Putting the back office front and centre – how digitisation can streamline administrative operations
For many organisations across different sectors, implementing digitisation initiatives is often led by decisions to focus on front-end, customer facing operations.
Indeed, field service management solutions describe software tools originally designed to enhance and optimise the productivity of teams of personnel within organisations who are dealing with clients and customers face to face and on a daily basis, such as engineers, technicians, drivers or inspectors/auditors, as well as their dispatcher colleagues.
It is not unusual for back office operations to be overlooked when it comes to analysing the benefits of more extended digitisation of operations. It might be fair to say that digitisation is patchy. For instance, billing and invoicing within many organisations is digitised, in terms of IT software for storing customer accounts and raising bills or invoices.
Where there are gaps between the completion of work orders and jobs, recording and uploading of service, inspection and other job reports and processing of invoices or bills in relation to these, cutting-edge field service software can bridge these and streamline administrative tasks, enabling a more efficient group operation. Afterall why sacrifice or erode any front-end gains in productivity with administrative teams stuck with using old systems; manual processes and antiquated workflows that hinder efficiency, resulting in late billing, for example, and potentially leading to disgruntled clients?
Here are some key questions and answers around FSM in relation to back office departments:
Is there such a thing as hassle-free implementation of FSM software?
Disruptive software technology designed to make operations more efficient and jobs easier to do, shouldn’t create unnecessary disruption! Top field service management has the shortest implementation times because it is designed to be easy-to-use, fully customisable and comes as an open platform able to interface with third-party applications. Potential users can “test drive” the solution before they buy with a free for 30 day, no obligation, trial, and see how it can be adapted to their unique business.
It also goes without saying that advanced FSM is developed to guarantee information system security, by using APIs that always act passively. From a browser to a website, HTTPS requests are made directly from the information system to the FSM software and, since requests are initiated by the information system, risk of network violation is eliminated.
How does an FSM solution integrate with other systems and software used by administrative teams?
Best-in-class field service management software is able to integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software, using a simple connector. For instance, simple configuration with Sage 100cloud software means FSM solutions can enable a 100% paperless field service process, giving teams an accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive picture of the entire process. This sort of integration allows access to data with no duplicate entry from managing maintenance tasks or contracts to triggering billing and invoice raising.
Similarly using FSM software with a connector to Sage X3 allows for automation of data flow between service technicians, service managers and the back office, reducing overall administrative burden and reduced time to bill.
Connectors also exist for other ERP/CRM software, including QuickBooks accounting software as well as Salesforce, IBM Maximo and Microsoft Dynamics.
As an alternative to API and web services, information systems can be interfaced with advanced FSM software, using other methods, in particular structured files exchange and using imported email.
How customisable and flexible is FSM software?
Advanced FSM software is designed to work for organisations, not the other way round.
This type of software work order tracking software, or work order processing software, is highly configurable and allows for the creation and modification of forms and digital paperwork to be used by remote workers – and can be done with minimal computer-related knowledge. This means that administrative teams can have an input into forms creation to ensure that all the information they need for their operations is captured, eliminating manual processes entirely.
The forms are configured directly on the FSM web interface, while new forms are transmitted to various mobile devices using simple synchronisation.
Other features allow for defining of work orders, plus the skills and forms required for reports. Activity reports can be easily designed and created which also allow for calculation of time spent on jobs by field personnel.
Give me some tangible feedback about how back office operations are seeing the benefit?
Some users are reporting productivity improvements of about 20% for some administrative tasks. More specifically the solution has enabled users to reduce time spent on payroll management while enabling greater accuracy in time tracking, giving administrators access to centralised information and a complete history of work orders and time spent per technician; critical for accurate billing.
Other users have found the ability to automate the capture and retrieval of field data as much as possible optimises delivery of aftermarket services, shortening billing times by eliminating mailing of service reports from technicians to head office followed by data re-entry into the billing system.
By reducing the billing turnaround time from several weeks to 24 hours, one user has been able to streamline its aftermarket services business, where the customer sees the technician, uses an electronic signature to sign the service ticket in the application and then receives the invoice with the completed service report the next day.
Another user has been able to computerise its entire logistics chain, essentially digitalising delivery and return sheets. It has allowed the company to make order-related productivity gains of 15%, achieving time savings for drivers, in addition to improving both responsiveness and quality of information, which customers appreciate.
For many users the ERP system is the backbone of their organisation’s operation. Using a top field service management software platform that fully interfaces with the ERP enables optimisation of the entire operational and administrative chain, from handling customer requests to sending invoices, reducing time, improving the quality of customer service and reducing internal administrative burden.
Optimise decentralised back office operations
One of the impacts of the global pandemic is that it has accelerated the trend for remote working. Employees, such as administrative staff, who once commuted five days a week to the office now have more flexibility and choice in terms of working more of their job from home. Organisations can reap multiple benefits, from happier staff who spend less time travelling to and from work, to downsizing office space and shrinking overheads.
However, decentralised operations with different teams working remotely can only do so through the right software and communications infrastructure investments. FSM software has become more relevant than ever in helping to underpin effective and productive remote working from front end to back office wherever people are working or choosing to make their office.