Why the back office is holding business back
The transition to a new year brings the impetus to reflect on the events of the past year. Political dramas have migrated onto the business stage and vice versa, leaving many keen to write a script for the coming year that outlines steady growth and calmer waters.
How, then, to predict the narrative? I believe it is the digitisation of business that will take centre stage. There is every chance that we will look back on 2016 as the year that many antiquated systems and processes became obsolete, one of those being the paper invoice.
Across multiple industries, legacy systems are causing problems and limiting growth. The back office is, pun intended, holding business back.
This can be seen, for example, in the airline industry. This summer in the US, Southwest Airlines had to cancel flights over several days due to a faulty router. Delta too had to delay and cancel flights after a power outage crippled the airline’s IT systems.
The front end, meanwhile, is all singing, all dancing. Public-facing websites and trade booking platforms in the airline business have never been more fit for purpose, with booking a flight to the other side of the world now achievable within a few clicks.
Ultimately, 2017 will be the year this dichotomy comes to the fore, driven by a deepening of the digital first agenda. And that’s no bad thing. If the business community is to support the United Nations and the 190 countries who signed the agreement in Paris to introduce measures to limit global warming, cutting paper is crucial.
It’s not just sustainability goals that may motivate the issue. Digital capabilities are no longer just the preserve of the enthusiasts; understanding digital in the business world is now an absolute necessity. We are in the digital age.
With this, however, comes new challenges – prime among them being cyber security. Criminals have always looked for opportunities to defraud, and with the exponential growth of the internet there are plenty.
The press is replete with stories about cyber-attacks as the DNC breach continues to dominate the news agenda. And almost every week new headlines appear about back offices hacked, passwords stolen and money taken unlawfully – with companies, governments and individuals all in the firing line. This is why we at Tungsten Network take our digital responsibilities extremely seriously and have attained the highest of international standards in the field, ISO 27001.
Not only do we handle sensitive information, we provide a platform for digital relationships between Buyers and Suppliers to flourish. We also take away a lot of the pain associated with invoicing by eliminating friction. Onerous, time consuming paper shuffling between colleagues and departments becomes a thing of the past, as do lost invoices and confusion over payment terms or expected payment dates.
Digital first means allowing data-empowered growth strategies to pick up pace, and first and foremost businesses will be looking to ensure their front end vision matches back office capabilities. This is going to be vital if the walls are to stay standing through whatever dramas 2017 brings.
For more on the future of digitisation and how technology is becoming more engrained in business practices, see Rick’s cover story for World Finance.