Mobile Workforce Management Blog

Parts Management in Field Service – Business Decisions and Processes

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Aug 21, 2014 2:15:00 PM

parts-management-in-field-service-business-decisions-and-processesWith parts management in field service, you’re trying to solve 2 business problems.

Stocking the vans with the right parts (from how many parts in each van at any given time to filling up the vans) and assigning the appropriate technicians.

Based on the daily plan, the technician can make more accurate decisions.

For example, if a technician typically has 5 setup boxes, but today, has 10 installations, the technician will need to prepare differently.

But what if the technician gets to the site and doesn’t have the necessary part? Then, from this point in the process, each organization may manage this situation differently. Because there are decisions that must be made. The main decisions are about purchasing parts and scheduling assignments.

Purchasing Parts

The technician is on-site, but doesn’t have the necessary part.

Who is authorized to purchase parts? As the technician, are you sending a request to the warehouse that you need a part?

And does the warehouse send the part to the technician? Or does the technician order and pick up the part at the warehouse or at a store?

If the technician purchases the part, who authorizes the payment and when, and how is the payment made? For example, as a technician, do I pay for the part and submit my expenses? Some parts are expensive. Can a technician pay via a purchase order or a company credit card?

Many options are possible. You need the ability in your mobile workforce management software for technicians to choose the right option that’s relevant to how your organization works.

  • Who purchases the part?
  • Where can the part be purchased?
  • How is the payment process managed?

Scheduling Assignments

There’s another set of decisions regarding re-scheduling the call – either in conjunction with or independent of the purchasing decisions.

Sometimes, the technician can get the part from a peer, the warehouse, or the store. But, in many cases, the technician has to wait – days or weeks – for the missing part to arrive.

Then, a scheduling and assignment decision must be made. Do you keep the work with the original technician? Or do you reassign the work, based on the outcome of the purchasing decision?

If you decided to purchase the part and send it to the technician, then it’s likely you want to re-schedule the job with that technician at the time the part is expected to arrive. If you decided to ship the part to a store or the work location, then you don’t necessarily have to assign the work to the original technician. You can schedule the work to anyone who meets the criteria for the job. Then, that technician can pick up the part from the appropriate location.

Managing Business Processes

For any service organization, there are nuances to your business processes (e.g., escalation) and the business rules within each process.

Of course, you’ll always prefer that your technicians are prepared for each day with the appropriate parts. But when the technician is on-site and doesn’t have the part, then decisions must be made about purchasing, payment, and scheduling.

These business decisions and processes can be managed within ViryaNet G4. Our BPM Blueprint for Mobile Workforce Management is a collection of processes that provide best practices, so you can get better visibility into the effectiveness of your business processes and solve business problems.


White Paper: Business Process Management as a Blueprint for Mobile Workforce Management

Learn how to solve the puzzle of an evolving and dynamic business environment.

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Real-Time Key Performance Indicators in Field Service

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Aug 14, 2014 3:04:22 PM

real-time-key-performance-indicators-in-field-serviceIn field service, there’s a connection between the information you need to know and the actions you need to take.

Real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) must be presented in a format that drives action. The fact that the data is actionable is critical when talking about real-time KPIs.

Other KPIs must be presented in a format that drives analysis of the day-to-day operation. You’ll use these KPIs to view history and trends. Then, utilize tools to conduct a performance analysis, including reviewing data at a high level and drilling down to resolve the root cause of problems.

There also could be different dimensions to metrics, based on your role. Dispatchers aren’t conducting analysis. They’re managing exceptions. For dispatchers, ViryaNet G4 channels information into the To Do List. In order to channel this information, you must identify the situations that require your dispatchers to take action. You may need measurements to identify these situations.

One scenario that requires a measurement could be the percentage of employees who are late this morning. For example, if 20% of your employees are late, you probably need to take a significant action. So you’ll measure that as a KPI. If that KPI exceeds a certain threshold, that information is channeled to the To Do List, so your dispatchers can handle the problem.

ViryaNet G4 also tracks the execution of the plan, resource by resource, and work order by work order. Even if one person is late or one job is about to be missed, that information is channeled to the To Do List, so the dispatcher can take action. This tracking is one aspect of real-time measurements that drive real-time decisions.

If you’re the dispatch center manager, you may not want metrics regarding individual resources or work orders. That information is for dispatchers. But since you’re managing people in the dispatch center, you’ll want visibility into real-time KPIs that track the performance of your dispatchers. For example, a dispatcher who isn’t reacting to emergency calls in a timely manner. In this scenario, as a dispatch center manager, you don’t want a series of dashboards. You want to be notified immediately.

As a dispatcher center manager, you may be reviewing the performance of your dispatchers over the past month. The KPIs used by dispatchers and dispatch center managers may be similar, but driving activities in a different context.

In the context of real-time:

  • What are the real-time activities in your scheduling and dispatch operation?
  • Which KPIs support those activities?
  • What needs to be known in real-time and by whom?

Real-time KPIs in ViryaNet G4 offer summary information which is useful for dispatchers. Typically, this summary information is provided at the zone level, but you also can click between zones.

For example, if you have high utilization in one area, you can drill down to see exactly where the problem is. There are other statistics at the resource level which appear in the Resource area (e.g., per resource, how many jobs are left to complete?)

The KPIs are aggregations. How many calls are in jeopardy? How many SLAs did I miss today? And the KPIs have thresholds (e.g., too many SLAs in jeopardy) which can generate To Do Items and/or pop-up alerts in ViryaNet G4. For a more complete picture, you can drill down into the KPI by action type, employee type, zone, etc.

Where do you draw the line between dispatch board tools and performance management tools? In the dispatch board, you need to take action, so you need real-time tools. In performance management, you need to conduct an analysis to solve a root cause problem. Just not in real-time.

Typically, performance management and business intelligence reports look at history. Even if it’s just yesterday. Showing how your field service organization has performed. These KPIs are categorized into 4 types:

  • Compliance (meeting appointments and SLAs; are resources following the plan?)
  • Workload/Productivity (resource utilization; idle time)
  • Quality of Current Plan (dispatcher be aware when they take actions in conflict with the Optimizer objectives set by the company)
  • Quality of Dispatcher Work (measuring adherence, time spent, and decisions made in processing the To Do List; working towards company objectives).

Performance Management Dashboard – Weekly Productivity, Efficiency, and Utilization

performance-management-dashboard-productivity-efficiency-utilization-large

While ViryaNet G4 includes hundreds of out-of-the-box KPIs, charts, and dashboards, you also need to:

  • translate your business goals into respective business questions and related KPIs
  • use balanced views in your dashboards
  • align business processes and policies with your goals
  • continuously measure your results against your goals
  • identify the root causes of problems
  • determine corrective actions

Because your dispatchers are measured on how well they do their jobs, they need to focus on handling exceptions and ensuring the plan is being executed correctly.

One of the ways ViryaNet can help is to show dispatchers “how they’re doing” throughout the day via real-time KPIs, so they can adjust accordingly and improve their overall performance.


eBook: 14-Step Guide to Building a Performance Management Framework in Field Service Organizations

Move the focus from the “things that you do” to the “things you can do better”.

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Upgrading Your Mobile Workforce Management Software – Lessons Learned

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Aug 7, 2014 2:37:27 PM

upgrading-your-mobile-workforce-management-software-lessons-learnedSome field service organizations have transitioned to the cloud. So when a new feature is introduced, it’s transparent from a technical perspective. But you still need to review your business process regarding the internal impact of this change. And that’s a continuous process.

But if you’re not using mobile workforce management software on the cloud, it’s not just an internal discussion about business process. There’s still the technical activity of upgrading the software.

There are many reasons you may want to upgrade your mobile workforce management software.

You’re on an old version and you want to take advantage of the latest features. Or you’re upgrading other technology, so it makes sense to get current with all your software. Or you have so many customizations that you just want to get back to the core product.

Do You Need to Upgrade or Reconfigure?

You first need to answer this question: How do you run your business?

It’s likely your business is running differently than it did years ago. Management has changed. Technology has changed. Because your customizations are so customized, it may make more sense to break them up. Or instead of slamming old code into new software, it may be less risky and more cost-effective to just reconfigure your software.

Reconfiguring your mobile workforce software would be like you’re a brand new customer. We’d find out how you run your business and lessons you’ve learned. For example, your users had customizations they wanted, but never used. Then, we’d work together to determine which customizations are already part of the core product, and decide which customizations you really need to keep.

For customers who don’t have a lot of customizations, it’s probably a good idea to just reconfigure. For customers who have – and want to keep – a lot of customizations, an upgrade is the way to go. Some customers just want to be trained to do the configurations on their own. And because customers know their business better than anyone, there’s something to be said for training customers and having them take ownership.

If customization is still part of upgrading your software, the ViryaNet G4 extensibility framework maintains a clear boundary between the customization and the core product, addressing the 3 most common needs for customization in the context of mobile workforce management:

  • business process management
  • work forms
  • business intelligence

Whether it’s an upgrade or a reconfiguration, there are lessons learned from customers. And while you may be open to best practices and recommendations about what other customers are doing, the question still remains: How do you run your business?

Customization Assessment

We’d recommend that customers conduct a customization assessment. If customers know what they’ve customized, then they can make a decision about the new software version, based on how they do business. Customers should compare what was customized previously and if the customization was needed.

A customization assessment takes time, but it must be done. Otherwise, it’s a scramble to create the list of customizations. We imagine the conversation at the customer’s site sounds like this. “I don’t remember what we did for that. Do you remember what we did for that?” Then, we receive the list of customizations which is usually a lot of cryptic spreadsheets. What do they all mean? It’s time-consuming. In some cases, our original business analyst remembers many of the customizations. But he’s almost in tears because most customizations were never used.

People. You Need People.

You’ll need to ensure resources are available and can focus on this project. Your business users (not just IT) must be involved from the start and throughout the project. While you may be concerned that business users will bring up too much discussion, they’re the ones using the software.

Your project team must include hands-on users who are trained on best practices and what the application has to offer, not just on what they need to know for their jobs. For example, your project team shouldn’t consist of new hires or employees who just switched departments. If so, we’ll need to take a different approach by providing training before we even start the project.

The proper people must be in place, so decisions can be made. If not, the project will stall and everyone’s budget will be overrun because it’ll take months to identify the features you want, how to configure them, or whether a customization should still exist.

Details, Details

Whether you’re using a sprint or agile methodology, we recommend reviewing one process from beginning to end to work through all issues. Otherwise, months later, knowledge may be lost and you’ll be asking the same questions near the end of the project as you did at the kickoff.

You also can’t be trained on everything at the start of the project. Because by the time you need to apply your knowledge, you’re not going to remember it all. Instead, with one customer, we first conducted workshops about the main elements of the system. Then, one to two months later, we held workshops that built on those main elements. You may want to spread out this training even more.

If you decide to do your own configuration, remember to document those configurations. Not all information can be extracted from the application. So we’d have to reverse-engineer what you’ve done when it comes time to promote the application to another environment.

Nearly all customers allow us to take copies of their database and set it up locally or provide remote access to their environments. If you’re unable to do that, then there are risks to not working and testing within your environment. At a minimum, you should allow read-only access to all your environments. Otherwise, we can’t help you troubleshoot.

The database contains the setup of all the configurations and all the orders from your old implementation. You may choose to not bring over all the old data. But then you’d have to dump the data into a file, so we could re-load and convert the data for the database structure.

If you’re going to upgrade, you must be prepared to provide all your test scenarios. And for features that don’t exist yet, you’ll need to write new test scenarios. We don’t know your business like you do. Without all the test scenarios, we can’t test all the business cases.

When you’re doing an upgrade, you need to conduct complete regression testing which may take several months to get through all the business processes. With regression testing, you’d put the application in your environment. Dry run it. Time it. Ensure everyone knows their responsibilities. Document it. Do it again. Do it again. Also, when you go live, having one of our solution architects on-site makes it a lot easier to troubleshoot any issues.

And because it’s likely that your user experience is changing, you must prepare training materials and provide training.

When upgrading your mobile workforce management software, don’t try to manipulate the application to serve outdated business processes. Start with a clean slate by re-thinking your business processes and how the software can benefit your users.


Checklist: 10 Things to Consider When Evaluating Your Mobile Workforce Management Strategy

Determine your needs. Build your strategy. Avoid the common pitfalls.

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Field Service Data – From Visualization to Value

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 31, 2014 2:29:32 PM

field-service-data-from-visualization-to-valueIn the continuum from data gathering and data accumulation to long-term strategic planning and business growth, the greatest value is gained by visualizing the greatest complexity of data.

The predictive aspects of business intelligence are the pinnacle in the wealth of data you accumulate in your mobile workforce management software.

But before you reach the heights of business intelligence, let’s look at where you’ll get your field service data.

Analyze Your Data

Your mobile workforce management software should allow you to collect and analyze data (e.g., various schedule optimizations). With ViryaNet G4, all the data you’ve collected stays in the database, so you can analyze the information, including:

  • Individual performance – analyze and compare performance against goals and averages; identify best and worst performers.
  • Group performance – understand and compare the work potential of a group against goals and other groups – beyond individual behavior – to provide insight into the management of the group.
  • Predictive behavior – analyze performance as a function of time; point to likely improvements (or vice versa) with time and experience.
  • Predictive workload – predict future load based on past trends and existing commitments; compare predictive workload against performance to find resource gaps and surpluses; gain further insight regarding potential corrective actions (e.g., recruiting, training, work hour policies, etc.).
  • Planning quality – compare expected goals (efficiency and customer satisfaction) in different planning scenarios to find the balance between contradicting business objectives.
  • Execution quality – compare plan vs. actual execution; find the reasons or incorrect assumptions that lead to exceptions.

With ViryaNet’s performance management tool, you can view various charts from the data you’ve collected. For example, you can look at how many jobs were or weren’t assigned and your utilization.

Let’s review one Forecasting chart that’s feeding off this data.

Forecasting Chart Example

 

In the top chart, you’ll see 3 runs on 3 successive days. For example, you could have 2 plans: 7-Day Plan and Backlog. The 7-Day Plan is running for each zone. These groups of columns represent each successive run of the plan. As the days go by, you’ll see more and more columns. For each one, you can see the number of runs for total assigned jobs. Once you start running for a long period of time, you’d expect this to look fairly uniform. If you start seeing peaks and valleys, something’s wrong.

Now if you select a run, the bottom 2 charts populate. So for a particular execution of the plan on successive days into the future – where there was work – each of those days shows 3 pieces of data:

  • total number of tasks
  • number of available employees
  • average utilization

You’ll see the effect of your plan on a day-by-day basis, including utilization. The difference is that you’re also accessing Strategic Planning data. There’s a statistical model that predicts the amount of same-day work every day. For example, by a specific date, you’d expect to get a certain percentage of your utilization used by same-day work or work that isn’t currently in the system (this work may come in tomorrow for the next day). In other words, predicted work.

This is a way of combining known and unknown work. If some work goes over the 100% point or comes close to the 100% point, then you need to address an error or problem. For example, if you have a 5% error in the known work and an even greater percent error in the unknown work (predicted work), then you’re approaching your capacity and some action needs to take place.

The long-term goal is to combine known and unknown work together, so you can see where the sum of known work and unknown work exceeds your capacity by geography, by center, by work type, by whatever dimensions make sense for you.


White Paper: Managing the Known and Unknown in Mobile Workforce Management

Get planning wrong and you lose ground. Get it right and you can optimize your service organization’s response.

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Field Service as a Profit Center – Dollars and Sense

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 24, 2014 1:27:54 PM

field-service-as-a-profit-center-dollars-and-senseDo you see your service organization as a cost center or a profit center? Your answer has a big impact.

In many organizations, field service is shifting from a cost center to a profit center. But because service organization goals are different by industry, the shift is based on your industry.

For example, in industries where there’s less competition, but more regulation (e.g., utilities), the service organization is still seen as a cost center. For utilities, delivering service efficiently is the most significant business goal.

In some industries, customer satisfaction has become more and more important (e.g., telecommunications). These organizations can see the connection between customer satisfaction and the financial benefits received as a result. So they’re starting to think about their service organization in a different way.

For these industries, service isn’t just about efficiency, but the effectiveness of service delivery. If customers are happier, these industries can connect customer satisfaction to retention and service to the acquisition of new customers which increases revenue.

There are specific metrics that can increase customer satisfaction (and financial benefits), including:

  • time to initiation of service
  • time to wait for service
  • time to resolution
  • first-time resolution

Communication – as part of the customer experience – also has a big impact. For example, if you can’t meet your commitment, but you communicate that in the right way, you can improve the customer experience.

A Faster Shift

In other industries, the shift is happening even faster. Because service is a key business model for the organization as a whole.

For example, manufacturers that service their equipment think about service as their biggest opportunity. And as a business model, service is as important, if not more important, than the manufacturing process itself. When service is part of a new business model, then, of course, service is related to revenues.

Manufacturers can utilize ideas from the Internet of Things and create a connection between the sophistication of the equipment and the delivery of service. If you constantly collect information from the equipment that you manufacture, then you can be much smarter about how to service the equipment. You’ll know when equipment needs to be maintained, moving from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.

An example is the smart trash bin which tells you when it’s full. It completely changes the planning for emptying trash bins. You don’t waste time traveling to half-empty bins. It’s one example of how service is changing.

Also, you can use the information you collect to give technicians more knowledge before they arrive on-site. Sometimes, this information can be used to fix things remotely. Then, if necessary, doing a truck roll. But now your technicians know much more before they get to the site.

Let’s Make Some Money

Because technicians spend more time with customers than anyone else in the organization, you can take advantage of this quality time for follow-up sales. But, in service, there’s an inherent tension between customer satisfaction and effectiveness. It could be that those technicians – that you’re encouraging to sell on-site – might spend too much time with customers. Technicians trying to close a deal might be late to the next job. Whenever you have an initiative, it’s important to understand the potential impact on other things. So you must communicate the balance that you expect.

One of our customers decided that technicians should engage in follow-up sales when they’re on-site as a way to increase revenue. However, the internal compensation plan wasn’t clear. The internal processes weren’t structured properly. The measurement points weren’t clear.

The field technicians contributed to closing the sale, but only the sales staff enjoyed the outcomes of these transactions. When technicians realized they wouldn’t receive any benefits from selling, they stopped participating. So this program failed to reach its potential.

Creating the Connections

In shifting to field service as a profit center, there are some challenges. Sometimes, it’s hard to create a clear connection between quality of service and revenues. Because it’s difficult to justify the business model around this connection. There are similar challenges for ideas related to the Internet of Things. Overall, it may make business sense. But there’s a lot of information needed to justify investing in more sophisticated and more expensive equipment. The fragmentation of information makes it hard to justify the business model.

To pull together the different fragments of information, you need a strong performance management practice. You need to understand that you’re going through an iterative process in which collecting and analyzing information and measurements is the key to making progress and taking the next steps. And this performance management practice is what drives the process.

Sometimes, when you focus on an initiative, you may forget that this initiative by itself isn’t the end-all, be-all for the organization. You need to understand how this goal might impact other metrics that are important to your organization. There needs to be a clear translation from overarching goals to more specific targets, using communication and process to more easily translate your objectives to targets.

You need to connect the tools you’re using to the objectives that drive revenue growth. If you’re talking about customer satisfaction, there are planning tools that can be aligned with your business objectives (e.g., shortening the time window; doing priority jobs first). These planning tools can better align the execution of the work with your business goals.

Any benefits gained from the tools you have in place are closely tied to your business objectives. When shifting field service to a profit center, you must close the loop on the business model.

A good example is from one of our customers who wanted to reduce the downtime of critical equipment in their retail stores. Reducing equipment downtime is closely connected with the customer experience at the store and profits.

So this customer conducted an analysis that closed the loop:

  • What is the customer experience at the store?
  • What needs to be done in order to improve the customer experience?
  • How can our service organization be organized differently in order to improve that metric?

This customer decided that there are cases when it makes sense for in-house technicians to fix critical equipment at the store. The in-house technicians were deemed “better” because the company had more direct control which meant these technicians could arrive more quickly to fix critical equipment.

Achieving Success

Organizations that can focus on the right metrics are the ones that can implement change and improve. Unfortunately, more often than not, organizations don’t focus on the right metrics. They reach some plateau of success. But they’re stuck there. Their workforce is the same size. They achieved a certain level of efficiency. They attained a certain number for customer satisfaction. But they have no idea how to make it to the next level.

It’s not likely that these organizations set goals to reach that first plateau of success. It’s more likely they invested in better tools. And those tools helped them get to a certain point. That’s not the same as setting goals and conducting a deeper analysis of what’s preventing your service organization from achieving its goals.

Improvement processes are all about closing the loop and doing things better and better. As with any improvement processes, what needs to be clear is:

  • What are we measuring?
  • And how are we measuring it?

With performance management, you can see what’s working and what’s not. Moreover, you can identify the root cause of problems to determine what could be executed better. Conducting a root cause analysis, putting improvement processes in place, and measuring again is what takes your service organization to the next level.

Think about the shift to a profit center as a change process. To be successful in a change process, you need to have the right mindset for iteration. You set a goal. You start small. You measure. You adjust. And once you achieve success, you leverage and build on your success.


eBook: 14-Step Guide to Building a Performance Management Framework in Field Service Organizations

Move the focus from the “things that you do” to the “things you can do better”.

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Building Mobile Field Service Applications for Offline Use

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 16, 2014 8:00:00 AM

building-mobile-field-service-applications-for-offline-useMobile connectivity isn’t guaranteed 100% of the time.

There are still many places where field technicians don’t have connectivity.

They could be driving in a rural area. Or entering an elevator. Or working in a basement.

So connectivity should be an important design consideration for developing mobile field service applications.

Because there’s nothing more annoying than using a mobile application, but not being able to access information or complete tasks.

Even in a mobile world, it’s still a given that offline capabilities should be taken into consideration. Because we’re used to having this information in our hands.

The bigger questions are:

  • What are the challenges?
  • And how can offline capabilities be handled successfully?

When you’re online, you have connectivity. You have an unlimited amount of storage on the backend servers. And nearly unlimited bandwidth to access the information on those servers. So there’s no question about getting information and providing a good user experience. Because, typically, the time to access information is insignificant.

But when you lose connectivity, you can’t store all the information you’ll need on your mobile device. Even when you have connectivity, sometimes you have a good signal; sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, it takes a second to access the information. Sometimes, it takes a lot longer than a second.

So from a mobile design perspective, what could be done to help users when they don’t have connectivity or the quality of the connection isn’t good?

The first step is to make connectivity (or lack of connectivity) as transparent as possible for the user. When we say the experience is “transparent” or the transition is “smooth”, these are elements that could be put into the design to improve the user experience.

Whether the user is connected or not, the user shouldn’t have to do anything. For example, users shouldn’t have to think about whether the information they’ll need will be stored offline. When we present information to the users, they don’t need to know whether the information is being delivered from online or offline storage. We want those transitions to be completely transparent. So the users won’t have to worry about it.

There are times when we still need to inform users about what’s happening, for example:

  1. When you’re collecting information in the field and you don’t have connectivity, we should indicate that for you.
    We should let you know that the work you’re doing right now isn’t being sent immediately to the office. So you won’t be surprised the next time you call the office and they don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead, you’ll have an indication that, at the moment, the information is waiting to be sent. We don’t expect you to send it later. You can continue with your work. Just as you would if you were connected. But making you aware that you’re not connected right now is important for the user experience.

  2. If you’re not connected, there are certain things that just won’t work.
    Let’s say that you want to search for missing parts in all the warehouses in the area. It’s very likely this function is designed only to work in an online mode. Because you want to know the real-time status of the availability of parts. We could help by changing the user interface for functions that we know will fail without connectivity. While we want to keep the user experience completely transparent, there are certain things that we can’t do. So a subtle treatment of graying out or hiding functions within the mobile application would be useful. Because we still want to make you aware. And we wouldn’t want you to try to do things that we know would fail without connectivity. This better design of a mobile field application could help users with a much smoother flow in offline scenarios.

In addition, it could be made clear to users that not only are certain functions unavailable, but why these functions aren’t available. From a design perspective, we could build visual cues that can be understood by the users.

The biggest thing in building mobile applications for offline use is making a smart decision regarding which information is stored offline. This decision could be based on predicting which information you’ll need when you’re not online. And this decision could be where a good design performs much, much better than an ordinary design.

If the application had the smartness to predict frequently used functions and commonly accessed information, then this information could be stored for offline use in a transparent way. In addition to accessing information at the time that you’re requesting it, the mobile application could prepare the information for future use. This capability could have an even greater impact on transparency.

When building mobile applications, there are different levels of sophistication. Most applications start by identifying the information and tasks frequently used by all users. A more sophisticated design could look at user roles in the application. An even more sophisticated design could track usage patterns by individual users.

Designing a mobile field service application isn’t black-and-white: What do I have online? What do I have offline? A good design is about a smooth transition between online and offline.

To be successful, mobile field service applications should provide subtle indications when connectivity is lost and should predict the field technician’s future needs for information. In this way, field technicians can continue their work seamlessly even when they lose connectivity.


eBook: Best Practices in Mobile Workforce Management

Get the recommendations on what you need and what you should avoid in mobile workforce management.

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Moving Field Service Beyond Efficiency

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 9, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Moving Field Service Beyond EfficiencyAccording to Aberdeen Group, organizations with a high level of customer satisfaction have shown growth in both service revenues and overall company revenues as compared to those who didn’t create happy customers (those organizations saw a continued decline in revenues)1.

Aberdeen has seen that service drives 10.7% higher margins annually compared to products.

In addition, organizations that achieved a customer satisfaction level of 80% or higher were able to retain more customers.

And organizations have started to drive a higher proportion of revenue from renewals/referrals (vs. new sales) which also points to the need to focus on customer satisfaction.

Service Goals to Move Beyond Efficiency

service-goals-move-beyond-efficiency

Service can bring value to your top and bottom lines. Manufacturers have already seen servicing their equipment as an opportunity. Other industries – that are feeling the pressure of competition and reduced margins – now see service as a differentiator on the road to profitability.

So most industries can utilize service to drive revenues. And best-in-class companies know that the path to growth isn’t paved with just controlling or reducing costs. But resolving customer issues in a timely and profitable manner requires balancing customer needs and service resources.

These conflicting business objectives are the inherent contradiction between customer-friendly planning goals (e.g., quality of service, risk of missing a commitment) and resource efficiency planning goals (e.g., minimizing travel time, load balancing the work).

Mobile workforce management software that supports conflicting objectives can help improve your service organization by optimizing several goals together and balancing your business objectives when they’re in conflict. For example, balancing minimized travel time with better service. This priority-based approach ranks your objectives in order of importance to your service organization.

No Missing Links

According to the Aberdeen survey, in order to create a link between strategy, measurement, and execution, top performing organizations must:

  • Benchmark the service team’s performance – Service organizations much benchmark against top performers as well as top performers in other industries to discover best practices beyond your own industry.

  • Establish the right incentives – Align compensation and incentives with your operational metrics to ensure you’re encouraging the right behaviors for your service organization.

  • Design for service – Analytics and smart assets give technicians the necessary insight to fix problems before they occur or to know what’s happening before they arrive at the customer site.

  • Train the entire service team on the value of service – Provide training on service offerings to ensure that service is known to contribute value to the top and bottom lines.

Delivering resolution to your customers delivers more satisfied customers, higher customer retention, and more revenue. But your customer’s expectations never go away, so your service organization must continuously improve.

1Source: State of Service Management Roadmap for a Profitable 2014. March, 2014. Aberdeen Group, Inc.


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Mobile Applications in Field Service – The 2 Dilemmas

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 27, 2014 4:28:57 PM

mobile-applications-in-field-service-the-2-dilemmasSmartphones, tablets, and mobile apps present many challenges to IT organizations.

Mobile apps are no longer glorified websites with caching capabilities.

These apps are designed specifically for mobile consumption, including different form factors, touch interfaces, hardware capabilities, and operating systems for different devices.

There are 4 main technical approaches to the development of mobile apps (as described by Gartner1):

  1. Native apps run only on one operating system and are written in a language specific to that platform (e.g., iPhone, Android). Native apps offer the best possible performance and the best use of features that are native to the mobile device (e.g., camera).

  2. Cross-compiled apps are compiled from a single-source language into native code for a range of devices and operating systems, adapting to the appropriate platform for the specific device.

  3. Hybrid apps combine Web and native technology. The majority of the app is created using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and embedded in a native app container which then accesses the features of the device.

  4. Metadata-driven apps consist of a native app with business logic provided in a metadata format. Business logic is defined in the backend and is synced and understood by the device.

When planning a field service mobile application strategy, IT leaders face 2 dilemmas: build vs. buy and native app vs. Web/hybrid app.

The enterprise application market has seen an interesting cycle: from the days of homegrown solutions to the dominance of monolithic solutions (e.g., ERP) and back to the world of composite apps. With the pressure to innovate and reduced barriers to developing your own mobile apps, IT organizations are tempted to go with a “build” vs. “buy” strategy. But is that the right move? (spoiler) I don’t think so.

Build vs. Buy

If you find a mobile app that meets your needs, you should focus on your business and adopt a “buy” strategy. But (and this is a big but…), your IT organization should still play a key role in identifying the right tools and architectures that will drive innovation and empower your business to implement its own service DNA into the overall solution.

When considering a mobile field application, you need to consider all the ways your service organization will use the application.

The 2 main use cases for metadata-driven apps are forms and work order status flows (e.g., the progress of the call).

There’s complexity for technicians collecting information in the field. This complexity requires that certain areas of the mobile field application be metadata-driven. In this way, you get the flexibility you need and the application reflects your service DNA – your unique processes and policies (e.g., data to collect) that must be captured in your mobile workforce management solution.

A metadata-driven app for forms includes the field types, how those fields behave, and whether those fields are mandatory. It’s a configuration option on the backend which means no mobile development is required by the customer. Your form data is translated by the metadata on the backend.

A metadata-driven app is also useful for status flows. In many cases, status flows are unique to every customer and every work type. For example, the field technician can’t leave the site without completing the job. Again, because these flows are metadata-driven. You define the rules on the backend. Then, the metadata is translated into functionality within the application.

Native Apps vs. Web/Hybrid Apps

The other dilemma is native vs. Web/hybrid apps. The pros and cons are clear. Native applications provide a better user experience. Web applications are easier to develop. Theoretically, Web apps can be developed once and deployed for different operating systems. In reality, you need a hybrid approach to close the still-existing gaps between HTML5 and the unique aspects of different hardware and operating systems.

If your organization uses “buy” as its main strategy, you don’t need to worry about how easy or difficult it is to develop a mobile app. You can focus on your users and provide your organization with the agility to innovate.

Instead of a hybrid application, ViryaNet’s field application combines both cross-compiled and metadata-driven. A cross-compiled and metadata-driven app is cost-effective without compromising the user experience. Cost-effective because code can be re-used for different devices. And a better user experience because native code provides an experience that’s unique to each device.

You may ask yourself “Why can’t my company just develop the application in-house?” Like any other application that you buy, it makes sense to get the best practices, the robustness, and the investment put into an off-the-shelf application without having to compromise your service DNA.

Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds, balancing the best practices of a cross-compiled app with utilizing a metadata-driven app in areas that are important for you to maintain flexibility.

1Source: Mobile Development Tools for SMBs. June 16, 2014. Gartner, Inc.


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Balancing Field Service Teams Without Losing Control

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 19, 2014 12:19:00 PM

balancing-field-service-teams-without-losing-control

Field service organizations are under pressure to deliver exceptional service.

One popular strategy to meet customer needs and fluctuations in demand is the use of subcontractors. In fact, Aberdeen Group1 reports that 64% of its survey respondents used subcontractors to “at least complete some percentage of daily field service tasks”.

When implementing this strategy, field service organizations may fear that they’re losing control or may feel that once the work is outsourced, it’s out of their hands.

But field service organizations must remember that they’re outsourcing the work, not the management of that work. And enabling visibility into all field resources – both in-house and outsourced – helps maintain service quality. To meet customer expectations, field service organizations must take strategic actions throughout the service process, no matter who’s doing the work.

Strategies to Support a Third-Party Field Workforce

strategies-to-support-third-party-field-workforce


It’s true that you have more control with an internal workforce. If your in-house technicians aren’t available, you can change their priority, so that they are available. When using subcontractors, there are checks and balances outside of your organization. At best, the service provider meets the requirements of a service level agreement. You don’t get the level of visibility when you outsource the work, but you’re still accountable for the work.

There’s a trend toward using in-house technicians. In fact, you may be bringing back outsourced work because your metrics show that you can reduce costs and provide better service with an internal workforce. However, you must consider whether you can hire the right people with the right skills. Your decisions may be different for different work types and equipment types. Depending on the volume of work and the geography, you may not be able to fully utilize the resources that you’re hiring. If there’s no work in a certain area, it might cost you more to hire in-house technicians.

Whether your technicians are in-house, outsourced, or a hybrid, your mobile workforce management software should allow you to easily schedule and optimize your workforce. Since you’re continuously reviewing the balance between in-house and outsourced, it’s likely that you’re managing a hybrid workforce.

Aberdeen names 3 areas of focus for managing a hybrid workforce:

1. Create a standard process for service execution. Offer your field service team (in-house and outsourced) clear guidelines for completing tasks. In this way, both your customers and your workforce know what to expect.

2. Plan for future demand. Forecast your future demand for work and plan your resource response to that forecasted level, including:

  • ensuring the appropriately skilled staff
  • handling anticipated peaks and valleys in demand
  • automating and consolidating your planning process
3. Capture and make data accessible across the organization. Provide your entire workforce with the ability to capture and transfer information seamlessly, allowing for real-time decision-making and faster resolution.

Service Excellence Begins with Strong Leadership

service-excellence-begins-with-strong-leadership

 


In order to meet goals related to customer satisfaction, productivity, and revenue, field service organizations must avoid an “out of sight, out of mind mentality” when it comes to subcontractors.

For example, one of ViryaNet’s utility customers has “gas disconnects” handled by subcontractors. In ViryaNet G4, this workforce is separate from the utility’s workforce, so that schedulers and planners can’t access and/or change any subcontractor work. This configuration – which is standard in the product – allows the subcontractor work to be isolated, yet still within one application to retain visibility.

The ability to easily separate the work means finding, managing, and measuring the work more efficiently. While the work may be separate in the mobile workforce management system, subcontractors are an extension of your organization. So your standard processes must include how issues are resolved and by whom. A flexible solution allows you to apply different processes, make process changes, and monitor the outcomes to make a decision about what’s best for your service organization.

Scheduling technicians must remain strategic, including assigning the “right” technician for the job. Within ViryaNet G4, objectives are categorized into 1 of 3 groups: which jobs to assign; to whom; when should the work and resources be assigned. So you can prioritize and balance technician suitability with your other business objectives.

Making performance data available across your organization – from executives interested in summarized metrics or longer-term performance trends (e.g., quarterly) to directors and managers focused on performance in a shorter time window (e.g., weekly, monthly) helps you benchmark the workforce and schedule for future needs. Your mobile workforce management software should enable your service organization to collect performance data, analyze it, and act on it.

Third-Party Field Service Teams Performance

third-party-field-service-teams-performance


To attain the benefits of a hybrid workforce, you must align goals, technology, and processes to deliver the results your customers expect. Otherwise, you’ll lose more than control. You’ll lose customers.

1Source: Third-Party Field Service: Work Together to Deliver High Levels of Quality. February, 2014. Aberdeen Group, Inc.


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21 Blog Posts on Field Service and Mobile Workforce Management (You Might Have Missed)

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 11, 2014 3:17:07 PM

21-blog-posts-on-field-service-and-mobile-workforce-management-you-might-have-missedSometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Even with blog posts.

Some posts (I’m looking at you, Mobile Workforce Scheduling – The Optimization Problem) may just be more visible than others.

Here are 21 blog posts about field service and mobile workforce management that you might have missed.

#1 - What's Next for Your Field Service Organization?
Field service organizations must establish a performance management practice that includes mobile workforce management metrics and analysis.

#2 - How You Can Fail at Mobile Workforce Management in One Easy Step
While the technology components of mobile workforce management are important, they don't necessarily contribute to more effective service delivery.

#3 - How to Plan Better with Performance Management
If you can’t invest any more than you already have in your workforce, then the key to continuous improvement is to become more efficient and effective.

#4 - What Is Your Field Service DNA?
A flexible mobile workforce management solution must be smart enough to adapt to changing scenarios and adjust to your organization’s evolving needs.

#5 - Be Social Out There, You’re in Field Service
Integrating a social collaboration tool with your mobile workforce management solution facilitates the process of field technicians getting help.

#6 - Feeling SaaS-y About Mobile Workforce Management
Your mobile workforce management solution must integrate with enterprise applications and allow for configuration, customization, and extensibility.

#7 - 7 Elements for Faster and Easier BPM Adoption
Your service organization may need to actively monitor and update business processes and workflow to meet requirements that may change over time.

#8 - Field Mobility: The 3 Elements to Balance for a Mobile-First Solution
Field mobility can improve your organization by focusing technicians on the plan, handling changes proactively, and managing exceptions in real-time.

#9 - The Mobile Workforce Management Journey Q&A
You must have a well-defined strategy to meet your service objectives and a Performance Management Framework to support continuous improvement.

#10 - What Field Service Objectives Are You Trying to Balance?
To ensure optimal daily schedules, you must be able to continuously optimize scheduling resources within your dynamic field service environment.

#11 - Scheduling Optimization - Getting Your Priorities Straight
Solve the scheduling problem and you have the best potential (compared with the other planning stages) to increase your service organization’s ROI.

#12 - Speak of the Devil – Voice Recognition’s Bad Reputation
Field service organizations are more likely to adopt voice-enabled field applications because it makes more sense to speak than browse menus.

#13 - Brace for Impact – Breaking Down Silos in Field Service
By breaking down silos, your service organization can mature in terms of what you measure, and how you make decisions, based on those measurements.

#14 - Prepare Your Field Service Organization for Takeoff
Performance management leads to decisions that can transform your organization. Without performance management, you have visibility into nothing.

#15 - Putting the Work in Mobile Workforce Management
If your goal is to increase resource utilization, you need to know if your field service staff is working as much as possible.

#16 - Field Mobility – Get the Extensibility You Really Want
If your IT organization isn’t building other applications, why is it building mobile field applications? What you really want is extensibility.

#17 - Your Field Service Is About to Get Real-Time
From a mobile workforce management perspective, real-time has a major impact on how people work and how effective they are. Get ready for real-time.

#18 - If You Don't Do Performance Management Now, You'll Hate Yourself Later
To continuously improve, your Performance Management initiative must move the focus from the “things that you do” to the “things you can do better”.

#19 - 3 Ways You Will Overpay for Your Mobile Workforce Management Solution
Reduce the risk of overpaying for your mobile workforce management solution and the risk of failure throughout the application lifecycle.

#20 - Is Your Field Service Organization Out of Alignment?
The pinnacle for field service organizations is finding the balance between contradicting objectives and achieving alignment with strategic goals.

#21 - Got a Benchmark Problem? Good.
When you’re evaluating optimization solutions, don’t forget about quality. And remember to challenge your optimizer vendor with a benchmark problem.


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