PeopleSuite software designed to optimise organisations client manager deployment
BSI, the global business services organisation offering testing and certification services, is introducing in the UK a brand new system from MapMechanics called PeopleSuite to plan the movements of its roving client managers, and says it expects this to enhance customer service, reduce travel time, ensure staff with special skills are deployed to best effect, improve their work life balance, and reduce the time and work involved in the planning process itself. Many of these gains will also produce cost savings.
BSI’s several hundred UK based client managers have wide-ranging responsibility for customer liaison, dealing with everything from initial assessment to periodic auditing, reporting and feedback. Typically they spend one to two days with each client every six months, though the timing and frequency of visits can vary according to customer size and specific requirements.
In the past, client managers would conclude each visit by making an appointment for the next one, usually planning six months ahead. However, this arrangement could sometimes be thwarted later by illness or unavailability of the client manager in question, and in any case was not designed to take account of alternative staff who might be closer to the customer’s location, or better equipped to deal with its industry sector or handle any special requirements.
MapMechanics has improved this arrangement with a real-time, centralised planning system that keeps the initial appointment-making in the hands of the client managers in the field, yet takes full account of the location, availability and qualifications of all BSI’s client managers, optimising the allocation of personnel to visits as far as possible. It also allows for one-to-one relationships with customers to be maintained or varied as appropriate.
According to BSI’s project manager, Tom Nicholls: "MapMechanics has come up with a system that deals extremely effectively with the highly complex range of priorities we need to apply to our appointment scheduling. It balances the work load much more logically than a human scheduler could, and achieves this far more quickly."
Coinciding with the introduction of the new system, client managers have been issued with mobile broadband devices, giving remote access to the internet. Using these at the client premises, they are able to access BSI’s central appointment diary application, which was built in-house, and book a provisional appointment for the next client visit.
Whilst this appointment is made on the basis of the "best fit" option at the time, all appointments are then re-optimised on a monthly basis during the five months leading up to each planned visit. This ensures that visits are always planned on the basis of known staff availability and suitability close to the appointment date.
As Tom Nicholls explains: "The really clever aspect of the system is that MapMechanics has made provision for us to weight the various factors that it needs to take into account – the travel time to the client premises, the client manager’s skill set and availability, and the question of whether this is a second, third or fourth visit and so on."
He emphasises that BSI favours continuity of client contact. "Customers often like to deal with the same person from one audit to the next. It helps to cement the relationship all round."
However, he says that after a number of visits, it can benefit both customer and client manager to ring the changes. "It allows a new client manager to address the client’s issues with a fresh perspective, and broadens the client managers’ experience base." He adds: "It’s very difficult to program this kind of thing, but the system we’ve set up in association with MapMechanics has really nailed it."
Typically, the PeopleSuite system will try to accommodate repeat visits by the same client manager from initial assessment through to the end of the "cycle", and will then allocate the most appropriate client manager to the client. "But the beauty of it is that it will vary this arrangement automatically if the original manager is unavailable, or if a much better solution presents itself, and it also allows us to intervene manually when necessary."
The system also makes it possible to program exceptions – for instance when it is essential to allocate a specific manager with highly specialised skills or security clearance to a particularly sensitive operation. The system can even plan appointment cycles in which the number of managers visiting a client might vary from one occasion to the next. For instance, a legal specialist might need to be in attendance on every second visit.
Following each optimisation process, BSI’s scheduling team can review the results through a range of easily-understood computer displays. These show the allocation of client managers to jobs in both text and graphical format, use colour coding to give an immediate sense of the efficiency of the schedule. Pie charts, for instance, present highly efficient schedules in green, while less efficient schedules are redder in colour.
Not only does PeopleSuite handle BSI’s scheduling requirements more effectively; it also represents an invaluable tool for tracking and monitoring the deployment of client managers over time, enabling the management team to take a more proactive role in staff provisioning and forward planning. An inherent modelling capability is built into the system, offering the organisation further potential for "what if" analysis.
MapMechanics has many years’ experience in routing and scheduling optimisation and field service management, and draws on a range of proprietary and bespoke systems to provide the optimum solution for each requirement.
MapMechanics’ commercial director Chris Greenwood comments: "PeopleSuite draws together many strands of our expertise, and although it’s highly bespoke to BSI’s requirements, the underlying features would also benefit other organisations with complex staff scheduling requirements involving a large number of variables."
MapMechanics has been providing innovative solutions in sales and marketing, logistics planning, digital mapping and geographic analysis for twenty years.
MapMechanics uses digital map-based technologies to offer an extensive range of Web, desktop, paper and component solutions for a variety of business applications, from atlas production to business analysis, site selection, customer profiling and vehicle routing and scheduling.
MapMechanics distributes a wide range of data products including AA, NAVTEQ and Ordnance Survey digital mapping, as well as leading business and demographic datasets from many sources throughout the world. This data is listed in the Data Catalogue, which is probably the most extensive and up-to-date printed listing of its kind in Britain. It is published at least once a year, and is also available on the Internet.
MapMechanics is a major supplier of software solutions. It is the UK distributor of the GeoConcept geographic information system, which is used extensively in a diverse range of fields such as retail planning, marketing, healthcare, environmental planning and management, transport and logistics, site selection, network planning and territory allocation, telematics and command and control applications, policing and broading, and central and local government.
MapMechanics also supplies and supports MicroAnalytics’ TruckStops and OptiSite in Britain. TruckStops is the world’s most widely-deployed routing and scheduling solution, and is in use in North and South America, Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere. OptiSite is an established and widely-deployed network modelling tool. Backing up its extensive product range, MapMechanics offers a comprehensive service of implementation support and training.
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