Bridging the “Great Wall” Between Front & Back Office


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Unfortunately, many business people consider the front office (sales, marketing, customer service) to be one entity and the back office (everything financial, administration, support) to be another–and never the twain shall meet. It’s liked the Great Wall of China divides them, with the back office folks huddled inside the wall for protection against the front office heathens.

Total misperception. Problem is, if you perceive, it you’re likely to make that way.

Throwing work back and forth

In fact, front and back offices are highly interdependent, which becomes totally obvious if you map workflows such as: creating a new customer accounts, processing and approving credit apps, going from orders to invoices, applying credit holds, checking inventory or availability, pricing complex configurations or projects, getting configuration quotes fromn engineering, granting and tracking RMAs (return merchandise authorizations) and on and on. Good process practices dictate managing and measuring these flows cross-functionally. But in reality most companies just throw work back and forth over the wall. Which means work gets dropped and often damaged. Oh, and no one’s accountable, because without common management, the two sides can just blame each other for whatever goes wrong.


What’s the fix?

The fix is so easy it’s painful to think of all the companies caught in front office/back office strife. “All” companies need do is map “as-is” workflow cross-functionally across the entire office environment. But two little secrets. First, work in cross functional teams. The vast majority of office process defects occur “in the seams” where work is handed off from one function to another (or from internal functions to external stakeholders, customers included). Second, map using literal clip art images instead of process symbology (at HYM we call these workflow maps “pictographs”). Using process symbology and talking process-speak with business-side people and management leads to communication breakdowns–as in people nodding their heads agreeing to work a new way with no such intention.

Facing up to reality

Looking at these literal maps will so horrify line employees and managers alike that taking corrective action is all but guaranteed. The underlying problems here are: 1.) Lack of clear accountability for cross-functional flows, including no measurement; and 2.) Using inefficient work methods for so long that internal folks can’t see the inefficiency–until it’s made too obvious to ignore.

Hey, go fix something today.


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