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How to get the most out of a Workforce Management System: Keep it simple! (part 1)

How to get the most out of a Workforce Management System: Keep it simple! (part 1)

It’s at risk of showing my age that I tell you I’ve been selling and implementing workforce management (WFM) software solutions across multiple industry sectors for nearly 18 years. During that time I have seen:

  • Advancements in Technology (yes, I remember physical punch cards and disc-hungry client-server applications!)
  • Amendments to Labour Law (I recall being very busy in 2003-2004 as the EU Working Time Directive was introduced)
  • Changes in Working Practices (how many of us could genuinely work from home in the nineties?)

However, what has remained constant throughout my time in this field are the key components required for a business to make the most of a WFM software solution. Over the next few weeks I’ll be summarising some of these, starting today with the importance of a simple and transparent labour model:

Modern WFM solutions are capable of forecasting labour demand by taking multiple data feeds and performing complex algorithms. This creates the temptation to over-engineer the labour model which introduces several risks:

  • Accuracy – If the quality or availability of even one of the data sources is unreliable then the entire model fails and it becomes very difficult to determine the root cause of the problem
  • Scalability – Even with modern processing power, at some point an overly-complex labour model will start to become impossible to maintain and / or scale up across a large organisation
  • Acceptance – It is difficult to get user buy-in to a non-transparent model. Your managers know the sharp end of your business better than anyone (or anything!) – if they can’t account for a system-generated labour forecast then they are unlikely to have any faith in it

Many organisations learn this lesson the hard way. I worked with a retailer who abandoned their unsuccessful ‘bottom-up’ labour standards approach (labour demand derived from hundreds of productivity measures) in favour of a ‘top-down’ labour budgeting approach (labour demand derived from sales forecast based on a sales-per-labour-hour target). As a result, their managers embraced the system much more readily, and they found that it is even worth compromising slightly on the accuracy of the labour forecast in order to achieve this buy-in.

After all, what’s the use of a ‘perfect’ forecast if the manager has no confidence in it and so chooses to ignore it?

Read part 2 of my blog discussing how critical the flexibility of your workforce is to the successful implementation of a WFM system.

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