Assessing the Health of your Field-Based Operations: Part 4

Feb 11, 2015 • FeaturesManagementleadent solutionsmanagementworkforce optimisation

As our exclusive series looking at Leadent Solutions new Healthcheck service draws to an end we Dave Kemp, Managing consultant takes a look at what outcomes can be anticipated when companies go through the process which is designed to help them get the most out of their existing service management 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 and the third part which focusses on the systems in place is available here

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

Planning for the journey

In Parts 1,2, and 3 of this series of articles we have explained that to understand the health of field-based operations, and to identify areas for improvement, a holistic view covering People, Process and Systems is required. The initial output of Leadent Solutions Workforce Health Check detailing issues and recommended remedial actions really only represents the start of a journey. This article discusses how to take the next steps in delivering improvements.

Deciding What You Need To Do?

leadentPut in a new scheduling system, re-engineer the mobile application, adopt a new work priority schema, upgrade the contractors’ portal, focus on office / field collaboration in planning decisions, re-train the call agents….

A review or health check will detail issues and recommend remedial actions. What now? Of course there will be budgetary limitations, and a keen expectation regards delivery timeframes, but question around ’what should be done?’, ‘in what order?’, and ‘what can be deferred?’ will remain. To make these decisions we need to understand the business value associated with each of the remedial actions, the costs, and the ease or difficulty of implementation. Other methods are available, but mapping potential changes by business value and implementation difficulty (and cost) usually works well.

This is a start point in deciding what needs to be done, and what is a priority to the business. Input from across the business, including field operations is required, early buy-in being absolutely essential.

Understanding the Bigger Picture

The health check will have focused on looking at issues and opportunities related to field operations. However, before proceeding with remedial actions, an understanding of broader considerations is required.

  • Does the company plan to make any structural or organisation changes?
  • What IT or change programmes are planned or ‘in flight’?
  • Regarding technology, are there planned upgrades?

These questions are examples only, but it is clear that the bigger picture needs to be understood. It will impact what remedial action is done, if there are any dependencies, and when it can be done.

Staying with the car analogy adopted in this series, you may have decided to replace your old Toyota, but now know the new model is due out early next year. Do you buy now, and maybe pick up a bargain, or wait for the very latest model, one of the very few on the road?

By categorising and prioritising remedial actions, by understanding the bigger picture and dependencies, and of course working to money and time constraints, it should be possible to group actions into work packages and establish an order to those work packages.

Giving Your Project Some Shape

A project focused on making some minor, short term configuration changes to a forecasting system being delivered to a small central planning team probably needs a different approach to a transformation programme introducing a brand new mobile solution to 8,000 field engineers based across the region. It’s very much horses for courses! Focusing on the transformation end of the scale, the programme will have to consider:

  • Requirements confirmation
  • Detailed design (process and IT)
  • Build and testing (IT)
  • Stakeholder management
  • Business readiness
  • Communications
  • Training
  • Proof of concept / pilot
  • Implementation and support approach
  • Benefits realisation and tracking

Of course, this all needs to be underpinned by programme and project management activities, and an appropriate governance approach. Again, horse for courses!

Putting the Team Together

It’s vital that changes made impacting field -based operations involve subject matter experts from support functions and from the operational business. At Leadent Solutions, working with our clients, we have seen this work well when:

  • The Project Board has full functional representation
  • When team members are seconded from Business As Usual roles on to project positions
  • A business network, with representatives from all appropriate functions, is used to inform or validate design or implementation decisions

Business representation on the project team in part ensures the integrity of the final solution, and, to some degree, removes the ‘not designed here’ risk.

Keeping the Business Informed: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

In the first article we focused on ‘People’, their prime role in business performance, and the importance of change management in any improvement activities. It’s not my intention to revisit change management generally in this article, but it is worth re-iterating the importance of communication.

It’s important from the very outset that the business understands:

  • What the project / programme will deliver
  • How they will deliver it
  • What the project expects from the business
  • The anticipated timeframes
  • What the feedback channels are

And that those messages are:

  • Tailored to the audience (a field engineer will not want to see a detailed project plan)
  • Repeated on a frequent basis

With the disparate nature of field-based operations, communications are not always straightforward. Team meetings may be infrequent, access to systems or the internet is not always assured. Some creative thinking may be required to make sure the messages are heard!

As an output of the Healthcheck, we work with clients to shape, plan and set-up remedial actions – this can range from simplistic but focused action plans to large transformation projects. This article has highlighted some key considerations in that process.

Next time, the last part of this series covers a Case Study at Anglian Water.   A Leadent Solutions Health Check on the quality of work schedules led to a number of changes in the set-up and configuration of the ClickSchedule application. These changes have driven immediate improvements in field engineer productivity.

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 Dave and the team directly by clicking this link

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