Do these situations familiar:
- A storm comes and you need to rearrange crews to restore communication services
- A piece of equipment breaks and you need to find and re-assign a technician that has the correct skills to complete the job
- Your boss wants an estimate of the resources that will be required to maintain a new site
All of these situations point to the need for having capacity planning built into your FSM solution. Capacity planning, or quota management, is the process of determining the resources (time, people, equipment etc.) that a telecommunication organization needs to meet changing demands for its services – in other words, how it will meet its current and future client needs. Unfortunately, many telecommunication field service teams do not utilize quota management, resulting in poor utilization rates and increased costs. A great place to look at to examine the benefits of capacity planning is the airline industry.
Capacity Planning in the Airline Industry
Airlines have always been very good at capacity planning due to the impact on revenues. Airlines need to fill as many seats as possible to help cover high fixed costs and this requires planning in advance to ensure full flights. Carriers need to take many variables into account to maximize capacity (people in seats), including:
- The types of planes for each route
- The size of the crews for each plane
- Fuel requirements
- Catering considerations
- The number of flights
These are just a few of the variables that carriers analyze to determine capacity not just for the peak summer travel, but they also need to estimate capacity several years out based on an increase or decrease in air travel. Telecommunication field service organizations can learn a lot from how the airline industry manages capacity. Here are 2 areas that field service teams should concentrate on to make the most of capacity planning (quota management).
Long range scheduling
Airlines must constantly monitor and adjust their capacity, sometimes years out when it comes to how many aircrafts it will need to purchase and support. They also need to be able to forecast fuel costs as well as how travel on a specific route will increase/decrease and shift resources accordingly. This requires a long term view on capacity planning so they prepare for hiring, fuel hedging, orders for new aircraft (and which type/size) and to satisfy regulations and even Wall St.
Telecommunication organizations also need to make long range plans to satisfy different trends. However, these investments might not include planning for the impact these new assets will have on your field service teams. Balancing long term projects vs. short term requirements requires sophisticated planning to make sure the people, equipment and other resources are carefully planned, scheduled and timed to meet deadlines while also keeping up with routine work. Quota management should be a part of any long term strategy so your field service team has the correct amount of people and resources to handle this new demand.
Many airline carriers have started canceling flights for the peak summer travel season due to the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max airplane. By announcing these cancellations now, airlines can provide a better customer experience by enabling passengers to re-book as well as allow the carriers to shuffle their own available capacity to minimize the financial impacts. Responding to emergencies, such as weather delays or equipment failure, is common practice at airlines. They are able to shift capacity – crews, routes, aircraft – to respond to many different emergency events due to upfront capacity planning, helping to maximize their resources, minimize the impact on both their finances as well customers.
Field service teams at telecommunication firms must have a single view into your overall capacity in order to respond to emergencies. With a single platform, all the changes made to the forecast are directly and immediately reflected in the planning tool. Likewise, changes in the schedule of actual work, the location of resources, or the skills of the workers are also reflected in real time in the planning tool. Real-time information enables organizations to see gaps in capacity coverage before a problem arises. These gaps may be uncovered this afternoon, tomorrow, or even a month into the future. But, by having this real time visibility, the field supervisors and district managers can take action.
Proper capacity planning at carriers is key if they want to meet their financial targets. As organizations look to their field service teams to improve the customer experience and, ultimately, drive new revenues, it is going to be important that you have single view into your organizations capacity to handle incidents in the short and long term.
Achieving alignment and an optimized process, even while starting months before the day of service, is possible, and the benefits to your organization are substantial:
- Earlier and greater predictability of the impact of service on the balance sheet
- The right level of hiring with sufficient time to train on the right topics
- Increased value of schedule optimization by having a workforce that matches the demand (right time, place, equipment, skills, parts)
Capacity planning should be included as part of every telecommunications FSM solution in order to utilize resources more effectively and to help better prepare for the short and long term planning horizon.