The back office is the heart of any business, and its set to become even more important as the pace of innovation accelerates. New technology is continually expanding the applications of critical business functions, while simultaneously making them more efficient and cost-effective.
To take full advantage, businesses of every size, including the UK’s thriving community of SMEs and sole traders, must stay on top of the opportunities and challenges the latest developments impacting the back-office present.
With this in mind, here are four of the biggest back-office trends for the year ahead to help firms prepare what 2019, and beyond, will bring.
1. Automation will power greater back office integration
Automated systems are easier to integrate than systems that require manual input and oversight. It means, as the scope of processes that can be automated continues to increase in 2019, we re going to see the rise of more efficient, joined-up back offices that give businesses greater access to their own valuable data.
This will also let businesses pool and leverage useful third-party data more easily. In practice, this could help firms expand and enhance their offerings. A good example would be a local travel agent accessing up to date flight times from the airlines and holiday providers it services to offer its own live, online departures board to customers.
2. The digitisation agenda will continue to accelerate
Businesses will continue to digitise documentation in the back office. This, however, will not be driven purely by expanding regulation, such as the Data Protection Act 2018. Firms will continue to digitise their paper documentation in 2019 as data’s value as a business tool becomes more widely appreciated.
It’s a point understood by corporates, but for many firms falling into the SME and mid-market bracket, the potential to use customer data to improve their services is arguably still to be fully realised. This will start to change as the prevalence and accessibility of services that leverage data for businesses increases.
3. The benefits of data analytics will be felt more widely
The impact of recent legislative changes will further democratise access to third-party data in 2019. The UK government’s Open Banking initiative is a good example. It obliges the country’s biggest banks to share their customers” data with third parties and each other, with individual customer’s consent.
This then lets the third-party company create personalised services that collate the customer’s financial information from numerous sources into one, easily accessible place.
Eventually, this will cause an influx in services that offer a comprehensive dashboard of an organisation’s financial and operational life. It means the opportunity data analytics gives businesses to better understand the invaluable information they hold in their back office will extend to SMEs and sole traders.
4. Cheques and paper will continue to decline in relevance
Despite being less popular, the typical back office still processes cheques and paper documentation regularly. In 2019, more organisations will offer specialist apps to allow their consumers to scan and send such documents directly, while sole traders will use the same technology to service consumers at point of service if required.
This will free up staff resource in the back office and support the move towards digitisation that is ultimately going to improve businesses access to useful data.
It can be hard to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology and its impact. But if a firm is ambitious and diligent, it can stay on top of what’s on the horizon and reveal opportunities to make its back office more efficient, and, ultimately, to improve its services.