Non-production areas represent a great potential for increasing the profitability of organisations. These so-called white-collar areas or indirect areas represent overhead costs from a business perspective and cannot be directly allocated to the products sold. In contrast to the production-related areas, these are often not optimised. Therefore, significant resources are wasted that could be better used to make the company “fit” for the future.
How can the white-collar areas be made more efficient? First of all, capabilities must be derived from the overall strategy according to which the white collar areas are to be optimised. Once the capabilities are clearly defined, the processes can then be adapted. It is crucial to choose a combination of a top-down and a bottom-up approach. This guarantees the targeted and efficient alignment of the organisational units, but on the other hand also supports the cooperation with the experts of the individual processes. In this way, the process know-how can be used optimally and the acceptance by the employees is maximised. Clear communication is also crucial in order to enthuse employees for the process and, if possible, to point out future perspectives. Finally, this must be supported by appropriate incentive systems.
Figure 1: Digitalisation of white-collar processes
In addition to IT systems, all adjacent and processes must be systematically optimised with the inclusion of lean and effective digital tools. This is possible through the consistent application of lean and agile methods. Attention should be paid to the objectives of the different methods. With agile methods, the focus is on the product and the possibility to flexibly adapt to customer needs. The customer is therefore at the centre. Lean is of course also oriented towards a corresponding goal, but the process is more in the foreground. For different objectives, the focus should therefore be on the appropriate methodological approach.
Ultimately, the decisive factor is to create a culture of a learning organisation. Along the way, the most effective measures are introduced in a targeted manner and continuously improved. Digitalisation serves as an enabler that simplifies the application of methods and measures and enables their efficient implementation.
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Markus Fost, MBA, is an expert in e-commerce, online business models and digital transformation, with broad experience in the fields of strategy, organisation, corporate finance and operational restructuring.Learn more