Too much work, and not enough resource capacity is a common mantra across many field service companies. Inevitably, some work will not get done. So what work should be done (in-house or otherwise)? What should be postponed? What should be canned?
The default decision is that low priority, routine maintenance work should be the first to go, but sometimes the choices are not that straightforward:
- Reactive customer work or high priority maintenance?
- Asset alarm response or high priority maintenance?
- Asset alarm response or reactive customer work?
- Customer install appointment or high priority reactive customer work?
- High priority health and safety inspection or asset alarm response?
- Time constrained inspection activities or reactive customer work?
- Any permutation of these and any other work types
For some companies the local operational managers would make that call. Some organisations, particularly the larger ones have moved to a more centralised control of work and the use of scheduling tools. In either mode, at best the decisions made by operational managers or by the dispatch centre were reasonably aligned to corporate strategy, business drivers and operational needs, at worst it's a case of he who shouts loudest prevails!
In theory, corporate strategy and agreed business drivers should set the rules against which work and resource delivery plans are made, and form the basis for decision-making in scheduling. In pragmatic terms, how good is the alignment of corporate strategy / business drivers to day-to-day operational decisions regarding resource allocation and work prioritisation?
Ask yourself some questions:
- Are current corporate strategies and agreed business drivers reflected in operational business plans?
- Is the business plan used as a recurring point of reference?
- Is the business plan monitored and updated through the year?
- Or is the business plan submitted, and then put on the shelf to gather dust?
- Is the business plan aligned to the forward planning of work and resources? (This assumes that forward planning of work and resources is in place)
- Does your work prioritisation schema and association to types of work reflect what’s important to your business? Does all work have a relative priority?
- Do the business rules relating to the management of resources (ring-fencing, cross-boundary / cross-process working, use of contractors) reflect business plan imperatives?
- How confident are you that your business drivers / desired outcomes stated in your business plan are aligned to the rules defined in your scheduling tool?
The commercial drivers for field service businesses are many and varied, with changing demands from customers, competition, regulatory bodies and investors. There is a general move toward a customer focused approach brought about by the prevalence of online social recommendation and research influencing buying decisions. This, in itself, is a game-changer.
No longer can businesses hide below-par customer service. Often there is so little time to rectify a mistake before the recipient of the poor service shouts to the world about it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Getting it right first time is critical and this must influence your planning and work prioritisation.
The desire to deliver a great experience for customers is not a new thing, but the penalties in the digital age of not succeeding are larger than they've ever been. This forces a re-think on what work is most important, and what work should be ring-fenced and prioritised.
The immediate challenge is to intimately understand the business imperatives and their implementation through the field service operation. Then translate this into the detail that underpins decision making for Planners, Schedulers, and Operational Managers in determining what work gets done and by whom.
- A clear work prioritisation schema
- Published business rules available to all
- Updates to planning and scheduling systems (includes schedule optimisation and automation)
- Constant review of plan/outcome achievement
Working with many field service organisation at Leadent, we have seen at first-hand the challenges articulated in this blog. Taking a full perspective of technology, process and people, we work with our clients, across all industries to ensure job and workforce management solutions are configured optimally, aligned to the current needs of the business.
Are your business goals pragmatically reflected in the way you manage your field-based operations? Talk to us if you need some help and fresh ideas.