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 http://bit.ly/7bXrdq
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.