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Can I use workforce management for managing a back-office team?

Question:

I’ve used workforce management (WFM) in a contact center, but now I’m managing a back-office team. Can I use WFM here too?

Answer:

WFM solutions can help back-office (and branch) organizations optimize employee utilization, however these environments require applications that are purpose-built to address their unique needs. First of all, back-office WFM suites need a real-time work allocation and management module that is able to queue, distribute and manage work activities. Secondly, back-office WFM solutions must forecast work and schedule resources at the activity level, which is more complex than addressing higher-level work items since a work item may include many activities. Back-office WFM solutions need distinct algorithms and/or simulation capabilities that properly address deferred work and backlog, linked work queues, shared work functions, handling of multiple simultaneous tasks, ability to incorporate different input sources, and the ability to track individual work items throughout multiple stages, hand-offs and business units. 

The four essential WFM modules for the back office are: 

  1. Forecasting: Uses mathematical modeling techniques and algorithms that address the specific characteristics of back-office work, including deferred arrival patterns, serial or multi-step processes, deadlines and extended service goals, and management of work inventory or backlog, to project future transaction volumes and demand for resources at different points in time, generally in increments of 15 minutes or longer.
  2. Multi-skill scheduling: Creates a timetable for back-office activities that balances forecasted staffing needs against employee availability. Scheduling modules should be able to determine an optimal schedule for each back-office function or task based on a combination of: employee availability and skills, shift rotations, service level requirements, vacations, lunches and breaks, training sessions, operating hours, and employee preferences.
  3. Intraday management: Enables managers to identify the real-time service-level impacts of changes in transaction volumes or employee availability so they can take the necessary action to meet their daily goals. This module allows managers to compare forecasted to actual performance, and make near-real-time changes to re-optimize schedules to address actual workload and events throughout the day. Intraday management modules should also enable managers to conduct “what if” analyses to project the impact of changes in work and resources on backlog and service level.
  4. Real-time adherence: Captures each employee’s current activity and status data, and compares it to the planned schedule so that supervisors can tell if their employees are doing what they are supposed to be throughout the work day. This module should also notify or alert employees of an upcoming activity change 5 or 10 minutes before it is scheduled to occur.