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Are Front and Back Offices A Separation of the Past?

by Tamás Polster, Senior Director & Co-Head of Strategic Consulting EMEA


As technology and demographic shifts emerge, the literal and figurative lines between front and back offices are becoming increasingly blurred, which is noticeably affecting the location of offices, their design and necessary personnel. Additionally, changing organizational models and the battle to acquire top-ranked talent are spurring the move of back offices from the periphery into Core Urban Areas.

For decades, companies reduced real estate costs by housing clerical workers in back-office space, typically far from central business district-located executive offices. Back-office operations and shared service centers (SSCs) were usually located on the urban periphery, allowing companies to hire low and moderate-skilled workers at a lower cost than those hired for jobs located within the CBD.

However, as an increasing amount of business processes become automated, the need for such positions has significantly decreased and many are being outsourced. Additionally, “back offices” today operate in a highly collaborative globalized environment using complex technology platforms and therefore increasingly require high-skilled multilingual workers. These Accounting, Finance or IT skills are often more difficult to source then traditional front office roles. These workers are typically young talent who desire a live/work/play environment in centralized urban locations. This labor pool is driving a wave of urbanization as offices move into the center of cities to attract talent, and also redesign their spaces to be collaborative, lively, and inviting.

Ironically, the common front-office positions, like customer service and sales, are actually becoming automated and dematerialized; the dichotomy that once existed between front and back offices has turned on itself, and the two are no longer easily separable. The obvious convergence of front and back offices is driving additional resources into CBDs to cater to and retain the supply of high-skilled and tech-savvy workers that have become vital to many businesses’ success.

The above is an excerpt from Tamás’ larger editorial –  Front and Back Offices: A Separation of the Past?– which can be read by downloading the Spring 2016 edition of the Occupier Edge.

Tamas Polster

Tamás Polster is co-head of C&W Strategic Consulting services for EMEA.  He has 22 years’ experience advising international organisations on their global operational portfolio and location strategies. Combining Real Estate with demographic and urban trends Tamás is leading Cornet Innovation award winner Occupier Intelligence web portal.

Over the last 4 years he has been leading portfolio rationalisation initiatives in excess of 20 M sq ft as well as location advisory projects from R&D, SSC to IT application centres.

Tamás is a regular speaker at Corenet and other international conferences on CRE and Urban development issues.  Tamás is a chartered Surveyor (MRICS) holding master degrees in Real Estate from ESSEC in Paris and Architecture from ULB in Brussels. Tamás is based in Brussels and London.

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