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May 19, 2017
Government back office—A center of innovation?
By: Mark Howard

Earlier this year, I attended the spring conferences of both the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) and the National Association of State Comptrollers (NASC). I have grown to look forward to both events. The attendees are important and influential, and the conferences offer a great venue for tapping into their valuable insight and ideas about what’s around the corner for government. This year’s gatherings were no exception.

And yet, at both events, I was struck by a sharp contrast between what was presented as part of the formal agenda and what was discussed between sessions—in hallways and over cups of coffee. The official line seemed to be “Things are tenuous, but we are managing our challenges in the short term.” The unofficial? “Obligations are rising while revenue is declining.” “How can we break through the gridlock to fix the problems?” “How do we get to true reform?”

These crucial questions and complex challenges aren’t unique to the 50 states. Around the world, governments are facing similar structural challenges. Both mathematical and political, the problems can’t be solved solely by government operations teams. But that doesn’t mean leaders in government back office should simply wait and see where the chips fall.

Bring innovation to the back

Back-office transformation is by no means a new concept. When you hear that phrase, you may assume it’s referring to increasing the speed, efficiency and productivity of transaction processing or compliance activities. Those are always good aims, but in today’s digital world, I think they’re missing the point. I firmly believe it’s time to start talking about the government back office as a Center of Innovation. While that assertion may cause you to question my grip on reality, I hope you’ll hear me out.

Becoming a Center of Innovation requires the back office to do more, at quality and speed, with less. It also requires a renewed focus on the true mission and purpose of the back office. Put another way: government back office needs to spend less of its time and resources on pure transaction processing and check-the-box compliance activities and more on its true mission: Finding, nurturing and retaining top-tier talent. Creating performance-focused organizations that are financially sustainable. And seeking out, developing and managing relationships to continuously improve service delivery.

In today’s environment, government back office has not only an opportunity but an imperative to become a Center of Innovation.

Accenture has observed compelling evidence of this shift already underway in the tax agencies of Australia and Norway, as well as within the UK Department for Work and Pensions. Meanwhile, Accenture’s own Operations team is showing how intelligent automation can help drive a shift from busywork to breakthrough outcomes. 

Becoming a Center of Innovation won’t be a magic bullet to the structural challenges now facing governments around the globe. But it can chip away at many issues, including potential for mass retirements, as well as demand for both higher-volume and higher-quality public services. The good news is that true back-office transformation is now possible. The bad news is that no one can solve a problem they don’t admit they have. I encourage you to join me in starting a new—and candid—conversation about why now is the time for the back-office Center of Innovation.

In the coming months, I’ll be taking a closer look at what it takes to make that vision a reality.  I very much look forward to having this discussion with you.

In the meantime, please leave your comments, thoughts, and suggestions at the bottom of this blog. To learn more about how to bring the back office to the forefront of government innovation visit us here, and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

See this post on LinkedIn: Government Back Office - A Center of Innovation?.

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