A Knowledge Transfer Perspective on Front/Back-Office Structure and New Service Development Performance: An Empirical Study of Retail Banking in China

Qiubo Huang, Qing Xia, Rukmal Nishantha Weerasinghe
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 505-527

The purpose of this study is to investigate the mechanism of the front/back-office structure affecting new service development (NSD) performance and examine the role of knowledge transfer in the relationship between front/back-office structure and NSD.

The separation of front and back-office has become the prevailing trend of the organizational transformation of modern service enterprises in the digital era. Yet, the influence of front and back-office separation dealing with new service development has not been widely researched.

Building on the internal social capital perspective, a multivariate regression analysis was conducted to investigate the impact of front/back-office structure on the NSD performance through knowledge transfer as an intermediate variable. The data was collected through a survey questionnaire from 198 project-level officers in the commercial banking industry of China.

This study advances the understanding of front/back-office structure’s influence mechanism on new service development activity. It reveals that knowledge transfer plays a critical role in bridging the impact of front and back-office separation to NSD performance under the trend of digitalization of service organizations.

This study verified the positive effects of front/back-office social capital on NSD performance. Moreover, knowledge transfer predicted the variation in NSD performance and fully mediated the effect of front/back-office social capital on NSD performance.

Service organizations should optimize knowledge transfer by promoting the social capital between front and back-office to overcome the negative effect organizational separation brings to NSD. Service and other organizations could explore developing an internal social network management platform, by which the internal social network could be visualized and dynamically managed.

The introduction of information and communications technology not only divides the organization into front and back-office, but also reduces the face-to-face customer contact. The impacts of new forms of customer contact to new service development and knowledge transfer between customer and service organizations call for further research. Along with the digital servitization, some manufacturing organizations also separate front and back-offices. The current model can be applied and assessed further in manufacturing and other service sectors.

The conclusion of this study guides us to pay attention to the construction of social capital inside organizations with front/back-office structure and implicates introducing and developing sociotechnical theory in front/back-office issue undergoing technological revolution.

As this study is based on the retail banking industry, similar studies are called upon in other service sectors to identify differences and draw more general conclusions. In addition, as the front and back-offices are being replaced increasingly by information technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), it is necessary to advance the research on front/back-office research with a new theoretical perspective, such as sociotechnical theory.

new service development, NSD, front and back-office, social capital, knowledge transfer
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