Field force automation: a practical guide

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A practical guide to benefits realisation of field force automation.

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Field force automation: a practical guide

  1. 1. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation              Field force automationA practical guide to benefits realisation                                                                             1
  2. 2. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation               The share of the service sector in both production and employment has been growing for at least two decades in most developed countries. Service productivity and quality is one of the few remaining differentiators and automation of the management and delivery of field-based services can deliver significant benefits to the organisation and its customers. This paper is a practical guide to realising those benefits. It is based on BT’s experience as a practitioner and provider of field force automation services for mobile employees such as service engineers, utility workers and community nurses. The author, Paul Cleaver, was responsible for transforming the performance of BT’s engineering field force through automation in the 1990s.                                         2
  3. 3. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation    Eight steps to successful workforce automation       A successful field force automation programme will enhance the productivity of employees and the efficiency of corporate assets (such as vehicles and specialist equipment) across a range of industries including transport & logistics, utilities, retailing, local government and healthcare. The following eight steps will help you maximise the return on your investment. 1 5 2 6 3 7 4 8 1. Do your homework The first step is to make sure that you understand what you can and should achieve by introducing field force automation. It is important to recognise that automating the management of service delivery is not about technology, but about people and processes, underpinned by the right software application. The cultural and people issues cannot be understated. It is essential to make sure that your whole management team is on board with a common understanding of the objectives and the reasons for the changes. And it is also essential to understand your current manual process to ensure that no important functions are eliminated through automation. 2. Identify and define your benefits When you are confident that you understand the scope and potential of automating service delivery, you can start to identify and define the benefits you want for your organisation. They can include:     3
  4. 4. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisationProductivity gains. In BT’s experience, a 10 to 20 per cent improvement in productivity is realistic, depending on your starting position. Be specific about what improved productivity means. For example, it might mean that an employee will complete eight jobs in a day instead of seven. Do not be persuaded that five minutes saved per job will equate to a productivity gain of X per cent. You must have a hard measure that everyone can understand – the more complex the calculation, the less likely it will be delivered in real life. If you have 1000 mobile field workers costing approx £50,000 per annum each, a 10 per cent saving will give you £5 million a year. This will pay for the automation programme within 12 months.Customer service improvements. Automating the field force will reduce missed/late appointments and ensure the best qualified person with the right equipment is sent to the job. One way to quantify the impact on customers is to measure the number of appointments or other commitments that are achieved on time. A realistic expectation is that an automated solution can often enable a 15 per cent improvement in meeting customer commitments successfully and on time. Improved service should also be reflected in reduced customer churn. If you want to measure the impact of automation on customer churn, you should do so over time, and ensure that there are no other initiatives taking place that may also influence the customer experience.Faster invoicing. The ability to invoice customers more quickly can deliver important financial gain and should feature on any list of desired benefits. Automating field service means you can record billing information the same day as work is completed. This has been shown to cut five working days from the invoicing cycle, considerably improving your cash positionEnforcing service policies/SLAs. Many customer service agreements include penalties for under-service but when you allocate work manually through human controllers it can be difficult to ensure total compliance with service policies and agreements. Automated work allocation means that jobs are allocated according to service policy so that customer needs are consistently met and you avoid incurring financial penalties for non delivery.Deliver better quality work. The first hand experience of BT (and many of our customers) suggests that the greater transparency of performance which comes about with automation can lead to behavioural changes as employees respond with greater attention to detail and quality. Many organisations choose to leverage this behavioural change with additional quality initiatives in parallel with the automation programme.A more accurate understanding of performance. An automated workforce management system will enable truly objective evaluation of employee performance so that you can recognise and reward good performance and quickly address any areas of under-performance. In a manual operating environment, your performance data can be corrupted. It is essential to ensure that performance data about the pre-automated process is 100% accurate because if the pre-automation data inflates productivity, then you risk a perceived drop in performance when you automate.     4
  5. 5. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation 3. Agree the management information you will require Consider and agree the key management information required to ensure you realise your benefits. A maximum of six reports should provide all the productivity and customer service data you need. Ideally, this is available in real time, or next morning at the latest, so that any corrective action can be taken quickly. 4. Understand your existing processes and operational environment The most successful field force automation programmes are built on a solid understanding of what really happens in the business. It is critical to understand the operational environment ‘as is’ before considering automation. This will help clarify potential benefits and ensure the project team understands what really goes on in the field. Pay special attention to the start and end of the working day. What appears in the process diagram may be very different from reality, where dozens of engineers start the day trying to contact dispatch for their schedule or waiting at the depot for the right equipment. There will be an immediate improvement in productivity at the beginning of the day if the work schedule has already been downloaded to the individual and any specialist equipment delivered in advance. And what happens at the end of the day, if someone finishes a job but there is not time to start and complete another? Automatic scheduling will make good use of this previously ‘idle time’ by assigning computer-based training, for example, helping the individual to improve his/her skills and developing your pool of talent.Improving productivity and safety for Romtelecom Romtelecom is a leading supplier of telecommunications services to domestic and commercial customers in Romania. The company had identified a specific operational area where better deployment of field engineers would reduce costs. It also wanted to accelerate compliance with EU health and safety legislation. A team of BT field force automation consultants carried out hands-on research, shadowing engineers, handling equipment and climbing ladders in order to fully understand exactly what was required of Romtelecom’s employees. BT then redesigned Romtelecom’s field engineering practice so that only one engineer was required for jobs where previously two would have been allocated, enabling the company to reduce its field workforce by around 25%. In addition, BT designed and documented new processes and recommended tools and equipment that would provide a more secure environment for field engineers. 5. Design new process Once you have understood how your organisation really works, you can design new processes and associated systems, plus a map of how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. This blueprint should allow ample time for the implementation and settling down period. Do not rush. A new solution must be properly implemented to deliver benefits.     5
  6. 6. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation 6. Select suppliers and products The right software is key. You are not buying a few lines of code: you are buying a new way of working. • Make 100% sure the software will do everything you want. Test it and any associated claims. Speak to other users about their experience. • You will get what you pay for: do not be seduced by low cost suppliers. • Ignore claims of an uplift of 50% in productivity. If a software supplier persists with unrealistic targets, then it probably has not understood the realities of your business. • Choose a supplier with a track record, and whom you trust. You want a company who will fully support you throughout any pilot and implementation, so that you get what you want. Ask if you really want to manage the new solution in-house? If not, then look for a supplier who can provide project management or a long term managed service. When you have selected your software partner, only then should you choose the supporting mobile technology. There is a host of possible devices on the market; your software supplier should also be able to advise what would be right for your environment and your people. You may require ruggedized equipment. And remember not just to consider the initial purchase price but the total lifetime cost of any hardware.Driving cultural change for Northumbrian Water Northumbrian Water understood that field force automation could help it bring about a cultural change and transform its business performance. It appointed BT deliver a field force automation solution that enables dispatchers to monitor engineers’ job status and location instantaneously on a single web page. Vehicles are fitted with GPS tracking devices and engineers have handheld mobile devices (PDAs) to receive and send information about jobs. To make the system easy to use, information screens on the engineers’ mobile devices resemble previous paper forms and 70 per cent of data is input via drop down menus. Productivity increased by some 10 per cent during the pilot stage, from optimal job allocation and less travelling, thanks to satellite navigation. The solution substantially reduces paperwork and saves each engineer around 40 minutes each day. Together with a reduction in unnecessary journeys, driven mileage was cut around 20 per cent, reducing the company’s carbon footprint. Field force automation now covers 850 mobile operatives and 760 vehicles over three operational regions. Northumbrian Water reports that “the combination of technology, process rationalisation and greater visibility of jobs and vehicle fleet are having a remarkable impact on efficiency and effectiveness”.     6
  7. 7. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation 7. Pilot, measure and review performance The purpose of the pilot is to prove that everything works and that the solution will deliver the results you want. A meaningful pilot should cover 10 per cent of your workforce. Pilots can be manipulated (for example, you pilot with an already high performing team) so make sure you have a realistic benchmark before you start any trial. Do not rush the pilot; let it run its course. A successful pilot will build confidence in the solution among employees and managers. At the end of the pilot, complete a factual closure report and use this to review and learn before moving to a complete roll out. It is important to fully understand what the pilot is telling you before moving to full implementation.Improving productivity for Kirklees Community Healthcare Kirklees Community Healthcare Services provides health care to more than 402,000 people in the north of England. In common with many NHS organisations, its geographical spread means health care practitioners spend a lot of time travelling between patients, offices and GP surgeries, limiting the number of patients that can be seen in any one day. To improve patient care and operational efficiency, the trust decided to implement BT Mobile Health Worker for its community-based health and social care practitioners. Kirklees CHS’ community-based employees have lightweight but tough laptops with high-speed mobile broadband facilities and an integral NHS smart card reader, allowing them to remotely access clinical records and email using a secure connection that safeguards patient confidentiality. Because nurses can communicate with each other in the field, and don’t need to return to the office to collect paperwork, they are able to carry out one or two extra visits per day, significantly improving the quality of patient care and overall productivity. Kirklees CHS estimates that the solution will save around £600,000 a year in travel costs alone but when overall productivity gains and efficiencies are taken into account the anticipated financial benefit equates to almost £10 million a year. 8. Implement, use and embed new ways of working The final step is to implement the new solution across the organisation. Adhere to your plan but remember that implementation is not your goal – it is easy to focus so much on completing the project that the organisation forgets the wider goals. A technically successful implementation is not synonymous with delivering business benefits. Benefits to the business come not from implementing the solution but from using it. So read your management reports and act on the data. Continue to encourage users and provide training. Successful implementation is only the beginning. You will need to remain focused on the benefits you want to achieve and continue to chase them throughout the lifetime of the solution.     7
  8. 8. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation  Transforming BT       In the 1990s, BT launched a major programme improve the efficiency of its service operations by introducing automation and mobility to its field force. Key initiatives included an advanced work scheduling system to automate dispatch of jobs to a fully mobile workforce, resource management software to ensure the workforce was in the right location plus ruggedised laptops and PDAs to eliminate paperwork. The results were remarkable. Improved productivity led to a reduction in the engineering workforce of nearly 30 per cent and 30 per cent fewer field managers. Over 80 per cent of all BT’s field engineering work is now scheduled and allocated automatically, with a 60 per cent decrease in the number of job controllers. Fully automated allocation and despatch of work reduced the number of job allocation centres from 100 to just seven. Customers benefited from shorter service lead times and a faster response to faults. And at less than seven per cent, repeat work is at an all time low.                                                                     8
  9. 9. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation                             In a world where the quality of customer experience is increasingly a fundamental differentiator, automating the management and delivery of field service provides an untapped opportunity for many organisations to improve performance. BT is an acknowledged leader in helping organisations realise sustainable benefits from their investment in field force automation and has a team of specialist advisers, a portfolio of applications and services as well as models of good practice that others can learn from.Further recommended reading: Service Chain Management – Technology Innovation for theService Business by Voudouris, Owusu, Dorne & Lesaint, British Telecommunications plc, published bySpringer, 2008For more information please contact Paul Cleaver paul.2.cleaver@bt.com or Alison Wiltshirealison.wiltshire@bt.com.       9
  10. 10. Field force automation A practical guide to benefits realisation                                                        Offices worldwideThe services described in this publication are subjectto availability and may be modified from time to time.Services and equipment are provided subject to BritishTelecommunications plc’s respective standard conditionsof contract. Nothing in this publication forms any part ofany contract.© British Telecommunications plc 2011.Registered office: 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJRegistered in England No: 1800000May 2011       10

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