Across multiple industries, old age computing systems are wreaking havoc and preventing businesses from reaching their full potential. It’s no secret that businesses pour thousands of pounds each year into updating their websites, in a bid to make them as streamlined, user-friendly and as flashy as possible. But as they increasingly neglect the back office, they open themselves up to a multitude of serious issues. Issues that can easily be solved if their technology was just up to date in the first place.
The media is filled with examples of business system failures that often result in long lasting damage to the credibility of the companies involved. Take British Airways, which earlier this year suffered a system malfunction that left 75,000 passengers grounded at the start of the May half term holidays. The problem – a faulty power issue caused by human error – we now know cost them £80 million pounds and cast a shadow on BA as a leading European airline.
These issues translate into the financial services sector too. When The Royal Bank of Scotland lost 600,000 customer payment records and direct debits in an IT crash in 2015, it was a ‘technical glitch’ that was blamed.
Meanwhile, companies like these have state of the art websites that enable their customers to streamline their search criteria and book a flight in under a minute. If all of their departments were given the same tools and investment, it’s possible that their front and back offices would complement each other.
It’s easy to point the finger at these businesses from the outside in, but the reality is that many firms struggle to optimise past investment or are slow to upgrade their systems. When faced with a choice, website and marketing development often takes priority because there is less business risk attached. However, it’s important to remember that a business is built on its infrastructure, so an effective back office will ultimately enable your employees to execute more effectively, which has to knock on benefits to the customer experience.
With the world on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2017 will be the year where this dichotomy comes to the fore. Digital capabilities are no longer the sole province of Silicon Valley enthusiasts; understanding and harnessing digital technology in the business should be a necessity for all – especially given how competitive most industries are now.
Challenges in the digital age
While the digital age opens us up to a universe of opportunities, it brings fresh challenges to the playing field. For many businesses, overhauling legacy methods is a costly and daunting procedure. This requires additional training for employees and re-working of systems which takes time. A report by Deloitte concludes that 48 per cent of businesses ranked performance as the biggest business priority. Given how high this figure is, more should be done to ensure they onboard employees giving them adequate training.
Budgeting is a key problem. Many businesses, especially small SMEs, can’t afford to fund front and back office re-development. State of the art websites is still seen to be a priority. However, a report by PwC claims that office ‘digitisation is rapidly transforming at large how businesses interact with their customers’. For example, sales representatives are now more mobile, as they have access to huge amounts of data through new office systems, in which they can manage to invoice and the information of their customers. Ensuring that the back office is forward-facing makes for intelligently informed employees, which ultimately leads to an increase in revenue.
Perhaps the most talked about challenges that the digital age brings with it is increased cyber security problems. It seems that not a day goes by when our news feeds aren’t inundated with security breach stories and the recent WannaCry virus is still a prevalent topic in the media. Outdated and faulty servers can mean that back office systems are more likely to be penetrated by viruses – which can cost companies fortunes.
These operational problems, such as lost records, can cause serious legal complications for businesses that hold sensitive information. And with the upcoming introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it’s now more important than ever that office systems are watertight. Technology that abides by ISO 27001 standards will ensure that these challenges are kept at bay.
Aligning all aspects of a business to be digital first needs to be a priority. Yes, businesses will initially have to invest more in these systems, but the change will pay dividends in years to come. Onboarding employees will result in a better-equipped workforce and one that can make informed decisions. Given how common cyber breaches are, impermeable systems will ensure that sensitive data is kept under lock and key. When all servers, networks, storage systems and payment methods are secure, then we know the walls will stay standing through whatever challenges our digital future brings.