A survey, conducted by HBR Analytics, uncovered a key reason for executive frustration – planning. While the goal of most organisations is to become more agile to gain competitive differentiation, it tends to be at odds with long-term planning. Management finds themselves spending countless hours developing plans that never come to fruition due to frequent changes inherent to a more agile business. However, in most organisations, potential issues that arise during any given day are often mitigated by decisions that were made days, weeks, and months ago.
Realise the benefits of agile planning
Reliable workforce planning provides businesses with tactical resource decision-making capabilities that can be scaled for even the largest organisations. A planning system that is powered by AI and machine learning, and that is integrated with real time business operations, ensures every available moment is accounted for and missed customer commitments are a thing of the past. There are various benefits companies can reap from consistent workforce planning, including:
- Increase revenues and SLA compliance – According to Gartner, by 2022, more than 60 per cent of asset manufacturers will offer outcome-based service contracts, up from less than 15 per cent in 2018. Planning ensures there is enough time reserved for high priority work. This enables service businesses to differentiate with competitive SLA’s, with the assurance the service team can meet them. (Source: Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, Jim Robinson, April 2019).
- Minimise reactive field service resourcing – The top internal challenge facing service leaders is a lack of resources to meet demand, according to The Service Council. One of the best ways to address this issue in a cost-effective manner is by having full visibility of workforce capacity risks ahead of the day of service. The ability to meet anticipated service demand by making smart decisions like relocating workers, adding overtime, or hiring contractors is the best way to manage service delivery costs.
- Manage fluctuating demands – Also, per the Service Council, 59 per cent of service leaders say increasing the predictability of their business is a top business initiative. Capacity planning allows businesses to account for short-term spikes in demand including marketing campaigns and seasonality. Increased insight allows organisations to add to or reduce their workforce accordingly — while maintaining balanced utilisation of resources with the right skills for the type of work that is anticipated.
How workforce capacity planning can benefit from technology
Every customer-centric business is ultimately measured by how it performs on the day of service. Though the idea of reaching perfect service every time is the ultimate goal, the reality is that perfection is not achievable. Rather, a more pragmatic goal for companies is to increase revenue while reducing costs. To do this, one must ensure there are enough mobile workers available to perform revenue generating work while not violating any customer commitments or SLAs. In order to meet stringent customer demands, technology must be recognised as the enabler for achieving successful capacity planning. With the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, planners can identify areas at risk, and allocate resources to ensure all work gets completed. If there is a capacity shortage, planners can take strategic thinking to the next level and decide whether to hire contractors, relocate workers from another district, or relax overtime rules to fulfill customer commitments.
For a mobile workforce, it’s important to reduce idle time and keep technicians moving so they can complete more jobs and keep customers happy. Unlike most service planning processes which are highly manual and involve multiple spreadsheets and guesswork, AI-driven capacity planning seamlessly accounts for historical demand data, scheduled and unscheduled work, and available resources to ensure business priorities are enforced across the service lifecycle. Or consider when there are schedule disruptions, like when a technician calls in sick. Instead of missing customer commitments, AI-driven technology alerts the service organisation of the risk, and action can be taken to reshuffle low priority work. Likewise, with scheduling work that is tied to an SLA, planners have visibility into whether the next available time for an appointment is within the SLA window.
In the service industry, capacity planning helps ensure that there are enough field resources available to manage scheduled – and unscheduled – work on any given day. Schedule too many workers, and the result is too much idle time. Schedule too few, and risk unhappy customers, missed SLAs, and an inability to address the emergency work that’s bound to pop up.
Achieving an optimised solution for the challenges faced during workforce capacity planning requires a higher level of sophistication than ever: both in determining the right level of demand through workload forecasting, and in allocating the right mobile workers at the right time and in the right place to optimise the actual work as it arrives. As service leaders have shown, achieving alignment and optimising KPIs by planning ahead of the day of service, is not only possible, it’s critical for delivering exceptional service and growing the business.