In any company, there are certain activities that are core to the mission and purpose of the organization. There also are noncore or ancillary activities that are, essentially, in place to facilitate the smooth and efficient completion of the core functions.
For example, the core functions of an auto parts manufacturing company may be to design, produce, and test auto parts. This company’s ancillary functions include accounting activities, clerical activities, routine cleaning, and maintenance.
The Value of Ancillary Functions
Don’t doubt for a second that these ancillary functions are important. A survey from Service Now, for example, found that, “9 in 10 managers say their productivity depends on the efficiency of routine work processes provided by other departments—such as delivering marketing services, IT support, issuing purchase orders, and onboarding employees.”
At the same time, in many white-collar professions, and even in some blue-collar ones, there is often room to more efficiently leverage the staff dedicated to ancillary functions.
For example, a project manager at a software development company might spend an hour or more putting together a change order for a customer, including relatively routine editing, formatting, etc. Or a sales executive might spend several hours putting together eye-catching graphics and charts for a presentation. These are activities that are important but that can be done by someone else.
Finding the Right Role for the Work
Is there an administrative assistant who can take the core input of that change order and put it into the standard format, proofread it for grammatical errors, verify the proper recipients are included, etc.? Probably. Is there someone in an admin or communications role who can take the bullet points and a few preexisting charts from that sales executive and put it into a well-polished, eye-catching presentation? Most likely.
The important point here is not that certain routine work is “beneath” those in higher-level positions. It’s about maximizing efficiency. Why have a project manager making the equivalent of $50 an hour perform work that could be done by a perfectly capable administrative assistant making $15 an hour?
In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss some strategies for how to best leverage your ancillary function staff.