Front Office vs Back Office Software – Why You Need Both

 

Depending on who you talk to, there is a bit of confusion as to the types of software that firms need and where they fall in the spectrum of “front office” versus “back office”. Firms know they need back-office software, but what about the front office?  Do firms also need something to manage that?

For clarity, let’s first take a look at where each begins and ends. 

  • “Front Office” is everything that the client is personally involved in. Imagine a physical office where the client walks in, greets the office manager and drops off a packet of paperwork.  When the work is completed, they come back and pick up their tax return, or financial statements.  If the client has a question, the staff person comes into the reception area and answers the client’s question.   All of this happens in the “front office” of a firm, and these interactions are now mostly digital instead of physical.

 

  • Back office” is where the actual accounting and tax work gets done –  all the calculations, reconciliations, payroll processing, tax preparation, financial statement preparation, etc. It requires specialized software with knowledgeable staff to run it. The back-office staff would never consider allowing a client to step into that world.

 

Whether you have a physical office or not, it is likely that your interactions with your clients fall into just a few types of actions:

  1. Ask/Answer:  You are either asking them a question or answering their question
  2. Send/Receive:  You are sending them a report, or they are sending you the files you need to do your work
  3. E-Sign:  You have a document for them to sign and return it to you electronically
  4. Advisory:  Or – you are advising them

 

In today’s connected world, the first 3 types of interactions (Ask/Answer, Send/Receive, and E-Sign) are likely to take place online, while “Advising” is usually done face-to-face, be it on Zoom or in person. 

Because of the prevalence of interactions happening via electronic means, firms need to pay attention to the impression they make online. This is where bespoke front-office software can really make your firm shine.   

Your Front Office software defines your client’s experience with your firm.  It should be designed from the ground up to be easy and to seamlessly fit into your client’s day. It needs to be mobile as well, since most clients are not tied to their desks all day.  And lastly, it needs to be secure!  

There are MANY industry examples that demonstrate this point.  Banks have perfected this – they have created best-in-class “front office” apps for their customers to use to conduct their banking.  Their back-end systems look NOTHING like the easy mobile apps their clients use to access their bank accounts and do their banking on the go. Travel apps are also a good example – the easy-to-use travel booking apps look nothing like the complicated booking systems they sit on top of.

Now consider your “back office” software.  These packages have been created with your firm’s efficiency and expertise in mind.  No one would ask their client to input directly to the professional tax package, or to book a journal entry directly into your financial software – it’s just beyond the capability of the client to do that.  They are not trained accounting professionals, and the software was not designed with their needs in mind!

So why do firms try and mix front-office and back-office solutions?

It’s likely because it’s such a lovely thing to imagine.  Everything tied together, with the data flowing back and forth and everyone doing their part to keep things running.  The issue with this is that clients are busy and on the go, and the all-in-one systems have not addressed that fact yet. They focus (and rightly so) on the people who are paying for the software (the firm) and the client side ends up being a stripped-down version of the firm view.  It doesn’t resonate with clients because it wasn’t designed for them – it was added as an afterthought.  The result is software that really works for the practitioner, and DOESN’T work for the client.

An added complexity is that firms are continuously adding services to their mix.  A firm might start out doing tax, but then branch into monthly bookkeeping, then into payroll, then into advisory, etc. All-in-one suites have a difficult time keeping up with the pace of innovation and firms inevitably find they have to look outside the suite for software to support their new lines of business. 

And the kicker is – if a firm that is using an all-in-one suite now needs to move to a new back-office solution (because their old one no longer keeps up with their pace of innovation), then their clients have to move too.  This is highly disruptive. 

Getting the right digital front-office for your firm can be a game-changer.

Choose a solution that allows your client to go about their busy day and communicate with you seamlessly and easily.  They should be able to upload documents on the fly (mobile scanning), receive and e-sign documents you send them with just a couple of clicks, track what your firm needs from you (task tracking) and everything should happen in a secure dedicated app that does not rely on email. 

Leave your back office where it is – you chose that software for a reason and it probably works well for you.  Where it falls down is when it tries to also be front-office.   

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At Liscio, we’re dedicated to the craft of client experience. We believe that the front office must start with the client and work backward. We believe that building a great front-office experience is worth the thought and attention of an entire organization, not just a department. We believe in openness and integration so firms retain the flexibility to change their back-office systems without disrupting their clients. And we believe that a great client experience belongs to all firms — regardless of size and budget. If you believe in the same, we invite you to get to know us. Book a demo here


Liscio gives back!  For every demo we conduct, we donate 10 nourishing meals to children in need.  For every new firm that signs up with Liscio, we fund 30 days of education for children in the world.  Learn more here.