Building a Vetted Network of Reliable Field Technicians Takes Time and Effort
Continuing our blog series on minimizing the risks inherent in a large-scale technology rollout, this week we look at the role of the Field Technician. As the person performing the on-site work, the Field Tech is a critical component of any rollout. However, as we have discussed last week, a major obstacle to a successful multi-site rollout, is that of attaining consistently high quality deployment performance, when cost-effectiveness dictates that you use different local field technicians for each site.
The next step in building a successful rollout plan, is to make sure that we identify the best possible resource to perform the on-site work.
Good Field Partnerships Are Not Just a Database of Local Technicians
Some technology rollout companies (TRCs) mislead customers by stating that they only use their own W-2 employees for all their site rollouts. This is untrue, so if you can't use your own resources, you must use partners. Every TRC will tell you 'we have a national network or database of local field technician partners’, but what do they mean by this statement?
Typically, it means that they have a system where subcontractors can register for work. In these systems the partner (subcontractor) provides basic information regarding their geographic area of coverage, number of technicians available, and solutions supported. In the more sophisticated online systems, information can also be entered regarding contracts, schedules, and payments.
Using a system like this, the TRC lines up available resources against customers' desired rollout schedule, to ensure that they have deployment coverage for each location. While this is a useful decision-support tool for the scheduler who is planning the rollout, it is also where the usefulness ends for most TRCs. This is because, when the rollout moves to the execution phase, they will use an unskilled, low-paid 'glorified dispatcher' to manage the rollout, rather than a technically adept, experienced project management team which can actively manage all the deployments.
To ensure that you have the best technician for the job requires that you have more detailed insight into the partners’ capabilities. When the technician goes on-site they represent all of the stakeholders in the project, which means they must be a good fit with all of the end customer's expectations - including things like dress and overall demeanor - not just geographic proximity and technical skills.
For any rollout that requires a worldwide field force of partners, each partner used should be vetted to ensure that, as well as possessing the requisite technical expertise, their field technicians are assessed by management throughout the job for their fit with the customers’ requirements. On top of this, you should also add a layer of partner quality assurance, where the performance of the Field Tech (and therefore, the partner) is rated for each deployment. This enables you to ensure that you are delivering the best possible customer experience and that management is in direct communication with field techs in support of the customer’s requirements.
By paying specific attention to details like these, you will ensure that the best possible person is sent on-site and then monitored to perform the work. This completes job preparation from the customer/provider side, but for sustained rollout success, you should also understand the job from the perspective of the Field Technician/partner.
Understanding Motivation is an Essential Part of Good Management
As we have discussed before, one of the barriers to success for Category 1 rollouts is that the on-site work is often 'trivialized', i.e. because the job is considered to be small (less than 1 day), it is thought of as "a job that almost anyone can do". There is high project risk in this approach.
While the job may not be complex on an individual site basis, we have shown that achieving consistently good performance across a large number of sites, most definitely is a complex undertaking. Delivering consistently good performance demands attention to detail, rigorous planning, first-rate communications, a supportive organizational structure, excellent management skills and, finally, an understanding of the motivations of the person who is to perform the work. A lack of this understanding renders all the other attributes less effective, but why is this?
We already answered this question in part, when we discussed how smaller jobs are 'trivialized'. This is not only an issue for customers or service providers: a job of less than a days' duration is not necessarily a high priority from the perspective of the partner either. Such jobs offer a handful of hours of work, which must be fitted in alongside other potentially larger, or more lucrative, jobs. As a result, the revenue impact on the partner's business for a small job is low, while the potential for it to be perceived as a “hassle” or “distraction" is high. This 'hassle factor' also speaks to partners' historical experiences that these jobs are not taken seriously by customers or providers, so they are not well planned, with the resulting project risks making them unprofitable for the partner and, ultimately a distraction.
As we have shown, rollout risk can be overcome with strong, well-applied methodologies. By using a project management “maestro” approach to managing your multi-site rollout, you can put the chosen field partners in the best possible position to be successful. This approach includes making sure that:
|Task||Maestro Management||Poor Management|
|Every aspect of the job is properly prepared in advance||SOW thoroughly assessed, planned and transformed for multi-site rollout execution||SOW not transformed for rollout execution. Everything from this point suffers|
|Field Tech knows exactly what is expected||Concise work order packet given. Field Tech feels comfortable and confident with work||Vague work order packet, causing confusion and uncertainty in Tech|
|Direct technical support available to tech throughout job||Access to support is immediate and thorough. Positive demeanor and attitude in Tech||Tech cannot access timely and/or knowledgeable support. Tech is frustrated, creating negative demeanor and poor attitude|
|Field Tech performance is evaluated||Measuring against specific criteria while engaging with Tech. Engages with partner if improvement to high level is required||Not measured, result in poor Tech who may be used in future engagements|
|Partner paid accurately and promptly||Close out addressed quickly and partner paid promptly. Partner is eager to provide service again||Tasks are disputed, lengthy payment cycle. Partner is reluctant to perform work again|
|Partner Relationship||Partner is eager to provide services again||Management searches for another Partner or uses same. Poor relationship is built, so response to future work suffers|
This approach to rollout management removes the 'hassle factor' for partners, by ensuring that jobs can be completed on-time, with the absolute minimum of distraction. Such an approach will ensure that your field partners will want to come back to work with you - again and again.
The Bottom Line: Field Tech Success IS Rollout Success
The additional investment in management resource required to deliver rollouts in this way is substantial, but it provides you with a huge advantage in rollout performance versus other approaches.
So, if you are planning a multi-site technology rollout, ask your rollout company how they recruit, manage, and rate their Field Services partners. If you don’t like the answers they give you – or worse still, they don’t even seem to understand the questions - contact us and we’ll give you our answers.
Then we will walk you through how our Project Management Maestros have successfully delivered hundreds of thousands of technology rollouts with a “done right the first time” measurement of over 99.7%.
Alternately, if you’d like to become a partner of Concert Technologies, you can either visit our Partner website here, or contact our partner team here, and we’ll be in touch.
Other Useful Posts to Read in Conjunction with This One
Last weeks’ post focused on how a Categorization approach can be used to build an accurate, repeatable work order packet for the job to be performed. Prior to that, we discussed how to optimize project communication to mitigate the risk of mistranslation. Finally, we also recently covered how using a “Project Management Maestro” to actively manage technology rollouts, drives quality and consistency, as well as ensuring the Field Tech has immediate access to expert technical and project management support for any unexpected issues.