process management (BPM) or workflow solutions used to process the work.
Capturing real-time application and activity data from the desktop and feeding this desktop data into a dashboard gives the operations manager the:
- Real-time insights they need to understand the status of work
- Velocity at which the work is being processed
- Performance of their staff against goals.
The dashboard becomes their “virtual” sight lines. These dashboards also give managers and employees real-time data on individual, team and businesses-unit performance against goals.
- Employees can see when they are falling behind teammates and their personal production goals and pick up the pace to keep in time with the others.
- Managers can quickly see who is falling behind or is perhaps not following processing protocols. They can proactively intervene, coaching and reminding employees of required steps.
- Directors can see if customer expectations for timely and accurate delivery of goods and services are being met. Adjustments to process handle times or steps, or the shifting of resources from one team to another, can be made to ensure performance goals are met.
Setting the Tempo vs. the Velocity of Work
A key role of the conductor is to set the tempo and keep time for the performance. In the back-office, instead of time signatures (2/4, 4/4, 6/8), we have handle times. There’s the average time it takes to complete a task or process step, as well as end-to-end service or process resolution goals. The challenge is tracking work items across teams and departments to understand their true handle times and ensure they meet their end service or turnaround goals.
To speed processing times, back-offices have focused efforts to date on streamlining the processes with BPM solutions, and automating the repetitive, rules-based tasks with Robotic Process Automation (RPA). But how else can you increase processing velocity? By improving the effectiveness of your back-office staff.
Verint® Operations Productivity automatically calculates an employee’s effectiveness by comparing the number of items processed, their handle times, and the hours spent in production. Back-office managers can quickly identify who needs help focusing on production work or coaching to improve their skills and task proficiency.
Real-time guidance vs. Intraday Rebalancing
As the orchestra is performing, the conductor is not only keeping time, but using gestures and body language to convey instructions to the musicians. Louder here, softer here, more legato or staccato can be conveyed in-the-moment by the conductor.
Operations managers also need to keep a pulse on their operations to know the status of work items and when they may need to reprioritise work or refocus employees to ensure the right work items are executed at the right time to meet their SLA/turnaround goal.
Verint Operations Manager can prioritise and categorise work items based on several parameters including end service goals. It automates the allocation of work to the employee with the right skills and availability to get the work item done on time. If an employee calls in sick, the system will automatically reallocate the work to another skilled resource, instead of the work sitting in the employee’s queue.
Learn how Verint Operations Manager helped UK business processing outsourcer Capita improve turnaround times by 70% for one Life and Pensions client.
Harmonising the Work, People and Processes in Back-Office Operations
Just as it takes many parts to deliver a stellar orchestral performance, there are many components that go into a smoothly run back office. While the conductor has his score, the Operations Manager needs a real-time dashboard that brings together data from multiple systems on the work, processes, and service goals—as well as resource availability and skills.
Using the insights from Verint Operations Manager, back-offices can continually balance demand with resources to create a harmonious and standing ovation worthy experience for both employees and customers.
To learn more about the next step in automation opportunities that exist in back-office operations, download the report: 5 Ways Your BPM System is Failing Your Back Office or visit www.verint.com/backoffice.