Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. We talk a lot on the podcast and within the content on future of field service, about how organizations are focusing and making progress with innovation, related to all of the opportunity that service presents. Today, we’re going to be talking specifically with Joni Chapas, who is the Vice President of Field Operations Support for Brinks Home about how Brinks Home is tackling this issue, challenge, journey. Joni, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.
Joni Chapas: Hi Sarah, thanks for having me.
Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. So before we dig into the conversation, can you start just by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself, your background and your role at Brinks Home?
Joni Chapas: Sure. I actually came to field service in maybe what be a little bit of an unusual path. I really spent most of my career at a telecommunications company and I was on the IT side of the house there. And I spent really most of my career there on the IT side, focused on mergers and acquisitions, and then really sort of project management and IT solutions. So I was working with the business units in that telecommunications company, implement improvements and automation and things to help address their business needs. So when I left there and came to Brinks Home in September of 2019 to shift from being on the IT side to coming over to the business side of the house, where I came in as working in the operations support organization. A lot of those skills that I had learned in working with the business on how to implement solutions to improve their process, I could really bring to the table in the new role.
Joni Chapas: So at Brinks I’m the Vice President of Operations Support. And my team, as you know, the name probably implies, we support kind of all aspects of the operations team. And that ranges, we handle anything from kind of tactical support from things like fleet management and helping us with our … we have third party partners, helping them obtain equipment that they need to do work for us, to really the more strategic part, which I think we’ll talk more about today, of things of business process improvement, analytics, business intelligence, project management, learning and development, that kind of thing.
Sarah Nicastro: Good. So as I mentioned at the beginning, there’s a huge amount of change underway in service at the moment. Both in terms of customer expectations and market demands and ways that organizations are evolving and modernizing their service delivery or business models. And then you have technological change, there’s a lot going on. And I think I wrote an article, I don’t know how long ago, but it was sort of about the idea of the dichotomy of service leadership, right? And so this concept that, as the landscape changes leaders have been tasked with the huge, huge, huge challenge of innovation while also needing to keep pace with their quote unquote day job or all of the day-to-day demands of the work.
Sarah Nicastro: And so with your role, the idea that Brinks Home has, is that innovation can be led by a dedicated team that sits alongside operations, right? To sort of balance that workload and help spearhead and some of those innovation related efforts. So I think I explained that correctly, if I didn’t please correct my explanation and maybe talk a little bit about some of the reasons that it is so difficult to expect innovation from operational leadership.
Joni Chapas: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s just the fact that there’s always … in operations, there’s always a fire that’s closer to you than that smoldering ember that’s out in the woods. Now that smoldering ember might end up being what’s going to lead to the forest fire that really can be truly, severely detrimental if you don’t stay on top of it. But before you can even look to that, you have to be dealing with what’s in front of you. So, I mean, we look to operational leaders to make sure that they’re managing your day to day metrics. I mean, that’s what you’re looking at. I kind of use example of, most call centers in the world have a ticker or some kind of screen that is up on the wall of their call center.
Joni Chapas: Maybe now that a lot of folks are remote, they don’t quite have that, but where you’ve had, where it’s kind of showing how many calls are on hold, what’s average handle time right now, how many … what’s the abandoned rate for calls that are coming in? So we have things like that that are flashing before these operational leaders, their eyes to make sure they’re keeping up with those day in day out, minute by minutes stats of how things are going. So to then also really expect that, oh, and hey, and by the way, in the next quarter, next year, we need to see this overall improvement in those metrics, it’s kind of tough for them to have that dual focus.
Joni Chapas: I mean, again, even you can use a whole host of analogies, but it’s the same thing. Like you can’t really read a book if you’re sitting on the beach, you can’t really both read your book and watch your kids that are running off in the distance, right. You really can focus on one or the other. And so if you have … if you’re looking back and forth too much between the two, it’s hard to be effective at either one. So I think that’s what … it’s not about do they have the knowledge? They absolutely do. They’re the people that are living and breathing it every day. But you also don’t want them to take their eye off of those ticker numbers that are flashing in front of them that show you how you’re doing it this very minute. So the idea of my organization is really to partner and work alongside, so that we can have more of the eye on the future, while they’re focusing more on the near term and what’s right in front of their face.
Sarah Nicastro: And it does sort of feel like an unfair expectation that companies put on leaders to do both ends of that spectrum, right? I mean, to your point, it isn’t about the operational leaders not having the ideas, or the insight, or the perspective, right? It’s about the bandwidth that it takes to really enable innovation and not expecting those folks responsible for the day-to-day to be able to just magically manufacture that bandwidth.
Sarah Nicastro: So I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the thinking behind, how did this role, your team come to be at Brinks Home? Because I think that I’ve certainly talked with people that are in situations where they have the expectation of both. They are, fair or not, being tasked with keeping pace with the day-to-day and looking for the opportunities for innovation. And, then I’ve talked with other organizations that sort of do this type of approach where it’s a specific function within the business that kind of drives the effort. So how did the idea to put this in place, come to fruition at Brinks Home?
Joni Chapas: It started off really with, when I came to Brinks with the idea of coming into operations, to kind of help find continual process improvements. But it was really to … it was really focused on project management. So I said, I was in IT and telecommunications for the earlier part of my career, but that was … let me be clear, I was never a real techie person. I was always on the … within IT, but was always more on the sort of getting solution side and project and program management. So when I came to Brinks it was really with that idea of, hey, we have some large operational projects and we just need project management to sort of help see those through. So I kind of came with the idea of sort of establishing a project management organization within operations to just help drive those things forward.
Joni Chapas: But what we kind of quickly found was that we wanted to expand that and not just help execute, not just help manage the execution of those, but to really help with the more the strategic analysis, because it really does tie, we … the operations folks are … they have ideas of what are some of the strategic things that need to happen.
Joni Chapas: But again, really taking the time to really analyze those ideas, to go and explore is something that they really aren’t afforded the time to do. So it just became … just sort of developed out of … as an extension of, oh, hey, there’s a project we want to do, can you have somebody, have a team that will help manage those projects to more, can we have more ownership on what the right projects are and what the … how we can optimize the technology that’s out there, how we can research about where … what are really some … the true business problems and what solutions we might have for those. So it really kind of expanded, but that was just kind of the evolution from, again, more tactical project management to strategic planning.
Sarah Nicastro: So what does the working relationship between you and your team and the operational leadership look like? Like how do you kind of collaborate together and learn about their ideas and their insights and figure out what to put into action? What does that collaboration look like?
Joni Chapas: Yeah, I mean, and it’s, again, it’s really imperative that we be working right with those operational leaders. So my team and I felt we do work directly with those operations folks when we’re looking at, for example, our monthly metrics and doing our end of the month summary of how are things going and what things are we experiencing, I’m participating right along with that, that we’re as accountable to the KPIs of the organization as those operational leaders. And so we work really closely with them, but what we’re able to do is, and most people will kind of hear this and say, in anything that you’re doing, people always talk about, it’s easier to have a straw man or something to work from, and then get feedback on what’s wrong with that than handing somebody sort of a blank piece of paper.
Joni Chapas: So we generally try to do that. I mean, sometimes we come … I have one of my peers come to me with a business problem and say, can you help us in figuring out how to solve that? And we go through and kind of brainstorm and think about ideas and talk to different people involved to get some feedback. And sometimes they come really with an idea of a change that they’ve observed and they think is a change that can really benefit their team, and are just asking for more help in putting that all together and getting all the right people involved and operationalizing a change.
Joni Chapas: So we work closely with them and again, what we do going into my straw man point is that we’re generally taking and creating those strawmans, whether it’s based on an idea that they feed us or business problem or something from even higher level leadership that we can go through and say here’s a straw man for how this might work, or what change that we could make, and then let them kind of tweak and edit that. Where if they’re truly without us, it’s like somebody handing them the blank piece of paper and saying now you have to go draw it all yourself.
Joni Chapas: So it’s much more efficient for them to be able to let us do the documentation, do the ideation, go through and do analysis of what does the data show us? What does … what are the cost benefit of and risk factors associated with it? Let us go through and do that, go do industry research and things like that. And then be able to do more of a sign-off and approval or give tweaks and adjustments, as opposed to having them again, have to go through all those steps themselves to achieve the objectives.
Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. So how would you describe the biggest advantages to the structure that you have set up at Brinks Home, where your team is working alongside operations to drive innovation?
Joni Chapas: I think there’s … the couple key things are just the ability to focus on it because you, as you’re mentioning earlier, there’s the ever, ever evolving future field service, just like what this is, this whole series is about, that you have to keep an eye and you have to look to the future and you have to innovate, or your business is not going to be successful. But you again, also have to take care of these day-to-day items. So it’s really just kind of, instead of having the same people with divided focus, it kind of lets us focus on our own … focus on those individual pieces. And again, we can’t do that in silos, to your point, there definitely is collaboration and working, we’re on the same team. I mean, we literally work for the same leader, but that focus, and then it really is minimizing the time spent from the operational leaders on projects.
Joni Chapas: And some of the … I don’t want to say administrative in a term that’s negative, but when you’re doing an organizing project, there’s a lot of that analytics and thinking about things, organizing, making sure we have all the right constituents identified, making sure that you’re really thinking about all of the impacts throughout the organization, dependencies, costs, timelines, all those kinds of things that we can focus on. And those operational leaders really don’t need to think about that. They need to think about the impact to their operation or what is the business need that they have. And so we get to take some of that off of their … those other pieces off their hands, that let’s be honest are critical to the success of longer range projects.
Joni Chapas: But if you have a leader that is also responsible for day-to-day metrics, this is probably to stop that sort of slipping through the cracks. They probably … not because they’re not capable, but because of the timeframe that they have, that they probably aren’t able to get to as thorough of analysis as they might like here. Or maybe the communication piece kind of, and coordination with other parts of the organization maybe falls through the cracks a little bit. So it helps for a little bit cleaner in those projects and minimizes the need for the operational experts to handle some of those other pieces.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, that makes sense. And I think you’re right about what slips through the cracks. It’s the less urgent it is, the easier it is to postpone. And I think that’s one of the important things to have folks understand is that the pace of change today and the degree to companies are innovating, there is a need to dedicate specific resource or make investments in the longer term strategy and the innovation that’s going to get you there. Whether that’s a structure, like what you have at Brinks Home, whether that’s consultants, whether that’s someone, some other structure. It doesn’t necessarily need to be prescriptively done in a certain way. But it absolutely is important, I think in terms of keeping pace strategically, to understand that there has to be some dedicated resource, energy, effort to this type of initiative. So are there any drawbacks to this approach that you would caution people on?
Joni Chapas: Yeah. I mean, it requires communication, absolutely. So it’s really the relationship building, it’s trust and buy-in are the initial pieces. So as much as the … there’s kind of a mix. You’ll have some operational leaders that, because they’re very accountable to metrics, I mean, their life is generally metric-driven, most anybody that works in operations, they’ve got KPIs and that’s what they are held accountable to all the time. So because of that, there are times where they are a little bit leery, of kind of handing over … seemingly handing over some control of projects or things that are going to affect those to somebody outside of the team. So they really do have to build that relationship of trust and buy-in, and know that we’re not making decisions on their behalf, they’re part of it.
Joni Chapas: We’re doing more of the legwork piece. We’re still … and we have to hold to that. We have to make sure that we’re accountable, to not be trying to implement change that they’re not ready for, to not be making decisions that impact them without their buy-in. And to know that we’re … my team is just as invested in the KPIs that they’re held to as they are. So I think it’s not, definitely not so much be a drawback as much as it is a … just a, it’s a kind of, a little bit of a, it can be a little bit of our hurdle to getting there.
Joni Chapas: In some cases you have folks that out of the gates want to … are happy as can be to have someone else that can, hey, I’ve been meaning to try to get to this improvement for a long time, and I haven’t been able to have anybody on my team focus on it, so here, I’m glad you’re here, go take this. So you’ll get some of those, and in that case, you’ll get more work than you have time for. But there is really that fact of building the right collaboration so that it is a balance of ensuring that those leaders also, at the end of the day, aren’t able to come in and say, oh, well we were hoping that this initiative was going to achieve a 10% improvement in X, Y, Z metric, that at the end of the day, if it doesn’t achieve that, that they don’t get to just look and be like, I don’t know Joni and her team did that. I don’t know what they did.
Joni Chapas: So there definitely … that’s one thing is that it can’t be viewed as, it’s not a throw it over the wall, either way from my team to those folks or vice versa, that it is collaboration that we’re in it together. So you have to make sure that relationship, it’s really key to the success.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I like the idea of making decisions together, but then you sort of are dividing and conquering when it comes to the efforts, right? So it’s … we have to decide together where we’re going, but now, you keep doing X, Y, and Z, we’ll go do A, B and C when it’s time to reconvene, we reconvene. But to your point, it really allows both parties to focus on their responsibilities in a way that maximizes productivity versus trying to have either responsible for both.
Sarah Nicastro: So the next area I want to talk about … so when we talk about innovation, I think one of the biggest barriers to innovation, other than allocating appropriate resource, which we’ve already talked about is the idea of organizational silos. So another big part of your role and your team’s role, is to aid in that strategic alignment and to ensure that the innovation that’s taking place at Brinks Home is well coordinated, is in line with the company’s objectives, etcetera. So talk a little bit about that aspect of things.
Joni Chapas: Yeah. So, and we’re responsible for that kind of both within the various teams that make operations, as well as outside of that. So the easy examples within the organization, we’ve kind of touched on it a little bit within operations, but we also, again, I use learning and development as one of the areas underneath of my organization as well. So we might go through and look at when we hear about a challenge that we’re having in operations, we can jump on that to go through and say, okay, what can we do? What can L&D do to help with those issues? So, I’m … not too long ago, asked my L&D manager to go through and review the latest set of KPIs for the operations team, and then to come back and tell me to say, here are things either that we can build on in training that we already have, here’s development for ongoing development for the team, here are resources that we can make available.
Joni Chapas: But it’s, again, some of that is making sure that we’re not just getting complacent and oh okay, we have these training that we hire, we do these types of webinars and lunch and learns, but to go through and say, it’s actually directly tied to those strategic goals. Here are the strategic KPIs that we’re trying to do. But again, also, as far as going across other organizations, I’m afforded a little bit more, have a little bit more bandwidth in my team to go through and have regular reviews and one-on-ones, and participate with product development, with sales.
Joni Chapas: So we can look and see what’s on their roadmap. What are they doing? And take some time to absorb that and think about what does that mean? What does that mean to where we want to go? How do we … from an operation standpoint, what are the impacts? How can we drive some of that innovation together? Again, it’s just that ability to spend some time, focus and thinking on that, where from a really a more pure operational perspective, you typically will get like, oh hey, sales is rolling out this new program, or whatever it may be.
Joni Chapas: And then now let’s kind of react to it. And even if you’re doing it as part of our project, you’re going through and putting those things in place, but you’re not often looking at … and those operational leaders aren’t often looking at sales where are you trying to get to in the next year, three years, five years where I can do more of that.
Joni Chapas: So it’s imperative that we can again,a cross the silos of the organization and I’ve built relationships with those other leaders or say, hey, can I sit in on your monthly review or quarterly review, so that we can get … that we can see where they’re headed and take that into consideration and make sure that we’re all sort of headed in the same and right directions that we can align, for strategies and innovation, because we can hear, hey, you guys, it sounds like someone’s looking for a tool that may aid in X, Y, and Z, but that really closely aligns to something that we want to do too. So maybe this is instead of, in a vacuum one group going and looking for a tool set, that we look together and kind of go through and do that through the power of putting that together.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I mean, it always shocks me. It seems like it shouldn’t be, but there is always a lot of missed opportunity within any company of those collaboration points within function to function. So having a team that acts sort of as a conduit for ensuring that those opportunities, you get ahead of them instead of to your point at being reactive, oh, you’re doing this? Great. We could use it this way. Getting ahead of that curve and thinking more strategically about the areas of opportunity across functions, so that you can be more intentional about those. That makes a lot of sense. So good. All right.
Sarah Nicastro: And then the last area is around technological innovation. So your team is also responsible for innovation in terms of technology and digital transformation. So, this recently resulted in a partnership with IFS, and that is something again where you’re looking at how different tools can be leveraged across the business, to drive success in sort of modernizing the company’s approach to technology. So talk a little bit about what that looks like, in terms of working alongside operations to bring those digital transformation projects to life.
Joni Chapas: Yeah, so we work, again kind of to the point of working sort of across the silos is that, I also work pretty closely with our IT organization, that … and then vendors, for example, IFS is this key one that we’ve recently been working on, but to work with our IT team and again, make sure that I understand what their roadmap is and to get our needs on, on the roadmap and to be looking out ahead, of not just, hey, there’s something that came up, we need to get a request in now, but what are the advancements that we want to be making?
Joni Chapas: And it’s more about more of the long-range planning. But specifically for something like, IFS is a great example of that a lot of people can probably relate to. We did that through an RFP process, and if anybody’s ever done that, in most organizations, there’s a whole lot of … you’re putting together lot of the information on what are the requirements and what’s needed, the whole RFP process, identifying vendors that are going to participate, reviewing their responses, doing Q and A sessions with them, getting demos and whatnot from them, typically putting together some cost benefits on the ROI type of information. You’re able to generate a score card that you’re comparing people that participate in the RFP process.
Joni Chapas: So really my team did all of that type of work. Actually, we also … even if you step back from that, we kind of more of the research to look and see what’s out there in the marketplace. And to say, we know we have a particular need that we want to address, but we also want to think ahead to a tool that not only will address that specific need, but will grow with us, and that has additional modules, functionality, and a roadmap that kind of aligns with Brinks Home, where our roadmap was going. But anyway, but going through that process, so going and coming up with all of those pieces of … through that RFP process, what we did was then take some of the experts in and said, hey, come in and sit in the demo and help us score them.
Joni Chapas: And then yeah, they helped us provide information on requirements upfront as well. But all the other pieces and people, again, if you’ve done an RFP process, you know it can be very time consuming. They didn’t have to spend the time on that. But, from the technology standpoint, again, being able to look ahead, investigate, understand what other teams within the organization, what their needs are, so that we can … because obviously when you’re spending money on certainly outside tools, you want to have a tool set that’s going to integrate together, where you can have, not just disparate a whole bunch of one-off tools that now don’t talk to each other and, or duplicative in nature. So really our role is to, again, define, think ahead, define what those needs are, then really shepherd it through that whole process.
Joni Chapas: And then when it came to actually working on the project of … to building and rolling out field service management and PSO, that we could go through and again, play the key role in a lot of the documentation, working as the primary project team and bring those, the SMEs in as needed. We could do a lot of the testing and review and then bring them in for final sign-off. And again, take a lot of that burden of all the time that it takes, so that we could turn that around as a … realistically turn that around much more quickly than it would be if we were relying on people to do that in addition to their day job. That’s kind of the other thing I say a lot is everybody in operations, they have a day job. This is our day job.
Joni Chapas: So, but you know, really technology is a key for innovation and automation, is what you need to get there. I mean, obviously in the modern world, innovation and technology are kind of hand in hand. And so really thinking through those, understanding the longer range vision, and trying to figure out how to do that, helps you progress and bring change to the organization without crippling the organization in the meantime.
Joni Chapas: It’s definitely, I mean, it’s disruptive. It’s disruptive, but you have to be able to kind of put all the pieces in place to have that disruption be as minimal as it can be, and then achieve the result that you want, again, without jeopardizing your day-to-day in the meantime.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think, you mentioned speed, right? If you are relying on operational leaders to do that whole process in addition to their everyday responsibilities, it’s … the whole thing is going to move at a slower pace, than if you have a team dedicated to it. And speed is imperative when it comes to keeping pace, and innovating, and leveraging technology today. Everything is changing faster than it ever has before, and it’s not slowing down. So looking for the best way to set your company up for success, to not only focus as needed on the short term, but focus the way you need to on the longterm is super important.
Sarah Nicastro: So whatever that structure looks like, whether it’s a structure like Brinks Home has, whether it’s something completely different, for any company that is focusing on driving innovation, what would you say are some of the key ingredients to success?
Joni Chapas: Yeah, I think a couple of key things. One is leveraging the best of what you have right in front of you. I mean, I know that there’s a balance between, yeah we want to change and we want to think outside the box, which we need to do, but you want to take a look and know what the strengths of what you already have and how to leverage those as you move forward, is really key. A lot of folks get into the almost the throwing the baby out with the bath water. So really want to make sure you know yourself and know what your strengths are. Data-driven decision-making. I mean, I can’t probably preach enough. So, I’m thrilled that within my organization at the Brinks Home, that the data analytics team is there, because that’s essential.
Joni Chapas: It’s essential to the business. You need to look at, let the trending, tell you where you’re going, but predictive analysis and analytics tell you kind of where you need to improve and where you need to go. And then that you’re going to make the right decisions. I mean, there are a lot of things, don’t mistake the fact that there’s technology out there that’s really cool to have, but when you put pencil to paper, the business case for that really cool technology may not be there.
Joni Chapas: But you will need to really understand your data and using that, again to make the right decisions for your business of where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. What’s the return? Where can you really improve? That’s really key. Attention to detail, which is probably, if you summarize a lot of the things that we were talking about, about sort of the focus, that’s one of those pieces that, because the team’s able to focus we can pay more attention to those details, that’s often what happens to any of us. Any time you’re rushing through something, or you’re doing two things at one time, that’s generally what suffers is the detail.
Joni Chapas: So, obviously everybody knows the phrase, the devil is in the details, of when you’re working through certainly a complex implementation or a technology change. And so, making sure that you have people that can focus on that. And then of course, collaboration and communication, just so important to everything that we do. And regardless of the organizational structure, like you were mentioning, communication and collaboration really has nothing to do with your org chart. It’s all about people. And so that’s just one of my other mantras, is that we have to engage and keep talking with each other and make sure that everybody’s on the same page. Because as things are moving faster and faster, it’s very easy to miss those steps and to try to, race ahead and be in a hurry and miss some of those key points.
Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. Very good advice, Joni, and I bet there’s going to be people listening to this podcast that are being tasked with the operational duties and the innovative duties that are, are going to be jealous of the support that you’re providing at Brinks Home. So it’s a good model though, I think for anyone to kind of think about and to consider and really just to do some critical thinking about what exactly the focus on innovation is within the business. And is it scaled to the degree it needs to be, is it as effective as it needs to be, are you moving at the pace you need to be, et cetera.
Sarah Nicastro: So I appreciate you coming on and talking a bit about how you’re doing that at Brinks Home and thanks for being here.
Joni Chapas: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. You can check out more of our content by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @thefutureoffs. The future of field service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more by visiting ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.