I like my food. I mean I really do. In my native France, “cuisine” is regarded with quasi-religious fervour and its preparation carried out with obsessive care and fanatical attention to detail. Which leads me to scheduling. But more of that later.
Throughout my career I have met many field force organisations of all shapes and sizes, across the world. Some were very good, others, well, not so much. But most fell somewhere in-between. And every day they all faced their own unique challenges. There is one thing however that every single one of them has in common: they have all grown their operations over many years, layering processes, systems, organisations and habits with minimal planning and control. Their operations are without fail complex, and often messy.
A modern scheduling system – as promised in the opening paragraph – can be an incredibly powerful tool for a field force organisation. The ability to automatically organise and control the allocation of resources to work orders brings many benefits: efficiency gains, quality and reliability of workforce performance, customer satisfaction as well as, often overlooked but most importantly, control of what is actually happening in the field. Unfortunately a scheduling system can only work if the data it is fed is accurate, timely and comprehensive.
The great chef Raymond Oliver (no relation to Jamie), when asked about frozen meals, used to say: “If you freeze fertiliser, what you’ll defreeze is fertiliser.” Come to think of it, the exact word he used may not have been “fertiliser” after all, but it escapes me right now.
Well, scheduling is very much like cooking. If your data is, er, not very good, then the results will be terrible. Unfortunately, this means that organisations that try to implement a scheduling system on top of existing messy, poorly defined and often incomplete processes, systems and data flows are bound to fail.
I bear the scars of well over 100 field force systems implementations (and – alas – the expanding waistline from the associated expensed business meals) and if I’ve learned ONE thing in all my career, it is that organising data in the correct way and to the required level of quality is, by far, the single most important element responsible for the success or the failure of a scheduling project.
But fear not. Help is at hand. Just like a succulent meal can be had everywhere nowadays, be it at a Michelin-starred eatery or at your local gastropub, it is easy to find the relevant expertise on field force data management. By bringing in the right experience, process and tools you will pretty much guarantee the success of your project and the enjoyment of its sweet rewards. This may be a shameless plug for the company I work for but nevertheless it is still the truth!
So before you embark on your next cooking or scheduling project, remember:
- Fertiliser in, fertiliser out;
- Before doing anything, sort out your processes;
- Focus on data structure and quality.
Et voilà, bon appétit!