All too often there are ramblings about project management being an overhead cost to avoid, along with a litany of reasons why that opinion is being shared. The reality is, project management occurs whether it is formalized or not. Without dedicated project management, processes become burdensome for those involved in the project, often distracting them from their actual role and efficient execution of their expertise. The result impedes success.
Success can be defined in many ways – in the Project Management world the focus is on the accomplishment of an aim or purpose within the constraints of scope, time and cost. Overlooking any one of these constraints and the success of the project will be delayed or difficult to achieve.
What does success look like?
One of the first questions that needs to be addressed when starting a project is, “What does success look like?”
This is important to know for all people involved in a project – Executive sponsors, Managers, End Users, and those involved in maintaining the product once the project has been brought to life. Without this clear vision a project can end up with dissatisfied end users, delays caused by re-establishing intent (and potential for increased cost) or worst of all, the project gets cancelled.
There are (2) primary stakeholders involved in a project: those delivering the project and those who benefit from the project. Their alignment is crucial and will require a representative (Project Manager) that will actively communicate internally within the organization during the project and provide the catalyst for collaboration with all participants. Without these representatives, single points of contact from each organization could make responsibility and accountability unclear, introducing additional risk to the project.
These are the resources that tackle the technical elements of the project. There is collaboration between those delivering and those benefitting from the project, and it is important they understand who to turn to in the event technical issues hinder or block their progress. Having a person serving in the role of Project Manager removes “management of the minutia” from the technical resources so they can focus on the tasks where their expertise can be applied to and benefit the project. As minor as this may seem, maintaining focus on what they do best helps maintain desired timelines and cost constraints and makes them easier to achieve.
Project Managers ask, “What are the risks”?”
Every project has risk potential that needs to be identified and managed in a way that avoids or prepares for risks throughout the project. This is important to be managed by a single point of contact from each stakeholder to keep the risks clear, identify and log the implications for each risk, and develop contingency plans in the event they are unavoidable. One of the more common risks is the resources of those who gain the benefit of the project are also trying to maintain their daily activities. Sometimes communication is lacking on incoming project, giving project managers a short notice on project details. Those delivering the project then end up coordinating their effort around the daily business of those who benefit.
Scope, Time & Cost – the 3 constraints Project Management aims to fulfill. On the outside it seems simple right? The problem is these constraints conflict. If a short timeline is needed, that may require overtime or additional resources thereby driving up cost. If the scope is changed, that typically has an impact on timing, as well as cost. These need to be addressed with an objective eye toward the goal of providing a quality product that fulfills the needs of the end-users.
Scope is the most common constraint that tends to change because of missing detail identification that wasn’t involved when the project budget was established. Project Management then needs to usher all of the resources involved to determine if the change is a necessity or just nice to have. If it is a necessity, finances and management will be engaged to coordinate a change request and communicate the implications. The goal is to re-establish expectations while keeping all the balls in the air to minimize impact on the remaining elements of the project.
Though this brief outline may be common circumstances of any project, each project differs and has a tendency to take their own path – making Project Management even more crucial. EAC has dedicated Program and Project Management in an effort to provide the foundation for success and build the partnership required to not only succeed in the short-term, but to assure strategic business initiatives are kept in sight with all projects existing and future.
Many of the fundamental issues in service occur due to inaccurate service information and technical documentation that is difficult to understand.
We have all been in a situation, at least once, that involved failure to deliver a service as promised. Why? It’s because all brands and businesses make promises! But the truth is… service issues happen
When service fails to deliver on promises, or a buyer experiences poor customer service, the result almost always ends with lost customers, canceled subscriptions, and tarnished brand reputation.
The impact of a service failure can be devastating. Let’s talk about the root causes impacting service issues and failures
The impacts of service issues
The greatest influence on service almost always has to do with one thing; technical documentation. By technical documentation I am referring to tech pubs, standard operating procedure documents, service instructions, maintenance manuals, guides, work instructions, procedures, bulletins, etc.
I’m talking about anything and everything that is provided to help assist and guide service technicians. Many of the fundamental issues in service occur due to technical documentation, let’s talk about why.
Technical Documentation and Field Service
Today many field service and manufacturing organizations rely on traditional time-intensive methods to develop and deploy technical documentation such as service procedures, work instructions, guides, manuals, etc.
But the fact is – oftentimes the tech pubs, guides, and manuals that are created, aren’t even read (or in some cases even used) by field service representatives for which they were designed!
In addition, technician instruction manuals and documentation designed to be used in field service are often out-of-date. This is due to the high maintenance and distribution costs to create, maintain and produce continually up-to-date field service documentation.
This issue compounds as products become more and more complex in response to ever increasing customer demands for innovation and customization.
This rise in complex products has resulted in complex service and maintenance procedures, affecting and influencing inaccuracies in technical writing and documentation. As the demand for complex maintenance and service procedures increase, technician efficiency decreases due to more time being spent searching for the correct service information in a format that can be used on the field. This often results in repair and maintenance delays.
When service technicians encounter unfamiliar problems and don’t have reliable service information to solve a problem, the need for repeat service visits increases. There are many major negative consequences from these situations.
For example, a customer might experience equipment downtime. This downtime impacts both the service provider, as it inflates the cost of service, as well as the customer, as they lose productivity.
The high costs of inefficient field service
For you, as a service provider, the consequences of poor service information, complex products, and poor technician efficiency can drastically impact your costs of service in a number of ways.
For starters, let’s assume you work with service contracts. Service contracts often contain elements such as equipment up-time clauses. In the case you were to unintentionally breach one of these ‘set clauses’, it’s fair to assume the organization would face undesirable penalties and costs.
Take a deep breath. All is not lost. The added costs from inefficient service strategies are completely avoidable!
Repeat field service visits also drastically increase business costs. Multiple repeat visits to service products quickly increase costs and become very expensive. This is why many organizations seek to avoid repeat service visits at all cost.
A rarely considered cost-driver for service stems from difficulties comprehending poorly written, inaccessible, and out-of-date technical documentation.
When service technicians are unable to easily identify which spare parts are required, they often order multiple parts in hope that one will be correct. This results in high part returns, and handling costs. Not to mention, the need to hold more parts in stock from inflated orders (the bull whip effect), also affects parts inventory.
“Faced with continuing economic expansion and retirement of baby boomers, the US manufacturing industry is looking at a potential shortage of 2.4 million workers in the next decade.” – 2018 Deloitte & The Manufacturing Institute skills gap study
To put it in perspective, a large portion of our workforce is approaching retirement soon. This is causing the skills gap to widen. With the loss of tribal knowledge, access to consumable expert knowledge becomes increasingly necessary.
New and inexperienced technicians have repeat service visits which cause an organization to face higher training costs, while overburdened experienced staff members are forced to train and pick up the slack for newer employees.
All of these things impact customer satisfaction. These conditions damage service reputations for both an organizations product, as well as, service contracts. Most importantly, all of these scenarios impact an organizations ability to retain customers and garner repeat business.
How to gain high service productivity and effectiveness
In order to obtain high technician productivity and effectiveness you must re-evaluate your service methods and procedures
Increase technician comprehension with accurate AR work instructions
To increase technician comprehension, look into concepts to create accurate, in-context augmented reality (AR) work instructions that overlay digital information onto a physical product.
Establish accurate part identification
Consider implementing accurate AR experiences so part identification, replacement and ordering are easy and accurate.
Enable remote real-time work instructions
All of these help service organizations create a more flexible, agile, workforce. These changes result in increased equipment uptime and productivity. They result in happier customers and more empowered workers.
Most importantly – you can start implementing these benefits today. All the technology currently exists. We would love to work with you and your organization to understand your service operations goals and map a path forward.