Workforce Management Goes Multiscreen

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Btr Feature Art Multiscreen 12 20 12Thanks in part to HTML5, mobile workforce management tools are becoming device agnostic and browser based, meaning the applications will be used on any handheld, phone, laptop, tablet or other device that supports the specification.

And not having to write and test a special code for each device is making it "much easier" to get the tools into the hands of the contractors and employees, said Jeff Brooks, ARRIS' (NASDAQ:ARRS) VP of assurance product management. While this in itself is a big shift, there are additional trends in this space that are leading to big financial and time savings for cable operators.

For example, there has been a move toward tying workforce management more closely to network and plant monitoring and subscriber management systems. With access to an inventory of skills for the various technicians, the ability to track them via GPS, and the knowledge of what tools are on each truck, the proper person can be accurately and automatically matched to the job at hand.

In a more extreme case, such as an outage, the closest technicians with the right tools and skill sets can easily be rerouted to address the problem, and other technicians can be directed to jobs they can complete without the outage interfering with the task at hand, Brooks said.

"We are talking about in some instances, thousands of technicians at any moment in time," Brooks said. "In the old world, the dynamic events that happen - like a plant outage, or someone not being home, or someone really wanting two set-tops - you can imagine how hectic and crazy it (had) to be without a system to automate it."

Connecting these various systems also puts more capabilities into the hands of the technicians. For example, if signal measurements are awry, the tech can open a referral work order through the workforce automation tool. In addition, it can be used to run a quality check of the completed job via the connection to the network monitoring system. This could eliminate the need for a second visit to the home, Brooks said.

The implementation of these types of workforce management tools are saving operators significant time and money, as evidenced by two examples Brooks cited. An operator new to using workforce automation reported a 25% improvement year over year in spending, by implementing a mobile system. A second operator who had been using a rudimentary version was able to reduce truck rolls by 50% after putting a quality check system into place and completing technician training, among other things. This amounted to more than $1 million in savings in one quarter.

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at mcmhern@yahoo.com.
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