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Assessing the Health of your Field-Based Operations – Part Three

Feb 4 • Features, Management • 3379 Views • No Comments on Assessing the Health of your Field-Based Operations – Part Three

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As we continue our series looking at Leadent Solutions new Healthcheck service designed to help organisations get the most out of their systems and processes for optimising their field-based workforce Kevin Anderson takes up the mantle as he focusses on systems. 

If you missed the introduction to this series you can revisit part one here and the second feature, which focussed on the processes in a field service organisation is available here.

Focus on Systems

In parts 1 and 2 of this series we’ve talked about the importance of people and process to running you field-based operations, but without the right technology or systems it’s unlikely that your business is running optimally. A technology review is a key component of the Leadent Solutions Workforce Health Check.

The Promise of IT

Over recent years, technology has transformed field-based operations.  At the Field Engineer’s end of the process communication, hardware, and applications continue to advance at pace, with many companies now beyond their first mobile solution.

Similarly, automated scheduling and deployment systems have provided a paradigm shift in the way supporting back office functions work in the last ten years.  Industry leading organisations have recognised the importance of forecasting and planning in field-based operations, and we are therefore seeing an increased focus on technology solutions in this area.

The core enterprise applications covering job and asset management, customer management, supply chain, and reporting functions typically make up the IT landscape for field-based operations.

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It may be that your IT is set-up well, is integrated, has appropriate functionality, enables your processes and employees, and supports the delivery of optimal business outcomes.

Most likely not all those boxes are ticked!  We often see our clients sitting in one of two camps.  Some clients have systems that are past their sell buy date in terms of ease of use, functionality or outcomes, and this is where replacement would probably be the best option.  Other clients have adopted new technology solutions, but have failed to realise expected benefits.

Staying with the motoring analogy adopted in this series of articles, maybe it’s really time to change that much loved, but old and problematic car.

Perhaps now’s the time for a change, a shiny new car with all the latest gizmos!  Or, perhaps the car you bought only last year simply needs a service to make it feel like new?

Taking a System View

The Leadent Solutions Workforce Health Check will take a view on your systems.  The health check may be part of a broader review of operations, alongside consideration of processes and people, for example.  It may cover the full suite of technology solutions enabling your field-based operations, or it may be limited to a specific application.   Review components include:

  • Business objectives
  • IT strategy (as required)
  • Operational performance (targets and actual)
  • System functionality, including alignment to process
  • System configuration (as required)
  • System enhancements (as required)
  • Known issues
  • Employee viewpoint (IT Department and End User)
  • Current projects / programmes

As experts in understanding workforce optimisation for field-based operations, we know what good looks like.  We will highlight key issues and gaps, and recommend remedial actions.  Depending on the scope of the review and findings, this may be a prioritised action list, or maybe something more akin to a longer term technology adoption road map.

On The Way Out

The outcome of a review may show that a system, or suite of systems, are past their sell buy date in terms of ease of use, functionality or outcomes, and replacement would be the best option.

Finding yourself in this situation can be daunting.  You can see that a new system is a must, and the risk you are placing on your operations by continuing to make do with the existing technology is one you should look to mitigate as soon as possible. But the options available to you are, to some extent, incomprehensible, so where on earth do you start?

Leadent Solutions know and understand the leading technologies that enable field based operations.

Whether it’s large ERP level software, or SME targeted solutions, it is our business to understand this market so we are able to help our clients make informed choices about technology.  Even so, there’s a mind-boggling array of products and technologies out there and it’s hard to know where to look, or more importantly, what to focus on when making that product selection.

After conducting in-depth research into field-based workforce management software capabilities, we’ve found that the market is pretty mature, with lots of different products catering to different, specific requirements.  Important things to consider in this evaluation are:

  • Involving the right people,  from the business, from the IT Department, and potentially third parties subject matter experts
  • Understanding the functionality you require, detailing functional and non-functional requirements
  • Understanding any constraints (IT strategy, budget, timelines, e.g.)
  • Being aware of any complexities in implementation, including potential integration issues
  • Establishing the criteria against which you are going to evaluate
  • Having a defined evaluation selection process that includes demonstrations, proof of concepts, reference site visits, for example

It’s a process that, if managed effectively, can really lead to a step change in the performance of your field-based operations.  Product selection is one thing, implementation another.  Implementation is a subject that we will return to in the fourth article in this series.

Fine Tuning

You have invested time and money in new technology, but it’s simply not delivering the expected business performance.   There many reasons why that may be case, for example:

  • The original implementation fell short in terms of functionality and ease of use
  • Business adoption isn’t as planned
  • Subsequent system changes have focused on specific issues, not the broader performance
  • The business and its processes have moved on, leaving the technology behind

A health check may conclude that exploiting the technology you have, rather than replacing systems, is the best option. Exploitation may include software re-configuration and / or system enhancements.

System upgrades potentially also fall into this category.  By involving the right people, understanding the functionality you require and any known constraints, and being aware of any complexities in implementation, this will drive the detail of the improvements required.

The last part of this series covers a case study at Anglian Water, where a health check on the quality of work schedules led to a number of changes in the set-up and configuration of the ClickSchedule application.

This article has focused on technology, but business solutions depend on technology, process and people.  It may not be technology where remedial action is required.  Particularly where there are issues of business adoption, understanding and rectifying the people issues may be of greater importance.  That system issue may just get fixed by re-briefing or re-training your employees.

So, in this series, we’ve now talked about optimising the three cornerstones of your field-based operations namely people, process, and technology.  Hopefully, we’ve shown how looking closely at what you are already doing, and considering the options for improvement, this can lead to real change in your business.

Next time, we’ll consider how you can plan to make the required changes.

There is also a video interview that accompanies this feature with Emma Newman, Managing Consultant Leadent Solutions which is available here

If you think your company could benefit from the Healthcheck you can contact Emma and the team directly by clicking this link

 

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