How to Modernize Field Service Crew Management

Daniel Goldstein
April 9, 2024

The Morning Shuffle in Technician Crew Management

Technician crew management is a foundational element of field service. But for utilities and some other organizations managing teams of field technicians, the “morning shuffle” or “morning” churn” is a tedious, mostly manual process that typically begins before sunup. Planners and dispatchers must collaborate to assemble crews of field service technicians prepared and equipped to tackle daily jobs, emergency work, and larger, long-term projects.

The Challenge of Disparate Systems in Crew Management

Frequently, the process is made more difficult by disparate systems that are neither aligned with one another nor up to date with workers’ most recent availability or skills. The result is planners are swivel-chairing between disparate crew scheduling software systems, email, and phone calls in an attempt to locate the most up-to-the-minute crew information in order to assign work.

Consider that an HR system may be used to track service crew member shifts and hours worked to ensure compliance with applicable labor laws. A work order management system tracks the list of jobs. Then, a field service management (FSM) system tracks technician skillsets and who is assigned to each job, plusits foreman, anticipated completion time, etc. in real time. Add to that countless phone calls, emails, whiteboard sketches, and/or Excel spreadsheets, and a chaotic picture of the morning shuffle emerges. Even with teams ranging from a few people to more than 10, maintaining brisk “out-the-door” times for active service crews is difficult and depends on the day, job complexity, and mitigating factors like a storm or outages.

Notably, a lack of adequate technology is not usually the root cause. Personnel may struggle to consistently update systems when completing the work, providing the organization with full visibility into who is available, how much they’ve worked, and their skills/certifications. Without the most updated information, even an optimal system/set of systems will not improve field service performance.

Transitioning to Cloud-Based Solutions

Still, technological improvements can be made to speed up the morning shuffle. Cloud-based service crew management tools can imbue it with more accurate and up-to-date information, rendering decisions easier to make and implement. The most common catalysts for such a change are that the company’s current field crew management software is no longer supported or it is increasingly difficult to use or maintain. Evaluation of the company’s options for a new system usually includes an internal assessment of strengths and gaps, compatibility with other systems in the company’s network, and what other companies are using. Even then, integration can be cumbersome if the systems in use do not easily share information.

To facilitate the sometimes-difficult change to a more effective crew scheduling system, a system integrator or other external consultant normally is retained to help with internal valuation: what resources does the company have and where are issues occurring? Then, the consultant can recommend companies in the area capable of fulfilling those needs and can help with the RFP process.

The top technology candidate creators are then invited to demo for the company. This demo should envelop planners, dispatchers, and technicians — rather than just executives — to ask questions and drive negotiations. Their buy-in is critical; technicians bring a lot of in-practice (rather than theoretical) expertise and, if they walk away dissatisfied, it could kill the deal.

Streamlining Crew Management Processes

In short, the goal is to streamline the morning shuffle, ensuring planner, dispatcher and technician visibility into job lists, technician skillsets and foremen.

Transforming Technician Crew Management with OverIT

OverIT has collaborated with our top customers over the past year to understand the root causes of swivel-chair chaos and to investigate possible solutions. That invaluable feedback, combined with our 20+ years’ experience in field service business, has culminated in a new Crew Management module slated for market release in mid-2024. The module will provide planners with up-to-the-moment data on active service resource availability, technician skills, scheduled work, and more.

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Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is currently serving as the Senior Vice President at OverIT. With over a decade of experience, he has honed his expertise in catering to the diverse needs of Field Service customers across various industries. Daniel’s innovative approach and strategic guidance have been instrumental in orchestrating transformative business initiatives, empowering organizations to embrace modern digital solutions and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. As the head of the Product Management group at OverIT, he is committed to driving forward-thinking strategies that revolutionize the Field Service Management sector, redefine industry standards, and ultimately deliver unparalleled value to clients worldwide.