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May 28, 2021 | 4 Mins Read

Living with COVID: Decentralizing Dispatch

May 28, 2021 | 4 Mins Read

Living with COVID: Decentralizing Dispatch


By Tom Paquin

Office work sure ain’t what it used to be (eighteen months ago). Businesses are hybrid-izing work expectations and streamlining office space for a more streamlined in-office staff, ISPs are being pushed to the brink to support home office videoconferencing on a whole new level, and many people are discovering what some of us have known for a while: Working from home can be really, truly, what you need to (literally) get the job done.

I’ve written about the service ramifications of this from ITSM, wherein businesses now need to think very carefully about supply chain, device management, and triage in order to manage how, where, and why service vehicles are deployed at all. But this new paradigm has internal and external ramifications across a wide array of different axes. Let’s explore one of them.

The truth of the matter is that service businesses may be just as likely as any other busines to want to limit the amount of physical footprint that they have, chiefly within the context of the backoffice. Obviously this is less of a possibility for manufacturers, telco providers, or utilities, where there’s more of a need of physical infrastructure. For straight service providers, though, there are certainly some possibilities.

Is the prospect of shuttering a great deal of physical real estate a unique challenge? Obviously, yes, but with a set plan of how you’re going to proceed, and what you need to do to make these moves equitable to your staff, there are a lot of tools that can support. As we always say here, your business’ unique needs will shift marginally from certain elements of what we outline here. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering. Let’s break down some elements:

Getting a holistic view

Service businesses can’t build a coherent strategy if dispatch centers are siloed islands of data and operational utilities. If, for instance, you have a telco that has commercial tower services disconnected from consumer services, you’re doing it wrong. Systems feed off of a shared resource base, even if the technicians or parts will never cross over between two groups. Businesses looking to decentralize their understanding of their business need to start by centralizing the insights of service, parts, and asset management.

Increasing the ratio of technicians to dispatchers

Thinking about reducing the size of internal offices means naturally thinking about how resource allocation meets the dispatch. We of course already know how businesses succeed at doing this: They employ true scheduling optimization. Not drag-and-drop schedules and pretty colors, like what some companies call “optimization”, but AI-powered utilities that offer a single view of asset performance, available resources, and SLA-powered job expectations, all synthesized in a system that can update in real-time across the whole of your company, not just a single location.

Getting in all on mobile

Yeah, I know that I’m a broken record on mobile supremacy, but whether or not your technicians have office time, they need 100% of their desktop resources on their mobile devices, no exceptions. Mobile field service is so mature that treating it like some sort of ornamental dongle is just plain reckless. What it will take to make this work for your business will depend a lot on what you do, obviously, but at the very least, systems need to be unified across all platforms. No redundancies, no forgotten work order submissions or part requests.

Rethinking parts and logistics

I love a good depot, don’t get me wrong. Be it a train depot, where I spent a lot of my young commuter life, or a Home Depot, where I dump thousands of dollars a year into landscape fabric and screwdrivers, there’s something very nice about a place that has a confluence of all the things. Whether that depot needs to be within spitting distance of a technician’s truck or not is another question. If you’re disseminating service and limiting office space, you have an opportunity to expand service territories out much farther. You just have to think about how you get parts to technicians, or, conversely, how you get materials from technicians available for repair and remanufacturing. You’ll find the mix that works best for you, but with a holistic view, you shouldn’t have a problem employing parts and reverse logistics systems to meet employees wherever you find them, including their homes, or the homes of your customers. The right tools are right in front of you, waiting for you to set the criterial for what they do.

These are but a few small considerations for what the future of work might look like for service, and there are a lot of others worth evaluating as we continue on our post-pandemic journey. While the last year and change has not been particularly fun, the ripples of change offer us all an opportunity to reflect, and reposition ourselves to make the future a lot brighter than it was before.