Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The importance of taking ownership in your work and your business 4: adding in back office support

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 3, 2013

This is my fourth posting to a series on taking ownership responsibility for the business you work at and regardless of your position or title there, or your financial ownership status (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 445 and following for Parts 1-3.)

I have been writing this series from a Sales and Customer Relations perspective and will continue to do so here. But to put that approach into wider perspective I note here that a Sales-oriented approach is only one way to look at a business. People in Finance quite legitimately see the organizations that they work for in terms of cash flow and reserves, and monetary asset allocations. This makes sense as cash availability is the life blood for any business; a business that cannot pay its bills or meet its financial obligations ceases to exist. A business can also be characterized in terms of Operations and in a variety of other ways. But for here and this discussion, I take a Sales perspective. And more specifically, I focus in this posting on how back office operations supportively connect into and support that perspective.

• From this perspective, the primary purpose of back office functionality in a sales-oriented business should be to support sales and the customer experience.
• Ultimately every business is sales-oriented; even charitable nonprofits sell their mission and vision to perspective donors, and their ongoing efforts to make them a reality.

And when customer relations and customer support are added into this, along with sales per se, this perspective can be crucial. If a business is certain to fail if it runs out of cash availability and liquidity, it is just as certain to fail if it runs out of customers and people who value and support it by offering it their business. Ultimately, all approaches to understanding business failure lead to the same place. So this brings me to a crucial question:

• Operationally and strategically, what does it mean for back office operations to specifically support sales and customer relations?

Any valid answer to this has to include two fundamental considerations. One is that these supportive operations not leave gaps that create barriers to sales or to customer relationship management systems. And the other is that systems and processes in place meet the ongoing needs of the business and not just the needs of those specific services or departments.

When I wrote about Sales best practices and their alternatives in Part 1 of this series and then again in Part 2, I wrote of the importance of thinking outside of your own personal needs and perspective, and of thinking about what you do professionally from the perspective of the people you work for: ultimately, your customers. This same principle applies here, where back-office personnel need to consider what they do as that impacts on customers and end users, and on fellow employees who directly work with them. This, I add, means thinking through priorities and how they are set as much as it means thinking through what processes and procedures are followed. And with this in mind, I state as a point of consideration that:

• The most disconnected service in a business, as far as alignment with needs outside of its own area is concerned, can be thought of as the weakest link in that business, and the point at which operations and strategy will break if they do anywhere.

I explicitly stated in Part 2 of this series that taking an ownership position in a business and place of employment “is at least in principle an easy and obvious goal for a business’ legal owners of record but this should also be a goal instilled in every employee at a business.” I am going to more explicitly consider and discuss the ownership position taken by senior management and owners of record in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this posting at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and related material at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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