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self driven
25/3/2019

The self-driven back office: the road to efficiency and efficacy

From RPA handling customer requests, procurement and financial reporting to chatbots responding to routine HR inquiries about sick leave, holidays and payroll: the impact of new technologies is felt clearly today throughout many ‘supporting’ business processes. But what is the unifying vision behind these ideas and innovations – and how can you make them a part of your (digital) business strategy? Jos Gilissen, domain lead of finance and business controlling, takes us on a tour through ‘the self-driven back office’.

“’The self-driven back office’ is a proven methodology we at delaware coined to create a unifying vision concerning all the innovations and ideas that impact processes on the support side of the business,” Jos begins. “It’s about the ways in which we can improve how we are handling reporting, accounting, customer support, and HR processes like onboarding, payroll and general administration today.”

Efficiency and efficacy

Jos breaks this generalist vision down into two domains. Each domain is connected to different technologies, outcomes, and approaches.

  1. Efficiency

    “The ‘efficiency domain’ refers to the ways in which we attempt to reduce or even eliminate human intervention in repetitive tasks that provide limited direct value,” he explains. “Typical examples are financial reporting, which is mainly necessary to be compliant but offers no real value, repetitive accounting tasks, HR administrative onboarding activities, purchase order confirmation handling, (IT) master data management, CRM updates, etc. All these tasks can be handled more efficiently – and with less risk of mistakes – by Robotic Process Automation, bots, and other new technologies than by humans.

    “The goal here is not to replace employees, but to free up their time for more valuable and interesting tasks. In the case of HR, this could mean establishing better connections with employees and managing conflict. For customer support, it could be finding ways to boost customer engagement. In finance, it could be optimizing processes and increasing customer value. The possibilities are endless.”

  2. Efficacy
  3. Another way to improve back office processes is by expanding human capabilities instead of just making them more efficient. “In the ‘efficacy domain’, it’s not about letting a robot perform what used to be done by a human but about increasing the effectiveness of certain tasks by implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Jos continues. “These technologies offer opportunities that are beyond basic human capabilities, but with resulting insights that can significantly improve human decision-making. Great examples are demand forecasting, cv analysis in recruitment, and optimizing enterprise information management.”

Kickstarting the self-driven back office

As shown by the examples above, the optimization potential of ‘the self-driven back office’ on your business processes is huge. However, the fulfillment of this potential is highly dependent on your organization’s implementation process. It’s ineffective to start randomly experimenting with new technologies without first aligning them with your goals.

“At delaware, we use a tried-and-tested ideation process for introducing new innovations,” Jos explains. “In general, it starts with an intake session in which we try to get a good idea of your organization’s challenges and aspirations. Then, we provide inspiring examples of how applied innovations have helped other companies accomplish their goals, drawing directly from our own experiences. More ideas, real or fictional, are subsequently added during an ideation session.”

Selecting, prioritizing and executing

“In a next step we create an implementation roadmap with concrete steps on which ideas will become part of a PoC, and in which order,” Jos continues. “We evaluate each idea based on data type, complexity, output quality, effort, stability, etc. The result is a qualification index and a benefit index for each idea. These allow us to map the ideas on an ‘impact vs. effort’ graph. At a glance, we can then see which ideas will lead to quick wins, which will require substantially more effort but are still worth investigating, and which should be dropped altogether, for now at least.”

After the ideas have been selected and prioritized, the experimenting – in the form of carefully considered pilot projects – begins. “This method of ‘applied innovations’ is really where delaware differentiates itself,” Jos explains. “It’s not just theory and Powerpoints: we’re ready to provide proof of what these innovations can mean for your business in the real world as well. That’s why, during these pilot projects, the value and required effort of each technology is meticulously considered and tested.” Ideas that pass the test are subsequently implemented and – in time – rolled out throughout the company.

Asset in the war for talent

For Jos, however, the idea of ‘the self-driven back office’ goes beyond technology: “It’s not about getting the latest tools, but about making them work for you and your organization. In this context, the ‘self-driven back office’ can also be a valuable asset in the ‘war for talent’: it helps companies create a more fulfilling working environment, with happier and more motivated employees.”

Want to get started with ‘the self-driven back office’? Get in touch with our experts to schedule an intake session.