Overall lessons 

Benchmarking can deliver substantial value 

The quality and cost-effectiveness of back-of-house services has a direct bearing on the capacity of NFPs to deliver services to their clients.

Benchmarking can enable organisations to better understand the drivers of cost and quality for their back-of‐house functions and in turn make more informed and pro-active decisions about how their back‐of‐house services are delivered.

Tips for new managers of back of house functions

  • Understand the organisation and its history and respect its internal politics
  • Build confidence in both your staff and the client service managers
  • Deeply understand the business value-add and what is driving cost
  • Implement an agile workforce in a low risk but sustained way
  • Think about re-engineering your processes to realise the full benefit of the technology available
  • Identify where investment will give you greater efficiency
  • Have a clear case to put to your executive team and board about that investment

Benchmarking can also increase transparency and visibility around how back‐of‐house functions operate and shift attitudes away from viewing back‐of‐house functions as ‘administrative burdens’ to ‘key enablers’ of efficient and effective client service delivery.

Undertaking detailed benchmarking can take require a significant investment of time and resources within your organisation. It is therefore important to consider what level of accuracy and specificity you require the data you are using to benchmark and what value your organisation is ultimately seeking from benchmarking. This will help you to balance the cost and quality trade-offs between fast but less accurate accurate vs slower and more detailed measurement against a set of benchmark KPIs.

Bigger is not always better 

Nous has worked with NFPs of all sizes and we have found that many organisations are able to effectively adapt their back-of-house service delivery models to match their size and client service delivery profiles. As a result, the economies of scale that would expect to find with larger organisations are not always evident. 

There are certain things that good NFPs do well

In our experience, functional managers within NFP organisations that deliver efficient and effective back-of-house services tend to: 

  • Maintain the baseline level of investment required to deliver quality services so as not to compromise the overall effectiveness and efficiency of their organisation

  • Determine the capabilities their organisation needs and focus on developing skillsets and hiring new staff skills as they grow (e.g. a bookkeeper does constitute a financial manager and a head of IT does not constitute a CIO)

  • Treat the rest of their organisation as customers and regularly seek feedback 

  • Take a rigorous and professional approach to procurement and outsourcing

  • Adopt a start-up mentality and continually seek out innovative ways of doing things

  • Use data analytics to drive better decision-making

  • Use volunteers wherever possible to deliver services