Assessing the Health of your Field-Based Operations – Take a Look under the Bonnet - Part 2: Focus on Process
After last week’s focus on People, this week we’re turning our attention to the importance of checking your processes for field-based operations are in good shape. They may not be as enticing as people or technology, but processes are the backbone of business operations that any organisation ignores at its peril. Mark Thompson, Managing Consultant at Leadent Solutions explains further...
Our car analogy, introduced in Part 1, extends to illustrate the importance of process. You might take your car in for a service at the local garage, but think of the range of processes involved to complete it successfully: facilities management, human resources, logistics, call management and customer service, and scheduling and operations, for example.
This also rings true for your field-based workforce: effective processes are the core of successful operations - of course enabled by technology, and executed by engaged and skilled employees. But without process, operations will be compromised.
Taking a Process View
Operational reviews can often only focus on the technology, forgetting the supporting processes and looking only at one part of the whole. However, processes are fundamental to achieve mobile workforce excellence – after all, this is the part that defines execution, exerts control, monitors performance and provides essential management information, so that you know your operations are providing value to the organisation. Processes are wide ranging and cover customer, assets, and jobs, alongside managing the mobile workforce.
Processes operate over different timeframes, some more planned and long term, some reactive, more here and now
Seeking Optimal Performance
With our clients, at Leadent Solutions we use a Workforce Optimisation Heath Check to review current state business processes, most typically covering the core functions listed below:
- Long and medium term planning
- Tactical planning
- Customer management
- Work deployment
- Job execution
- Exception management (Work and Resources)
It is about the end to end process, but also ensuring that the individual processes have integrity in their own right, and that the processes are integrated and work as a whole. It’s important to recognise that the process for forward ordering car engine components is as critical as the process for fitting the components.
Checks are also required to understand that the processes are measured, managed, and controlled.
Alongside reviewing the effectiveness of business and system processes, it’s essential to consider how processes are aligned to the overall business objectives.
Alongside reviewing the effectiveness of business and system processes, it’s essential to consider how processes are aligned to the overall business objectives. There’s little point in coming up with near-perfect, gold standard processes if they are geared up to provide a completely different value to that which your organisation needs to meet its aims.
Getting Back on Track
Issue identification, root cause analytics, and business alignment checks will highlight areas for improvement. In understanding the issues and any shortfalls that may have evolved, a picture of ‘what good looks like’ starts to come together. With this knowledge, the review can determine recommendations and future remedial work with much more clarity and purpose.
Remedial actions will vary depending upon the nature of the workforce management processes and current state, but may include, for example:
- Process corrections and improvements
- Process automation
- Role and responsibility changes
- New or modified Key Performance Indicators
- System changes (potentially in planning, scheduling, deployment, mobile applications, but also other supporting systems, e.g. customer management, procurement / supply chain)
Aligned to business needs, remedial actions will be prioritised and recommendations made on how these should be approached. Regards approach, consideration will most likely cover issues of IT deployment, business readiness, organisational change, training and communications.
Taking the Organisation with You
Process health checks are completed using a mix of review workshops, data and information gathering, and stakeholder interviews. It is critical that the right people are involved, with representatives from all functions, and that they are properly engaged in appropriate review activities. Their knowledge and viewpoint are integral to the success of the exercise. Business sign-off of the priority issues and remedial actions is also of paramount importance. Staying with the car analogy, the review will definitely be a journey, maybe an uncomfortable one at times, but at all times stakeholders must feel like they are driving.
Taking a Holistic Approach
Effective processes are aligned to business objectives, work effectively and drive value in terms of service and cost. To achieve this it’s important that they are set-up optimally: are yours?
In reality, effective business solutions need process, systems and people working together. Set-up and managed correctly, the enabling function of technology, and the behaviours and actions of people make business processes operate effectively (or otherwise!). In any review activity is it difficult to separate process, people and system, so a holistic approach is best.
In part dependent upon known issues, in part dependent upon planned or ‘in flight’ programmes or projects, it may be possible to review all three components in tandem, or at least draw on other sources to provide that holistic approach. However this is managed, the crucial part is to take that over-arching view.
Next time we’ll be looking at the role of Systems in assessing the health of your field-based operations…