Company: APSOLVECustomer: BTSubmitted by: The itpr PartnershipDate: September 2001APSOLVE’s TASKFORCE work management and scheduling solution has reduced the cost of running BT’s service organisation by £100m per annum. It has achieved a 15% productivity improvement and a reduction in control sites from over 100 down to 3.John Davies, COO BT Wholesale says, “The introduction of APSOLVE’s TASKFORCE revolutionised the allocation of work to our mobile workforce. Productivity was improved by 15% and APSOLVE’s TASKFORCE enabled BT to introduce new service offerings on the speed of provision and repair to both Business and Residential customers. It is undoubtedly one of the most advanced work allocation systems in the world.

“Provision of service to business and residential customers, network maintenance and fault repair are core activities of large telecommunications and IT companies. British Telecommunications plc (BT) employs more than 20,000 field engineers across the UK to maintain networks, repair faults, and provide service to customers. APSOLVE’s implementation of TASKFORCE throughout BT has not only enabled the company to deliver improved customer service pledges but has also enabled BT to save £100 million per annum in service costs.Prior to the introduction of TASKFORCE, BT had a control network of 100 manual distribution centres to handle the allocation of 150,000 tasks each day to the 20,000 engineers. APSOLVE’s TASKFORCE has enabled BT to rationalise this network to three centres to support the entire country.In addition, it has been able to reduce its engineer force by over 3,000, while delivering an average 15 percent improvement in productivity.

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BT Field Service Challenge

BT was faced with a two fold challenge: delivering ever increasing levels of customer service across a diverse and broadening product range while achieving improved productivity and attendant cost savings.BT’s ability to provide high quality service while achieving maximum productivity and low operational costs is vital to the company’s success and competitiveness. However, traditional manual approaches were resulting in inefficient job allocation, time wasted by engineers travelling between jobs and an inability to provide customers with a rapid response to their problems or demands for the implementation of new lines.However, the challenge of scheduling thousands of field engineers is significant. The complexity lies in the multiple requirements and objectives of workforce scheduling.

Paul Cleaver, head of BT Field Engineering Change says, “In any high tech organisation the field service engineers have a diverse range of skills needed to meet the breadth of customer requirements.” For BT such skills range from residential telephone engineers to network switch experts.In addition, BT’s three basic operational areas have distinct skills demands: business and residential customer access, national business communications and core network. These also need to be addressed in the context of the geographical distribution of the workforce, since local knowledge can be an invaluable asset in delivering high levels of productivity.Paul Cleaver comments, “The number of factors involved in the management and scheduling of our field service engineers, meant that we constantly faced a logistical nightmare.

We needed a solution that was dynamic, flexible and crucially able to manage the scale of our operation. TASKFORCE was the only application able to meet that challenge.”

Automated Approach

To maximise workforce productivity and improve service quality, BT decided to take a completely automated approach to workforce scheduling. APSOLVE’s TASKFORCE is an information system and dynamic scheduler that automates work management and field communications. The tool uses information captured when the field support call is logged to drive the field engineers daily activity. One of its key advantages is the ability to undertake same day scheduling by prioritising jobs and mixing planned maintenance activity with emergency work.

One of BT’s most important goals is to ensure skill utilisation of its engineers and to minimise redundant travel and waiting time. Paul Cleaver says, “TASKFORCE has enabled us to manage the individual skill level of each job in reference to its location and the skills of the field engineers.” In addition, the solution manages job dependencies, ensuring inter-related jobs are completed in the right order to minimise waiting time.The process also supports work controllers’ and engineers’ preferences to location and type of work, avoids allocating low level work to highly skilled individuals and increases job satisfaction by ensuring, as far as possible, that engineers remain in their preferred area.

Significant Business Benefits

TASKFORCE has repaid BT’s investment many times over at £100 million per annum since its introduction in 1994.

Additionally, its deployment has enabled BT to introduce several highly competitive customer service initiatives. This includes a new five hour response commitment to business customers and nine hours for residential customers.Indeed, once these pledges had been met without the need to increase staff, BT had the confidence to deliver improved services in certain areas. The ‘Today’s Fault Today’ pledge promises that any business customer reporting a fault before 1pm will have that repaired in the same working day, a promise that would not have been cost effective without the TASKFORCE system.TASKFORCE also supports ‘what if’ analysis, supporting operations managers in tactical and strategic resource planning by enabling them to assess the impact of major events e.

g. forthcoming marketing campaigns, roadworks, weather, on their existing staff levels and decide whether additional resources will be required to satisfy customer demand.Says John Davies. “In the highly competitive telecommunications market excellent customer service is a significant competitive differentiator. The implementation of APSOLVE’s TASKFORCE has enabled BT to offer unprecedented levels of customer response that are highly valuable to both business and residential customers.”John Davies says, “We are achieving 95% utilisation from our highly skilled engineers located countrywide and maintaining a consistently high level of customer satisfaction with a technologically advanced broadening product range.”

Future Directions

APSOLVE is now selling TASKFORCE globally both direct and through reseller organisations primarily in the telecommunications and IT service sectors, enabling other organisations to achieve the benefits of a totally automated workforce scheduling solution.