RPA and the Back Office/Front Office Debate

office building

It’s well-documented that robotic process automation (RPA) is a great boon to back office processes, but other companies are finding success applying it to middle and front office processes as well. Are these labels really helpful? To get the most out of RPA, we have to reconfigure the way we see the daily operations in the workplace.

The differences between back office and front office

The distinction between back office and front office work rests on one question: is this operation/process primarily for the customer or the company?

The duties that serve to keep an organization running, that “keep the lights on” so to speak, are usually deemed back office tasks. Any sort of customer service or sales role are often labeled front office work. This may have been a more clear distinction in the past, but it seems like the lines have been blurring for quite some time.

Take the information technology (IT) department, for example. IT began as a service to the company, to provide technological assistance to the employees who dealt with clients. It was strictly back office work. Most departments still spend a majority of their time with software and legacy systems that only employees will see. However, the meteoric rise in demand for customer self-serve applications via the web (like online banking and shopping) forced IT staff to take on another role. Supporting, maintaining, and maybe even innovating these front-end services for customers don’t exactly seem to fit the back office idea anymore.

The benefits of RPA for front office work

It’s true that a lot of business processes perfect for RPA are traditional back office tasks – HR, finance & accounting, moving data between databases – but traditional front office work can also get a huge boost from RPA. Imagine how much faster a customer service call would go if the sales rep clicked a single button and software robots returned everything about that customer within seconds. With RPA, the sales rep could see every single piece of customer information at once, regardless of the system in which it was stored. Even if an entire business process can’t be automated, RPA can save time and money for those front office tasks.

Related read: UiPath for Contact Center Automation

We needn’t worry yet about robots infiltrating all front end jobs. RPA is better suited for repetitive, tasks-based work, the kind no one actually likes doing. However, if the self-check-out machines in grocery stores are any indication, it’s clear that people sometimes do prefer interacting with automation when given the choice. Do yourself a favor and remove the back office/front office labels in your mind. They will only hold you back.

How can you integrate RPA with the front office?

There are a number of front office processes which can be automated and result in error reduction, faster transactions, and improved and faster communications. 

RPA can help automate internal and customer-facing communications. Many organizations have a general inbox which customers use to communicate about a broad range of issues and questions. Using human employees to manually read, sort, and respond or forward those emails to the correct department is resource-intensive. With RPA, a software robot can automate the sorting process, forwarding emails from a general inbox to the correct departments, and human employees are freed to work on more value-added tasks, such as speaking directly with customers. This is just one example; check out how UiPath customers are benefiting from and experiencing dramatic ROI with RPA. 

Learn more about how RPA can help you transform back and front office processes across your organization.

Katie Behrens headshot
Katie Behrens

Client Service Representative, Arts People

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