WFM advances are changing the way companies manage mobile workers

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Workforce management systems are becoming increasingly powerful tools for any organization with a large mobile workforce.

Recent WFM advances include the addition of analytics that automate once manual, static processes. Indeed, today’s WFM systems take a holistic, 360-degree approach to workforce management — putting improved quality, customer benefit, further operational improvements and employee satisfaction at the forefront.

Innovative WFM systems can fundamentally change the daily work of mobile workers, and their dispatchers, and help employers achieve significant quality and efficiency improvements.

For example, WFM enables technicians to start their workday directly from home, and managers to plan routes for time- and distance-optimization. And the route maps automatically learn and improve over time. In addition, mobile workers can keep their customers updated through push notifications before and after appointments.

But there are other areas in which WFM can help. For example:

  • Automatic disposition of work orders: Once a static tool calculating optimized routes, WFM software now analyzes real-time data and learns to improve algorithms over time. This approach helps to more accurately forecast required labor time per client and expected travel times between sites. Scheduled routes are optimized on the fly and automatically adjusted due to travel disruptions or cases of illness.
  • Integrating and supervising subcontractors: Modern WFM solutions are designed to integrate external service providers into their planning, disposition and reporting processes. This allows utility companies, for example, to inform, manage and steer subcontractors as if they were employees.

In addition, some newer technologies promise to make WFM even more useful:

  • Mobile technology: Mobile apps provide technicians with tailored information on assignments, maps, routes and calendars, along with detailed information on individual orders (required tools or asset manuals, for example).
  • Augmented reality and smart clothing: With special glasses, workers can “look through walls” to identify covered assets or underground grid lines faster. With smart clothing, workers can detect hazard warnings such as high voltages or gas leaks.
  • Automated asset detection: By scanning QR codes or RFID tags fixed to the respective asset, field workers can access an asset’s operational data. This allows for rapid equipment identifications and health assessments in support of maintenance, repair and overhaul decisions.

But as with most systems, the key to success is in the execution.

The development of a custom WFM solution is likely to take up to four years, but might fail to meet expectations if implemented in traditional waterfall fashion. By adopting an agile approach, however, the entire process including scope, design, vendor selection and implementation can be shortened to two years.

But the upgrade to an innovative WFM system can pay off quickly.

While introducing a high-performance solution will require an investment of approximately $3.5 million to $4.5 million up front, companies can see an ROI of up to 45 percent in roughly three years.

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