5 Ways to Untangle Your Back-Office Spaghetti

8 Min Read

What happens in the back office may not seem glamorous, but it’s essential to the success of any business. Without the back office humming along, you couldn’t serve customers or employees. Unfortunately, back office processes can become tangled up, interrupting your company’s operations and cutting into everyone’s efficiency. 

Is this just the way of the work world? Some people think so, but that’s not true. To be sure, you can’t get around the need for back office work. And you can’t ignore it, either. But that doesn’t mean your internal systems can’t be improved. By implementing at least one of the following solutions, you could see substantial and immediate benefits. 

1. Integrate your workflows.

These days, most back-end workflows leverage several platforms from MS Office to Slack. In fact, the tech stack of any back office can end up growing a mile high. This can be a productivity nightmare in the making, especially when workers have to move from one system to another. 

What’s the answer to avoiding the need to constantly log in and out of platforms and screens? Rely on a cloud-based Integrated Platform as a Service, or IPaaS. The role of any IPaaS is to foster communications between the systems your people use everyday. That way, employees can avoid cutting and pasting the same data, which can lead to unintended errors. They can also start creating shortcuts to help them do their jobs faster without losing accuracy.

Ideally, the IPaaS provider you choose as a partner needs to be plug-in ready. After all, your employees shouldn’t need to understand how to code to make integrations work. (Let’s face it: Few back office team members possess coding backgrounds.) Once your IPaaS is up and running, your back office personnel can work more effectively and confidently within all their systems. 

2. Automate whenever possible.

Repetitive tasks aren’t just annoying for your back office crew. They’re also eating up around 10% of your employees’ at-work time. During a 40-hour week, that’s a whopping four hours of waste per person. But you can chip away at all that waste pretty quickly with automation.

Any job that’s done repeatedly can and should be automated. Which redundancies exist in your back office? You don’t need to guess. Just ask your employees to think of activities that they duplicate on a regular basis. Then, review their feedback and look for opportunities to automate. For instance, you may discover that some of your administrative staffers are hand-entering sales lead information. Could the lead information be scanned into a system, evaluated with AI software, and uploaded more conveniently? You’ll never know until you think outside the (repetition) box.

Of course, automation may require equipment upgrades. So be ready to put some funds behind automation. Just remember: Investing in the right type of technology will pay for itself.

3. Modernize your payroll and benefits systems.

Do your back office employees complain that they’re always working on payroll or answering benefits questions? While you want to give your employees great service—and on-time pay—you can still streamline these workflows and functions.

Let’s say your team members are handling payroll on their own. Would working with a cloud-based payroll provider make sense? It does for a lot of businesses. Payroll partners can take a lot of “grunt work” off your employees’ shoulders. At the same time, many payroll systems enable employees to log in, see information, and download tax forms. Plus, the systems may be outfitted with self-service chatbots to solve workers’ common finance-related questions.

In the digital era, there’s really no reason to accept a clunky payroll interface or experience. Explore the wide world of payroll systems providers ideal for your company size.

4. Move everything into the cloud.

Did your business model move to remote work in 2020? Plenty of organizations had no choice but to make telecommuting their main way of working, even for back office personnel. At this point, your back office team still may work from home. Or, some may work hybrid schedules. Either way, you’ll want to move as many processes into the cloud as you can.

Having all your information and knowledge in the cloud solves several back office problems. Foremost, it enables remote access anytime, from anywhere, and with nearly any device. That means your employees can easily log in, even if they can’t get to the office. Secondly, cloud-based systems remove worries about backing up your data. Why? Reputable cloud-based providers have backups in place. Plus, they encrypt data to keep your back office data secure.

Best of all, if you’re looking for an economical solution to untangle your back office spaghetti, trust the cloud. Many cloud-based partners allow you to pay for subscriptions monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, and annually. That means you can fold the cost of cloud computing into your fixed costs. Additionally, you may be able to get added savings if you pay upfront for several years.

5. Go paperless like you mean it.

Walk into any back office and you’re bound to see it: loads of paper. While some paper may be necessary, not all of it is probably relevant. Quite honestly, your back office is likely overflowing with more paper than anyone needs.

From an environmental perspective, all that paper isn’t exactly eco-friendly. But that’s hardly the only issue with a paper-laden back office. Papers can easily be misplaced, destroyed, or even stolen. It’s much harder for that to happen to digital items that exist on a cloud-based, protected server.

Moving to a paper-reduced back office model won’t happen overnight. It might take months to figure out how to make a (practically) paperless workflow part and parcel for your company. Arrange a time to talk with your back office staff members about your desire to get rid of unnecessary paper. Their insights will help you understand exactly how to make this goal a reality.

Will every worker automatically jump on board with changes? Maybe not. It can take a while for people to become comfortable with different ways of working. Give the process time—but be clear that you intend to unravel all the knots in your back office functions

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Becca Williams is a writer, editor, and small business owner. She writes a column for Smallbiztechnology.com and many more major media outlets.