We work with many field service and operations organisations, particularly whilst they are undertaking change, often due to implementing a new workforce management or mobile working system. It's interesting to reflect on how often these systems focus on delivering for the organisations' field teams but tend to miss out third party contractors and partners. Let's take a moment to think about this in more detail.
As we've written about before many service organisations are facing the challenge of skilled workforce retiring and newer field engineers harder to train up to a sufficient level of experience and competence. Employing contractors to cover the shortfall and the use of contractors to cover service delivery that is less desirable to service using direct labour, is more common.
Often this includes service delivery where you wouldn't necessarily have easy oversight over the contractors. For example when servicing remote or island locations. Some organisation use contractors to cover unsociable hours and night shifts. During these times there is often less visibility of contractor performance that might be expected. Due to cost constraints (often due to licensing or the cost of mobile devices and laptops) organisations choose to allow contractors to use their own tools and software.
We've also worked with organisations who use major contractors to conduct capital delivery and outsourced services such as streetworks. Again due to a desire to save internal costs and often due to a lack of specification in contracts these third party contractors are left to use their own scheduling and mobile working systems.
This can often bring the challenge of integrating into these systems and a time lag in passing information between the contracting organisation and the receiving organisation. This is a particular issue for things such as performance management and contract management. It can also add unnecessary complexity in process delivery with a lack of certainty over whether the third parties have received the work and its current status.
With a distributed workforce, it can be particularly hard to accurately schedule and distribute work and determine relative priorities for delivery. The contractor base still need to be sufficiently set to work, they need to operate safely and they are often still responsible for delivering a positive customer experience. Just because they are direct labour it doesn't mean they won't impact your customer experience when they fail to deliver.
When jobs are sent to contractors, without regular updates it can be really difficult to know when a technician is due to start work. If their work is changed or rescheduled you may not know at the time it happens but be reliant on being updated through a third party scheduling team or via another manual update process.
Scheduling third parties
Without scheduling these contractors it will be harder to mange them in the same way as the rest of your workforce. For example dispatching them with confidence that they have the necessary experience, competence and skills to conduct the work. You will also find it harder to receive job notes and other completion details once the work has been carried out. We've heard examples where an out of hours contractor has neglected to send back email job completion notes so the handover team has needed to try to ring the contractor and the customer to confirm the work that has been conducted, or information that may have been missed. Scheduling your contractors also allows you to follow a systemised way of handling their payment and any reimbursement for parts and materials and other expenses incurred.
The problem can be further compounded when your third parties themselves subcontract. Of course this won't be the case with lone agents but where you have a main contractor who then passes off the work to one or many subcontractors you will have even less visibility of their work delivery.
We accept that there are contractual requirements and may be restrictions in place on using common systems. Likewise we understand that cost can be a genuine consideration. But surely it's time to consider how you approach this issue and how to put the right processes, performance measures and scheduling and work delivery systems in place to cover all of your direct and indirect labour.
These are some of the issues that we help organisations with day in day out. When it comes to field service, scheduling and mobile work management solutions Leadent Digital has a tried and tested methodology that works. We provide work management and scheduling solutions that are implemented rapidly and effectively by expert resources.
There are many examples of the work we’ve done for Europe’s leading field service organisations, encompassing consulting, system implementation and software solutions. All have focused on delivering excellent field service management. Get in touch with us!