Many government organisations have invested in – or are thinking of investing in – upgrades to their back-office systems and capabilities (in finance and HR, for example). But there’s a risk that these investments will result in new technology that doesn’t generate significant additional business value.

So how can government unlock business value from day one? First, we need to define what we mean by business value. There are two dimensions. One is the back office becoming more effective and efficient. That could mean closing books of accounts faster or settling invoices more rapidly. It could also mean providing better user experiences, enabling people to interact more easily with the solutions they need to be more productive.

The second dimension is delivering enhanced citizen outcomes by better exploiting the data in back-office systems. For example, we’ve been helping a large government organisation improve how it handles seasonal surges in demand for citizen authorisation documents.

By using AI and applied intelligence on existing financial, HR and resources data, we helped them to explore ‘what if’ scenarios and plan resource requirements more effectively. The result? Citizens receiving their authorisation documents promptly – and the service provided at lower cost.

Beyond these dimensions, some government organisations, like tax offices, can unlock value by growing revenue. For them, better exploitation of back-office capabilities enables data-driven insights that help to identify people or organisations that are not contributing the appropriate level of taxes.

All these areas play a part in delivering more efficiency and greater effectiveness. And overall, the goal is clear: generating business value. So, what does the journey to get there look like?

It’s essential to understand the starting point and set a clear destination with quantifiable objectives. Milestones to measure progress towards that destination must be put in place. Organisations also need benchmarks to ensure that targets, while challenging, are also reasonable and achievable. There’s plenty of data from the public and private sectors to help define these benchmarks, along with detailed analyst research into performance across a range of industries.

For example, it may take the public sector 3-5 days to close their books at the end of each accounting period. This consumes time, effort and cost for the employees focused on these tasks. Compare that with casinos in Las Vegas that close their books every hour, realising significant savings and delivering greater accuracy.

To generate business value from any transformation, people’s behaviour up and down the organisation needs to change. That ranges from the direction set down by leadership, to the new ways of working that people must adopt. For example, someone’s role could evolve from collecting offline data and updating systems to looking for patterns and anomalies in the underlying data that can be used to improve performance. Automated processes would take care of the routine tasks.

So where are we today? Several public sector organisations have made material investments in cloud-based back-office systems. That’s a positive development. But without radically reviewing how they use industry-standard processes and reporting capabilities, they risk force-fitting old process and reporting models into a more effective system.

SROs need to recognise the benefits that the new capabilities can deliver. And they need to demonstrate strong vision and leadership to convince the organisation to resist recreating old ways of working on the new systems.

We’d advise SROs to carefully consider the impact of technology investments on their operating models. Before committing to any investment, they should think about the operational changes they need to make. If, however, they’ve already begun implementing new systems, they should still be asking the same questions and demanding the operating model changes needed to unlock real value.

At every stage, the business and its needs, rather than the technology, should be the overriding consideration.

To learn more about unlocking business value in the back office, visit

Nicola Smith​​​

Managing Director - Strategy & Consulting, United Kingdom

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