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Back Office PM Made Easy

Delivering Performance Management Results in the Back Office… is as simple as Goldilocks and the 3 Pigs (huh?)

Over the past 20+ years, I have had many, many conversations with back office leaders, who at the beginning of their performance management journey strongly believed that realizing “sustainable results” in the back office was nothing more than a fairy taleI completely agree.

Driving PM results in the Back Office is as simple as Goldilocks and the 3 PIGS (Huh?)

I know you’re thinking, it is not “Goldilocks and the 3 Pigs”, it is “Goldilocks in the 3 Bears”…   Well, not when it comes to driving sustainable results in the back office, it is Goldi and Piggi…trust me on this one!

Over the aforementioned 20+ years I have been executing a proven 3 phased deployment methodology to deliver sustainable results in the back office.  I also happen to have young children who love fairy tales and bedtime stories, so my brain is now blending both worlds, and it makes perfect sense to me.

You ask yourself Goldilocks?  What in the world does Goldilocks have to do with Back Office PM results, and the pigs? Come on man!

Hang in there with me, as this will become crystal clear throughout the journey!

(This is exactly what I have requested of all those “non-believing” back office leaders over the years…)

First, let me provide you the deployment framework.  When it comes to deploying PM successfully in the BO, you need to take a simple 3 phased approach.


Phase 1 – Define, Measure and Analyze (This is the “Goldilocks Phase”)

Phase 2 – Technology Deployment

Phase 3 – SFM, Improve, Control


OK, finally, to the fairy tales.  As we all know, one day Goldilocks was taking a stroll through the woods when she came upon a cottage and went in.  While inside she found porridge on the table. The first bowl was too hot, the next was too cold and finally the 3rd bowl was JUST RIGHT!  She then ate so much she wanted to rest, so she went upstairs.  She found the 1st bed too hard, the 2nd too soft and finally, well, you know the answer.  “JUST RIGHT”!

In an attempt to answer these question the leadership will often create spreadsheets, request IT to develop customized reports (LOTS of them), ask the front line processors to self-report and manually track volume of work items completed and the time it took to complete them.  They will set standards based on estimates, as many of them have done the work in the past, prior to being promoted.

When they finish manually gathering and calculating all the information provided, which takes days, the output report reveals that they are 143% productive and need 35% more resource to do what you are doing today.  How is this possible?  Clearly the information is not accurate and is not helping the managers’ cause.  The time and energy invested to this point, only provided the leadership team with these unbelievable, inaccurate answers.  This can be very frustrating and deflating, as the time commitment can be considerable, not to mention the fact that the process itself is non-sustainable, too manual, and prone to inaccuracies.

At this point, the leaders often choose to drop the effort and to go back to chasing the problem of the day, without much insight, intelligence and empirical data by which to help manage those daily challenge.

In this “all too common” scenario defined above, the leadership team can’t seem to find the Goldilocks “Just Right” level. They are struggling to find a way to capture information, without manual input, that will provide accurate, meaningful information by which to effectively performance manage, assign work equitably, manage backlog and improve productivity.

In Phase 1 of our approach, we address all of these questions and challenges.  Phase 1 is arguable the most important phase, as this sets the foundation.

PHASE 1 will define and deliver the “Goldilocks, JUST RIGHT” answers for your back office organization. 

As many of you know, in the back office, many activities are not completed end to end on the first touch and often times work items will hit a “hold” or “pend” status prior to full completion.  In these scenarios, you will need to determine if you want to measure productivity on the “touch”?  Or do you want to aggregate the process and provide the productivity view on the “completed or finalized” activity?  The decision made will have an impact on not only the processor’s behavior and the amount of information provided to the manger to review and analyze, but it will also will have an influence on downstream activities such as the amount of data that will be generated, the amount of storage space required and potentially the responsiveness and performance of the PM reporting systems itself.

One of the key sustainability questions that we will help you get “JUST RIGHT” in phase 1, which will have an impact on phase 2 and 3, will be understanding the relationship of the number of defined activities (the various iterations and combinations of those defined activities), and the impact these decisions will have later down the line when creating automation and data feeds.  A balance must be found to ensure we do not create too many combinations, providing an “analysis – paralysis” situation to the management team, but also potentially causing challenges later on, with the back end technical support, asking them to maintain large amount of unnecessary data which can eventually become unmanageable.  On the other hand, we must be very mindful to acknowledge that there are differences in work efforts required for different work activities.  Too many activities can make it challenging to manage, but not having enough detail can water down the output and will not provide the “just right” level of information required to deliver the results.  All of this will need to be considered to get it “just right”.

In Phase 1, we will also help you set accurate goals and standards. It is critical that the PM inputs are calibrated and accurate.  Do you use an average?  What is considered a statistically valid sample size?  What tools and techniques are used to define the goals and standards?  Does the leadership team have confidence in the standards and did they see it with their own eyes?  Is there a sign off and vetting process in place?  Are we using self-reported methods which will include undesirable behaviors, or did we validate the top 20% of activities that drive 80% of the work (earned hours) via side by side observations to verify quality and capture processing best practices?  What is the best way to communicate and roll out to the team?

If deploying a desktop analytics application coupled with a PM application, to implement the MPC created and pioneered back office “productivity – adherence model“.  (Recommended best practice), how do you calibrate the “idle” or “nonproductive time”?   Is it the same for all groups or teams?  Or should there be differences based on the type of work being performed?  All of these are questions that need answered in this first phase.  We will help you navigate this process, we will help you get this “Just right”. 

I once heard a triathlon coach say, “You can’t win the race during the swim (the 1st leg of 3 events in a triathlon) but you can lose the race during the swim”.  In other words, this first leg of the 3 legs has to be SOLID in order to position you for success.  Building your back office PM methodology is exactly the same.  You won’t deliver winning results during Phase 1, but if done incorrectly, you won’t deliver winning results at all.

Our Phase 1 approach will provide you with the Goldilocks “just right” answers.  Through our proven methodology which integrates change management principles, we will bring the leadership team out of the woods and provide performance and KPI clarity, process alignment and a single version of truth across the organization.  At the conclusion of Phase 1, we will have provided your management team with the foundation that is JUST RIGHT to ensure a successful back office performance management implementation.

Now we move to Phase 2 and Phase 3 of our deployment approach (Ensuring Sustainability)

With every back office performance management deployment, one of the main concerns of the leadership team is the question of sustainability.  They typically believe there is opportunity to improve and that it is possible to provide a short-term “shot in the arm” but what about the long haul.  They want to be reassured that the deployment plan includes a methodology for long term sustainability.  We understand this, and our Phase 2 and Phase 3 are designed to addresses this very concern.

Two Primary components are required to ensure sustainability.  First, a solid PM product or application.  There are several very good products on the market and we will recommend the best for your particular situation.  You may already have a product that is not being utilized or being under-utilized, this can also be an option.  Do not enter into this journey thinking that deploying a PM application or technology alone will be the answer, it will not.  The technology is only as good as the foundation and process you build to support it.  Every technology company on the planet will sell you and tell you the technology will solve your problems.  It won’t!  We have seen it time and time again.  Clearly, a PM application is required, or we would not have included it in our approach.  But the PM application should be viewed as the vehicle which provides the PM information (assuming Phase 1 is done “Just Right”).  In order to ensure success, you MUST ensure this PM information becomes part of the operational DNA.

If you simply drop in technology and expect the leadership to “run with it”, you will not realize the expected benefits.  Some leaders will take it and run, but the vast majority will not and will struggle.  You need to tie the product to a System for Managing, an SFM.  This is the 2nd component to ensure sustainability.  You will need to design and deploy an SFM around the application to ensure a consistent approach is taken across the enterprise.


OK, back to the fairy tales.  Phase 2 and Phase 3 is where the 3 little pigs come into play.  As you will recall, the 3 little pigs had a big bad wolf chasing them all day.  Hmmm… This probably sounds somewhat familiar.  We all have “someone” breathing down our neck and “huffing and puffing” for operational improvements in service, quality, cost or all 3… Results!  Results!  Results!

You will also recall the 3 little pigs all took different approaches when dealing with this “huffing and puffing” big bad wolf!  The 3 pigs all knew they had to build a house to provide shelter and safety from the “big, bad wolf” and each of them approached this challenge in different ways.  The first 2 pigs felt that a “quick fix” would be the best solution to the problem.  This is similar to the back office leader who thinks…We understand the problem, we can model something that will be “good enough”.  We will build our house from Straw and Sticks.

These approaches can’t, and do not last very long.  So when this information is provide to the SVP or COO, they huff and puff and blow the house down.  There are too many holes in the information and it can’t stand up.

The 3rd manager, will build his back office house out of brick and it will stand from many years to come.  This 3rd manager deployed a Performance management software application and then designed and deployed a process, using the PM application as the centerpiece.  The 3rd manager refers to this process as a System for Managing.  An SFM!  These 2 elements, the performance management software application, with the ability to integrate data from disparate source systems used in the back office, to provide automation and eliminate the need for manual input.  Coupled with a solid SFM which allows for frequent feedback and performance management coaching is the combination that will provide the long term sustainable solution.  This 3rd approach will provide an end product that is sustainability and it will deliver the desired results!  This is clearly the best approach.

In closing, all 3 Phases must come together in the end.  Phase 1 will delivery you the Goldilocks “just right” answers to position you well for the Phase 2 technology installation, which is then completed by Phase 3 – SFM to ensure the “just right” information is housed by a house of bricks and becomes part of the operational DNA.

So remember, at Marathon Partners Consulting we have a developed a proven 3 Phased approach with Goldilocks and the 3 Pigs!  We will help you build your “Just Right, House of Bricks” performance management approach in your back office!

I told you it would make sense if you hung in there with me.

To learn more about building your performance management, “Just Right, House of Bricks”, in your back office, go to www.MarathonPartnersConsulting.com


– Sean Tyler, Managing Partner

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