The Difference Between Front and Back Office
Front and back office are terms used to refer to various business processes within a company where revenue-driving and customer-facing activities are considered front office, and all the backend processes used to deliver quality products or services are considered part of the back (and middle) office.
Yet, in modern businesses, clearly defining where these processes reside can be challenging. There is often some crossover and confusion over what makes up the roles of a front office and back office, making it difficult to know exactly where to prioritize business automation and increase efficiencies.
What makes up the front office?
The front office is primarily responsible for interacting with current or potential clients in one form or another. This area of the organization takes care of sales and marketing tasks, as well as post-sales services.
Employees of the front office will typically directly interact and have dealings with customers and have the responsibility of taking and processing orders while ensuring they are satisfied with the services rendered. Since the front office handles customer satisfaction, this area is highly responsible for the growth of revenues within the company.
Front office roles and responsibilities
Front-office workers are individuals who directly generate revenue for the company. The front office is largely made up of client-facing duties, which can include those commonly found in:
- Public relations
- Customer service
- Call Center
Marketing and sales departments use a variety of processes and promotional activities designed to support the front office. Marketing teams often drive customer research campaigns and getting to know the needs of customers while also incorporating aspects of public relations through brand enforcement and engagement.
Client service activities assist in following up with clients and resolving issues and are another perfect example of front-office processes. Technical support is a critical business function that can directly impact the organization's revenue stream and, therefore, is considered closer to a front-office activity than to a back-office activity.
What is the back office all about?
Contrary to the front office, the back office is made up of the parts of the organization that don't directly generate revenue for the business but are essential administrative functions that support day-to-day business operations. The employees in this section usually don't directly interact with the customers of the organization. The back office's primary responsibility is to make sure that all business operations are carried out seamlessly and efficiently. The back office is made up of departments such as human resources, operations, IT, accounting, and compliance.
While some organizations may argue that front-office staff and processes have higher priority as they directly generate revenue for the business, without back-office teams and procedures, the company wouldn't be able to function. Back-office employees design the computer systems, maintain databases, handle the organization's finances, and seek new talent, making them essential for business sustainability.
Back office roles and responsibilities
The back office doesn't necessarily take a back seat in business. For example, most online businesses couldn't function without support from the information technology department. Back-office activities support the work of front-end employees and are used to plan for, monitor, and improve ongoing business operations. What customers see on the front end often results from data gathering, strategic meetings, and operational decisions on the back end.
Most organizations have departments tasked with back-office processes. Some of the common back-office functions can include:
All of the back-office roles and responsibilities provide an essential foundation for organizations to build on. Without a dedicated team of professionals managing the mission-critical, behind-the-scenes processes of the business, front-office teams wouldn't have the support they need to attract new clients and continue to build new revenue streams. Back-office teams also play an essential role in developing and executing processes that keep the organization and employees successful.
Both front- and back-office roles play vital functions in growing the company and ensuring that all the operations within the company are running smoothly. Though it used to be that front-office employees and processes were thought to be the most critical parts of business growth, this misunderstanding is decreasing as organizations recognize the importance of having well-performing back-office departments that work in close alignment with front-office teams.
And that alignment can be enhanced with the use of intelligent automation. Connecting the front and back office with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) can accelerate and streamline functions, break down departmental and information silos, drive innovation, and boost collaboration throughout an enterprise—increasing employee efficiency and productivity as well as employee and customer satisfaction.