March Back Office Social Media Update
RT @ibmcognos: New #IBM #analytics solution allows biz users to go from raw data to analysis & a dashboard in 60 secs ibm.co/AmZKzO
Frank Eliason: Five tips from the father of social customer service ppf.bz/ABaecF
Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work ppf.bz/wB5ynk Some really great ideas here
Seth Godin on the tribes we lead ppf.bz/AlzaVd
Listen to creative people: Q&A with Rory Sutherland ppf.bz/zby1Ej
Colin Whelan @PPFColin Reply Delete Favorite Buffer • Open
What does geographical information do for your forecasts and analysis?: lnkd.in/AkQM-E
The Value of Training:Does your company view training as a cost or an investment? Align development with business goals ppf.bz/Ad4vFc
A Russian proverb notes that no one can teach; only the student can learn.
Call Centre Portfolio - 10 top tips for delivering a great presentation ppf.bz/y1KnZ3
Data Governance - A Process Overview. blog.boaweb.com/blog/bid/12638… via @realBackOffice
10 Steps to a Single Customer View: ppf.bz/yfBIg5
Did you catch the February Back Office update? ppf.bz/wWS150 The Agenda for this years Back Office Forum sponsored by eg Solutions
Career opportunity....eg are looking for experienced, ambitious professionals who want a challenging and rewarding car…lnkd.in/YRraDw
AMAZING job opportunities with a leading British software and solutions vendor lnkd.in/YRraDw (shame they know me too well ;-))
Dashboards: How s Business? Ask your Data! ppf.bz/yblkcV If you get around to watching this webinar, let me know
"How to Relect Relevant KPIs" ppf.bz/xaE5nq slide deck of this article "Measure What Matters" by Aaron Hursman ppf.bz/AcQLwT
Would accredited qualifications in resource planning and MI change your development plans? ppf.bz/wm1kqK tell me your thoughts?
Webinar "Driving Customer Excellence through Back Office improvements using analytics for insight and appropriate metrics" http://ppf.b…
Australian Blog on Workforce Planning for Back Office and Branches ppf.bz/zXoH8r, interesting stuff on Fifth Quadrant site @5thQuad
Can you please take 5 minutes to help my student with her research survey? Also re tweet if you would! ppf.bz/ClareMcMillan #
Enabling Agile BI through Data Virtualization bit.ly/wrD28z
big rewards do not drive right behavior ppf.bz/z91d2b by Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group @richardbranson
Avinash Kaushik: Seven super lame customer metrics – and four super awesome ones mycustomer.com/topic/customer…
Customer journey mapping vs process design: Do you know the difference? mycustomer.com/topic/customer…
Back Office Best Practice Forum – 327 members (41 new members in the last month alone)
2 discussions of note this month…
1. What is the single biggest factor that stops you form using WFM for back office planning? What is the opportunity for planning in the back office?
(We know this is over 12 months old, but it’s still getting more discussion added to it)
• We've been using WFM in the BO for a while now but only to a limited extent (predominantly staffing/scheduling/shrinkage rather than forecasting).
The major impediment in our operation is the lack of reliable, credible measurements for tasks and processes, both timing and volume.
Due to the very nature of (our) BO, there are literally thousands of individual tasks which are grouped into processes but nevertheless result in many permutations of Process time, depending on varying drivers.
Whilst the ACD in the Front Office/Contact Centre provides credible, measurable and usable data with regards AHT and volume, we have no such equivalent in BO and, since there is no appetite to spend any money on one of the many tools which could provide this, we are left with a melange of output from a number of recording systems and methods.
Another issue is the inherent difference in culture in BO compared to FO where, due to productivity/efficiency "variables", the phrase "work expands to fill the time available" could not be better illustrated..
• Keith's point about getting reliable data is spot on and has been an impediment in the past - now however there are very cost-effective ways of getting what we need from workflow/BPM tools. The data doesnt need the same time granularity as in the FO and the plethora of tasks need to be organised into pragmatic groups - we've developed a simple methodology for this, itself an opportunity to simplify things.
Amnother difference in the nature of the BO is the complexity of the processes themselves. Where the process is a number of discrete steps which may complete over an elapsed time of many days (or longer) and where each step needs to be completed before the next can start - the planning complexity increases and FO planning tools are not designed to work this way.
The good news is the emerging class of Back Office Workforce Optimisation tools are designed to accomodate both these and other challenges of the BO and in this way robust optimised planning and capacity mangaement as well as performance management - with significant efficiency savings - is now very much available in the Back Office, as it has been in the Front Office for sometime.
• Don't forget that for many back offices there are significant cultural challenges to overcome. Many will not be used to, or familiar with, the nature of measures or style of management associated with WFM technologies. Whilst this should not be a reason in itself for not using WFM in back office it is a reality check that the pace of implementation is likely to be a lot slower than we may have seen in the front office in the past.
• Absolutely agree with Adrian re the culture point. In fact it is arguable that this is the most challenging barrier to be overcome rather than data thing, which is, after all, surmountable with a relatively modest outlay.
Further to this, we've been somewhat surprised to find that it's Team Leaders and Managers (rather than CSAs) who are least comfortable and most resistant to this change.
Adel Younis, LSSBB, COPC RC
Can someone tell me what are the top WFM tools that are specialized or strong in planning back office activities? also what about the cabability to importing data and real-time feed from different applications?
• Hi Adel,
You can visit www.activeops.com or check out the Active Operations Management page on Linkedin. AOM works primarily in planning and accurate forecasting at the Team Leader level with the ability of importing data from different applications. At an enterprise level it enables putting in place the same measurements across verticals.
• H Adel. RedOwl is focussed on Back Office planning and capacity management, especially where the processes are relatively complex (as opposed to non-voice contact related tasks). Planning needs to be done at the right level in the organisation depending on the time horizons and specifc resource challenges faced and automatic data feeds are critical to making capacity management decisions based on sound information. Have a look at www.myredowl.com.
• I have come to see the cultural challenges as more significant than the technical ones, not to minimise those.
I'm certain there are good desktop analytics systems that can be used to capture the data from CRM's and desktops, and drive MI to challenge behaviours, but i would like to hear which people think work best in back office where you could be connecting the tool to multiple CRM's etc.
Cultural challenges such as work expanding to fill available time, adopting continual review of process timing to make small changes to AHT expectation continually as we would in front office if we saw sustained change, all seams to be much more robustly pushed back. I think this is due to management maybe being concerned about relinquishing control of their decisions to data driven understanding where there is less capacity for subjectiveness, and the agent seeing that the driver for planning processes is also to deliver down stream efficiency savings.
• I think another problem, which could be classified as technical but then leads to cultural problems, is that back office processes often get broken into small packets of work. Each packet is then queued and back office staff work on the individual items without any visibility of the wider process and the impact of their work on the end to end process. We have seen this a number of times - mainly in the financial services sector. When we build simulation models they help team leaders and managers understand that their resourcing decisions impact on the overall service levels for the processes. With no visibility of the overall process there is a tendency to view a single step in the process as far more important than it is, or conversely not realise that one step is the bottleneck. Lack of appropriate MI and understanding can drive negative cultural behaviours which make progress difficult.
• We have used the Verint system in our back office with great success. There are a number of challenges but nothing that can not be overcome. We have 3 main types of work;
1) Customer driven which you can do as soon as possible as a result of a customer request such as change of address etc.
2) Target date driven, ie must be done before a certian date, these are things such as completion date for mortgage or the date a 12 month product matures.
3) Business driven work, this is the work that can be done pretty much when ever, sometime monthly, sometimes by the end of the year like updating process notes as the result of an audit
Types 2 & 3 tend to be the work that we find staff completing and booking on our workflow system when they have availability, thus giving the appearance that the work matches the staffing time. Type 2 because when you complete an outstanding case we often create a received volume in authorising or secondary tasks and type 3 because most people only log the work as received when they do it.
The challenge is around the workforce system understanding these types and letting you plan in which work to do when.
With regards to the culture, we found very few challenges. We explained why we wanted to plan for them and we share responibility with the team managers and senior managers around service delivery. If you want to move staff from one team etc to maximise performance we can show them the service level benefits and there is no reason for them not to buy in.
With regards data issues I think people can get carried away trying to use all the data they have. It all comes down to the benefit against the time taken to plan to the nth degree. You could set up a nice process map with calculations of how many go through each step and what the standard time lag is for every process, but in reality you dont need it, if you group up all your low volume processes and just focus at this level on your high volume ones you can maximise the benefits.
With regards the benefits we saw massively reduced OT in the back and saw a big reduction in failure demand in the front
Peter Doak •
Just to comment on Adel's question: "Can someone tell me what are the top WFM tools that are specialized or strong in planning back office activities? also what about the cabability to importing data and real-time feed from different applications?"
I can not endorse NICE's WFM tool Totalview IEX enough, we use it for everything, with it we don't really see a back office, or a front office or a social requirement, we just see one centre.
Paul Leamon •
There are great questions and discussions in this thread. Accurate processing time has been difficult to capture in the past, but there are real-time activity monitoring solutions that monitor the desktop work that solves this problem. As mentioned, there are cultural changes that have to be navigated, but with the right change management processes, these changes can be navigated over time and done with a positive outcome for the employees and the business when you incent the back office team with pay for performance bonuses. To Adel's question, NICE Systems provides a Back Office Suite of products that provides Real-Time Activity Monitoring, WFM, Performance Management and Quality Management for back offices. Peter, thanks for the great endorsement of our WFM solution for the enterprise - front and back office!
Rachel Oliver •
I know this is an old discussion but I still think valid to comment based on our CEO's findings...
One of the issues here is that ‘back office’ means different things to different people. It can include many different functions from a single sales support person in a regional office to groups of people processing customer orders, claims or mortgages, financial transaction processing, even HR and payroll processing. For eg it means the people behind the front line where transactions are processed that are critical to delivering the customer experience but are often unseen by customers.
Unlike call centres, where the one main input channel is the telephone, work can come in many shapes and forms via many channels. As a result transactional processing is vastly more complicated and difficult to manage than the call centre will ever be. However, transactional processing has the scale and scope to deliver great operational efficiencies so investing time and money to performance manage these back office areas should reap significant financial rewards – businesses need to reduce cost.
I disagree that there is an emerging class of Back Office Workforce Optimisation tools are designed to accommodate the issues in the Back Office. Back office planning is not the same as front office and it is this misconception that prevents WFM tools being used effectively in the back office as they do not address core requirements of back office operating environments (latency, backlogs, multiple channels etc). There is only one back office product on the market that properly addresses all of the requirements of the back office and since it has been around for many years it can hardly be called ‘emerging’.
Adrian’s point about the cultural and behavioural challenges are true and should not be ignored. The tools will only give you partial benefits. It is the Managers and Team Leaders using those tools that will deliver the real benefits with the right training.
I think the biggest factor that stops people using WFM for back office planning is that ultimately these are not fit for purpose. End users with back-office WFM needs should ensure that the solution they select can effectively meet all of their requirements for specific back-office processes, ideally with purpose built functionality that works.
Adrian Hawes •
Go Rachel! What a great post. I can't comment on the different vendors but you make some really great points. Back office environments are so diverse - even in my own organisation I've yet to find two that are the same! Thus we use bespoke methods to plan for them in order to make our planning relevant and meaningful.
• Simple answer, they don’t do what’s needed.
As said the back office is not the same as the front office, despite their similarities there’s a big difference……..in the front office the work comes to you, in the back you have to go and get it when you can.
Service needs to be delivered on the tasks that make up the components of the over all process and this includes the original notification that started the process off. Plus the phone is often the main tool of contact and attracts a headline service level, that can be contractual, that has to be hit to keep the boss happy (a self inflicted challenge).
In times of high demand something has to not get done, so how does this impact the outcome of the process and over all time taken?
So how do I plan for all this and predict how much resource to point at each task/activity whilst understanding the impact today, tomorrow and possibly yesterday?
If a vendor can help me then I’d be delighted, but right now tasks timing and automated work flow tools are out of my grasp as my business want to be flexible in its approach to meeting each customer’s demand, not a systems’ needs.
BTW, personally task timings in the back office doesn’t work for me, my processes are too diverse for the same sequence of tasks to be undertaken in a process every time it’s undertaken.
Perhaps a step backwards will lead to some forward ones later.
Paul Miller •
Some great discussion. I really like the comments on the human factors involved and the observations on the difference between front and back office. My own observations on the application of WFM tools to back office are that the main WFM engine is perfectly adequate for Back Office - after all we are still talking about workload (volume and handle time), service level and applying them to people. The issue is that in the front office the data capture is much easier - through a telephone switch and the integration of the data capture devices to the WFM engine are more mature and better understood.
I really agree with Julian that the level of granularity required of data capture in the Back Office is far lower and it would be easy to get hung up on this point as a reason to write off WFM totally. My own view is that most of the WFM systems are fit for purpose but the data capture and integration are what take the time - but the gains are easily worth it. When you isolate this point there is probably an awful lot of money we could spend on accurate data capture and still make a compelling business case. When all that is prepared I think we will be turning our attention to the way we present queues of work to people. As Wayne pointed out, work expands to fill the time available. I can see another module being developed for WFM systems which adds the dimension of work types to assign incoming work in shift-sized capsules to agents - "finish that by the end of the day and we'll all be happy".
• I'm sorry Paul but the WFM engine used for the front office (calls) is not suitable for most back office planning (non call) because a call requires a responce to secure a service level measured in seconds (80% in 20secs) but in a back office you have service levels measured in days (1-5 days).
I think we're beginning to plan back office call handling and understanding what resource is then available for non call work, but we are lacking a tool to help us complete the challenge on an even basis.
You're right about data, but I think we are hiding behind that issue that before we tackle the next one...service level.
• Thanks Keith. Maybe I need to review some of my wording. The WFM package we use has optional modules to allow longer SLAs and calculate backlogs but they still use the core WFM. Ultimately a 24 hour turnaround is just a 100% in 86400 second PCA and a backlog is an incoming work volume though. The issue to me becomes more a case of capturing the completion of tasks to feed into the same WFM engine to match people with work.
• I think the perennial problem of the (awful) catch-all 'Back Office' term is a factor here. If you have simple processing tasks - done in one step generally on the day - then you can use the approach Paul describes. Where you have a complex environment with a process completing over days (or weeks) with multiple steps where each step has a discrete timing, can lead to multiple different next steps, often with a time lag whilst something happens externally, then Contact Centre WFM won't cut it. This only really matters if you want to (and can) share the resource between inbound Contact Centre and Back Office processing tasks in a highly dynamic way.
Whilst elements of 'WFM' in the Back Office have been addressed for a while, I think this is an emerging area in the sense that Planning and Capacity Optimisation tools that address these complexities and pragmatically get at that all important data, are relatively new. Oh, and there's more than one product available, of course!
• Rachel, Keith and Paul all make great points about the need for Workforce Optimization tools to be truly adapted for the more complex, diverse, and data challenged back-office. For example, the white paper, “Extending Workforce Management from Contact Centers to Back-office Operations” (http://bit.ly/zufAET) specifically addresses the differences needed in a workforce management solution for it to effectively work in an off-phone environment. Capabilities such as work item tracking enable organizations to track items across departments and monitor its completion against SLAs and deadlines. If an item is in risk of missing its SLA, an alert can be sent to the manager so work can be reprioritized to ensure deadlines are met. Another example is when forecasting demand and scheduling resources in a back-office, managers need to consider not only the production work, but also the non-production work that can impact availability, such as training, research, meetings and projects. A back-office workforce optimization tool would need the means to capture “volumes” and “handle times” for these types of activities in order to effectively schedule resources for both types of work. Back-office workforce optimization is working and delivering impressive ROI. As Graham Watson said, “With regards the benefits, we saw massively reduced OT in the back and saw a big reduction in failure demand in the front.”
2. eg Solutions and the Professional Planning Forum are hosting a free webinar on the 28th March. Let us know what you would like the topic to be?
Would you like the discussion to be around:
Forcasting and Planning
Back Office Optimisation
or please let us hear your other suggestions.
keith stapleton •
Colin, I'd like it to be about back office process activity capture please, but not simple one stop processes, more about how to deal with the lengthy and convaluted ones that automated screen capture technology can struggle with.
• How about understanding/designing the most appropriate metrics (KPIs) for your back office - those that drive the right behaviours for the customer and the business....and then using those as the basis of your planning. What is best practice in this area?
Rachel Oliver •
Thanks Adrian we will add this to the other ideas to come up with a great agenda