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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Back office modernization: An operational efficiency play in three acts

Despite shrinking resources and other in-house stresses, governments must earn public and stakeholder confidence by delivering seamless, efficient services. With the daily pressures facing public sector organizations, IT managers can sometimes feel like they're are onstage every day, performing an intricate dance where the slightest misstep can lead to disaster.

To ensure agency software helps rather than hinders this goal, IT managers should watch how these three acts of back office modernization can play out:

Act 1: Human capital management

A cloud-based human capital management system is an integral part of the back office, saving time by optimizing day-to-day functions and allowing HR staff to focus on important goals, such as recruitment, retention and ensuring an engaged workforce.

The right system can speed up hiring by automating key processes and reducing manual screening of potential candidates by up to 75 percent. Once employees are onboarded, an integrated dataset helps ensure they are placed in the right positions and then helps to manage skill gaps, training and separation or succession plans for the entire time they are with the organization.

Automated talent solutions gives HR staff the edge they need to become more strategic in hiring and retention, and successful in contributing to real business outcomes. Infusing hiring practices with behavioral and performance data and sophisticated computer algorithms helps HR select, develop and retain the right candidate for the right position.

To optimize payroll, agencies should be able to count on digital signatures and automated approval processes to handle routine tasks, while using data analytics to spot inconsistent time management or waste, understand the costs associated with benefit and reward packages and manage cash flow.

Procurement staff can save time and money by using cloud-based services to turn routine contracts into a self-serve process. As long as there is a list of approved vendors and prices on file, purchasers can easily select a product or service. The transaction record should then integrate seamlessly with the rest of the agency's finance, inventory and project management systems.

Act 2: Financial management

In most public sector organizations, there is no shortage of financial data.

With management systems that have evolved organically over many years, however, most agencies have been left with a jumble of paper processes, unlinked spreadsheets and disconnected data. Those legacy systems require a mountain of extra work to coordinate. Even with the extra effort, it is still nearly impossible to establish a single source of financial truth or meet appropriate deadlines for reporting to stakeholders and elected officials.

For increasing numbers of public-sector organizations, the solution is shifting financial operations to the cloud -- or, at the very least, adopting a hybrid system that combines cloud-based and on-premises services.

This process takes time, effort and investment in new IT infrastructure. But it pays off in standardized processes, efficient data delivery and a single chart of accounts to guide agency operations. The most basic benefit of a modern financial system might even be the most powerful: managers will have an easier time attaining the data they need to track expenses against financial plans.

Act 3: Security in the cloud

Even the most modern, efficient back-office system will fail if it is not secure. And that is where a cloud-based IT network delivers its greatest value.

Many of the world’s largest retail, financial and government institutions have reported serious network breaches in recent years. The sensitive employee data that government HR offices necessarily collect and retain make them particularly vulnerable to intruders with malicious intent. So it is no surprise to see cybersecurity soaring to the top of the public-sector priority list.

A cloud model gives agencies the built-in protection to keep their data safe. And it is backed by specialized teams that are constantly on the lookout for new threats. This protection gives in-house security staff peace of mind and much-needed bandwidth to focus on other tasks. Of all cloud computing's benefits, security may be the most important and fundamental.

It's all about the back office

From human resources to finance, system integration to cybersecurity, the back office can make or break an agency's ability to deliver on its core mission. 

Forward-looking agencies are taking advantage of the flexibility that today's sophisticated solutions offer and are integrating enterprise asset management into their back-office modernization efforts, essentially combating challenges of aging infrastructure. The integration of EAM and enterprise resource planning systems lets agencies improve operations and efficiencies across the organization.

Just as a performance troupe learns over time and gradually perfects its act, IT managers should not expect to change an agency's infrastructure overnight. But, they can easily still chart a course for greater efficiency and productivity, fewer errors and redundancies, near real-time visibility and stronger more cost-effective security. Over time, agencies can expect new, improved back office systems to support predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and other emerging capabilities that will make core operations more timely, efficient and responsive.

About the Author

Kurt Steward is vice president, public sector, at Infor.

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