The importance of change management when implementing a field service solution
To remain competitive and drive customer loyalty, service organisations need to continually evaluate ways to improve productivity, respond to customers more quickly, bring down issue resolution times, trim service delivery costs, raise first-time-fix rates and more. Service organisations can now adopt software solutions to help drive the optimisation of service delivery schedules that is far superior to what is possible using human schedulers. These solutions are a key component in ensuring companies can offer fast service response and resolution times, high levels of field resource utilisation and productivity, and more first-time fixes – each of which help to drive up customer satisfaction and future revenue growth.
A field service management solution, with automated scheduling optimisation and mobile field service capabilities can deliver significant benefits, including:
Reduced service costs and improved overall service delivery performance
Increased revenues and financial contribution
Improved performance against service levels and customer commitments
Increased field worker utilisation and productivity whilst maintaining the required levels of safety
Minimised travel times with the ability to achieve compliance with green targets and regulatory requirements
Improved first-time-fix rates and reduced repeat visits
Business agility with the ability to innovate and quickly respond to changing customer requirements or regulatory change
Strengthened positioning and reputation versus competition
Many organisations have already implemented and deployed a field service management solution, some very successful and others with less successful outcomes.
In common with other types of solution implementation and deployment, having effective organisational change management is a key factor in ensuring a successful outcome. It’s still true, even after numerous studies, that one of the biggest contributing factors why projects of this nature fail is ineffective management of change within the organisation. Without having a properly thought out, well-prepared and pragmatic approach to organisational change management it is very likely that the implementation of field service management solution will fail to deliver the expected outcomes and benefits – it may even fail entirely.
Dealing with the common change impacts from introducing a field service management solution
It is important to recognise that introducing a field service management solution is about much more than simply implementing new software. It is fundamentally about changing the behaviours of the people running the business processes – schedulers and dispatchers, field workers and managers. It might even involve dealing with changes to how customers engage with the field service organisation.
The change impacts associated with a new field service management solution are, in some respects, quite unique from other types of software implementation. The dynamic between the scheduling and dispatch team and the field workers can be deeply embedded in the culture of the organisation and the business processes may have evolved (or may even been designed) around this relationship. Understanding the impact on the people, how this needs to be addressed and what outcomes are expected must be considered when defining the organisational change management strategy and plan.
The field workers may feel:
A loss of autonomy in how they prioritise and perform their work
Fear at there being greater visibility into their day-to-day activities
Distrust at the motivations of the organisation for introducing the new field service solution
Concern over potential changes to working patterns, loss of overtime and the inability to control their own schedule
Job insecurity due to the potential impact of improved productivity levels
Schedulers and dispatchers may feel:
Worry about how their role will be diminished due to increased levels of automation and less reliance on their own judgement
Distrust in the ability of the field service solution to make better scheduling decisions than their own
Resentment at the intrusion into their relationship with field workers and customers
Job insecurity due to fear the new software solution may make them redundant or reduce their worth to the organisation
Service managers may feel:
Loss of authority over how their staff undertake their roles and how performance will be managed
Concern that the relationship with the customer will be damaged by changes to how the service organisation will engage with them
Distrust of the organisation and that they will be expected to deliver unrealistic performance improvements
These are real and legitimate concerns and need to be taken seriously. It is certain that introducing a new field service management solution will bring about changes to ways of working and the day-to-day activities of those involved. Developing a comprehensive, properly defined and structured approach to managing organisational change can ensure that the change impacts on the people can be fully understood and effectively addressed.
Maintaining a positive engagement with all impacted parties is ultimately based on communicating and engaging with them. It is important to identify all the impacted parties – even those that are only minimally impacted or even not impacted at all – and establish a plan that ensures they provided with appropriately-timed, thoughtfully constructed and honest information. Some of the key messages that need to be communicated will include:
The reasons why the organisation is introducing the new field service management solution and the benefits it is expected to deliver
Who will be impacted by the new solution and how it will affect them
What role those affected will be expected to play during the implementation process and deployment of the new solution
What the change will mean to them and how it will benefit them personally (the “what’s in it for me?” factor)
Messages need to be supported and reinforced from top management. If employees sense a lack of commitment from senior management this can seriously undermine the efforts of the implementation team and organisational change team, making it much more difficult to get people on board with the change and willing to support it. It is vital that the project sponsor is visibly active in the process of engaging with staff, providing regular updates on progress, signalling successes and recognising those who make important contributions.
Importantly, the engagement with those negatively impacted must also be dealt with in an honest and sensitive way. It's a fact that not everyone in the organisation will see a positive impact on them personally, and they will need to be offered support. It may also be necessary to engage with trade unions or other representatives to deal with these situations.
Another key area that needs to be considered with where changes may occur to the customer engagement processes. This will need to be managed carefully by addressing customers as a key stakeholder group, ensuring they are kept fully informed about the changes they will experience and any impact it may have on how they will interact with the field service organisation. It is a good idea to select a small number of customers to participate in extended end-to-end testing or pilots of the new solution and processes, in order to gain specific feedback from them and ensure that the new ways of working are refined accordingly.
It is also very important to offer employees a way of feeding back their questions and concerns to the organisational change team. This might be via a group email address, group meetings, forums or focus groups. Ensuring representation in the change process from HR to support employee engagement and account managers to support customer engagement is another effective way of ensuring there are effective lines of communication. Those affected by the change often become more engaged, and more positive towards the change, if they feel that they have a voice.
Several other organisational change considerations within the overall change strategy that can contribute to a successful outcome include:
Ensuring the readiness and capability of field workers to adopt any new mobile technology or software solution – it may be that field workers have not previously used smartphones or other types of technology to support their work
Identifying a core population of committed, positive and flexible dispatchers, field workers and managers to work as change agents who will get involved in the project activities and support testing – these people can become very powerful advocates inside the respective parts of the organisation
Performing diligent stakeholder analysis and mapping to identify sceptics and blockers who need specific change management interventions, as these individuals can work against the proposed change, sometimes visibly but also via “the underground” – remember that a blocker may actually disguise their intentions
Thoroughly thinking through the most appropriate approach to deploying the new field service solution, for example it may be best to do this by region or business unit, perhaps with an initial pilot or small scope deployment to prove the solution and gain support for the new ways of working
Recognising that some people will simply never accept the new solution and changes to ways of working – this will require senior management support to address the challenges by, for example, reassigning the individuals to other roles or taking other management action
A well-defined, carefully considered and comprehensive organisational change strategy is a vital component in easing the adoption of a new field service management solution and ensuring a seamless transition to the new ways of working. It will allow efforts to be concentrated on delivering the expected outcomes for the field service organisation and its customers, thus helping to drive future value.
It is also important to note that deploying a new field service solution and improved ways of working is not the end state – it requires a continuous cycle of review and improvement. The very nature of a field service organisation means that it is always looking for ways to deliver better and more cost-effective service to its customers and indeed, customers demand it. Today’s sophisticated field service management solutions offer advanced features to help understand where improvements can be made and identify added benefits that can drive deeper customer engagement and deliver better returns. So, if your organisation is looking to adopt a field service management solution, remember that it’s the start of a journey that will involve both your own organisation and your customers.
WE MAKE TECHNOLOGY USEFUL – we are an independent UK-based consultancy, established in 2006, with a focus on driving real value from IT applications and technology by ensuring strong project management and proper end user adoption. As an IFS Authorized Channel Partner, we have extensive experience in leading and supporting the implementation of ERP, EAM and Field Service Management solutions in the utilities, facilities management and field service industries, with an established track record of successful delivery at many leading organisations.