How do you ensure that the front line doesn’t end up taking on back-office activities during down-sizing and efficiency drives

March 10, 2010

Question by paul:
How do you ensure that the front line doesn’t end up taking on back-office activities during down-sizing and efficiency drives?Paul Slater   on the Mushcado blog-site
Whether it’s the imposition of efficiency measures to reduce costs or downsizing/rightsizing or the merger of two or more organizations what seems to be common is that the hoped for efficiencies don’t seem to happen. So called back-office activities can combine or be outsourced but very rarely does the need for them actually disappear. The key front-line activities (doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about private or public sector here) still need to deliver but far too often they have to take on extra administrative tasks which leaves them less time to spend on their real roles. Any thoughts on how best to avoid this happening?

This can be avoided only if:
(1) the Operations (i.e the company) is “system driven”:
(2) the manager who matters (i.e the top bosses) have a compulsively strong feeling/commitment to professional excellence.

Let me explain the this :
In a fairly large organization, (in small org roles& responsibilities generally overlap), when goods or services are delivered, the same is to be “invoiced”(back-end process) and sale-value realized(front end-job).

“Invoice generation”can be a back end process, with activities/ sub-systems of:
i) feeding of dispatch data to dispatch sub-system.
ii) Generating detailed documentation using the data base of product/component/parts list documents
iii) Collating this with the price/ contract/order terms under ref.
iv) Authorization of by competent authority. ( ie commercial management, finance officials, or technology section etc as per company policy)
v) Generation and stamping further signature or warranty/guarantee certification and/or Verification etc.
say this will take 2 to 4 days.

A smart front-end Sales Executive can do this in a few hours/ by passing a few sub systems (normally to be completed “in due course”-that is what they say);, authorize the same manually (it does not matter to the customer) and present the bill to Customer, leaving a lot of voids in the information system, which may or may not be plugged “in due course”
– this exemplifies both your points as to how front line manager can get loaded with Back-office job to show: “down sizing” as well as “Efficiency, productivity etc.etc.)

A system-driven organization will have its (1) Despatch system well addressed,(2) technical documents customized for the particular order/ Contract.and (3) finanical delegations loaded into Financial/commercial system.

All this linked to the Sales/ Contract manager’s console, so that, in a few hours of actual dispatch, the invoices are generated on the Contract manager/ sales managers table; properly authorized/ verified for physical handing-over to the customer, or for e- mailing.

Thus each function shall have its defined role (structure) and the inter lacing/ integrating systems have accurate and reliable information –flow so that each functional system can be improvised for functional excellence and the linkages can be improvised to cause less human interference (call it downsizing or efficiency)

Down sizing primarily is to be understood as less people for a defined function. And should not be interpreted merely as “less people”. And efficiency is to be taken as “more economic value” with “less inputs”

(2) The manager who matters (i.e the top bosses) must have a compulsive and un-deterring commitment to professional excellence(in all aspect of management). Unless this is ensured in the organizational ethos, under times of crisis, the systems will be let-go, and then, exception would become rule.

Although it may be more in private Sector , (and less in public /Govt sector); it is more often considered as a smart idea to mix-up job profiles in the name of “process re-engineering” to reduce manpower or to show enhancement of efficiency.


A well-designed ORGANIZATIONAL SYSTEMS coupled with and reliably integrated INFORMATION SYSTEMS, therefore, is more likely to deliver more towards DOWN SIZING as well as EFFICIENCY without putting the Front office into the Back-burner.

This may go a step in the direction of Front-line taking more on the Front end; AND will not have to get bulked-down by the Backend( not necessarily Out sourced)job.



July 18, 2009


While going through a spike (sudden or seasonal increase) in the commitments order book), Vendor-performance becomes crucial to the performance of the “Company”. Hence, while bringing in (Registering) high-performance and/or Reliable Vendors assumes first priority, disciplining the Non-performing (and/ or unethical) vendors   should not be left far-behind (or should it be made ‘mandatory’). Unless a strong  and clear message is sent across the vendors, in general, in a logical manner (i.e   approving good ethics while demanding strict compliance to NIT), Fence-sitters can not be deterred from availing  opportunity to   make-hay-when-the-sun-shines and, thence,  jeopardize the company objective. 

 A case in point is “barring of M/S Maytas” from participation in the bidding process subsequent to their non-conformity to contractual obligations in the Hyderabad Metro rail Project.(news item: The Hindu; 18.7.09/Hyd). The contract on the Consortium lead by the same party  had been scrapped  earlier,  for the same  (stated) reason, political considerations apart . 

That “vendors” are actual partners in the business process, and that they need to behave equally, if not more,  “responsibly” in discharging the contractual obligations/ objectives,  cannot be driven well without having a strong , well organized and  dedicated  ‘Vendor Management Group’. 

A sound  ‘Vendor Management Policy’ (not sure, how different it will be from ‘Purchase Policy), and a dedicated “Vendor Management Group” (may involve : Inviting/ facilitating/ evaluating/registering/ perfor monitoring/ all inclusive), therefore can be seen as complimentary function to ‘Capacity  Addition in the short run, at the least.

 It may bring some relif  to the trauma of Capacity addition thru Capital-purchase , and long gestation period of facility augmentation / component proving and the likes.

 The above is in the context of large Public Sectors  Under taking in India.


Should Navaratnas be given more freedom vis-à-vis CVC guidelines! What? 

Is Ppurchase Ppolicy is realy in-adequate or “application of mind” is lacking? 

Do we know our Vendors at all (!) Or where they need real support? 

Can “capacity booking”, stock-yard (multy-item) with vendor/ sub-contractor, Instant Bill payments (running a/c with cap), etc  be part of  Vendor Management System!


Shall  appreciate comments, if any

About Me

July 18, 2009

About Me

An  Electrical Engineer of 1973   from NIT-Rourkela, India  Joined BHEL  and worked in Management Information System (MIRS), Long Range Planning (LRP), Technology Transfer and Collaboration Management. a short stint of 5 months  at IIM-Ahmedabad  dealt with Contract Management at BHEL, R.C.Puram, Hyd. and dealt with planning scheduling and execution monitoring of prestigious power projects at various industrial locations. As Head of Vigilance at BHEL, R.C.Puram, Hyderabad Unit.  Conducted Vigilance Training Programme for CVOs and VOs of PSUs under DHI(GOVT. OF INDIA),  Written number of Articles on “Error Free Procurement”, “Futuristic Vigilance”, “Leveraging Technology for Vigilance” etc. * system analysis of Vendor evaluation, Vendor registration, and procurement systems under GOVT. guidelines for Public Sector undertakings and the like.  areas of interest include  Capital procurement, Tendering System and procedure, vendor Directory, Vendor performance evaluation,

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July 18, 2009

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