Recently, Verint held an Ask the Experts webinar for its customers on the topic of enterprise workforce management (WFM). I had the honor of being one of the SMEs along with Paul Stockford, Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research.
The questions answered during the webinar varied but were primarily around the challenges of implementing workforce management across functional areas, such as contact centers, back-office and branch operations. We began the session by level-setting our expectations by answering the question:
What is Enterprise Workforce Management?
Workforce Management (forecasting, planning and scheduling) has been around for a long time. Read Paul Stockford’s blog, “Back Office Workforce Management: The Second Wave,” to learn about WFM’s contact center origins and solution evolution over the years. Everyone does WFM in some form, whether manually, in an Excel spreadsheet, or with a purpose-built solution.
What differs is the level of integration, automation and robustness of the data. With Enterprise WFM, you have a consistent tool across functional areas, so everyone is managing to the same level. In addition, with Enterprise WFM, you can now share resources between different functional areas, vs. being restricted to siloed business units such as the contact center.
What’s the key difference between traditional WFM solutions and Enterprise WFM solutions?
The key difference is the ability to handle inventory or carryover work. WFM grew up in the contact center where work items (calls, emails, chats) typically have an immediate or short-term resolution.
Outside the contact center, work can have longer-term service goals or turnaround times—from hours, to days to even months (e.g., a mega mortgage). Enterprise WFM can factor in the carryover work and their SLAs into the forecast, rebalancing work efforts to address the “at risk” or higher priority work first.
There are many other differences, but this is the most critical need that requires new algorithms and functionality to address.
What’s the biggest challenge when pushing WFM into the enterprise? Is it technical, cultural or financial?
The hardest part of implementing enterprise WFM is cultural. Managers and employees outside the contact center are not used to being managed to such a granular level. Schedules in the back office, for example, are typically a standard eight-hour day, with flexibility in start and end times as long as the total hours are met (which can still be supported, by the way). In addition, moving into the back office may have been a career path out of the contact center.
Back-office employees perceive enterprise WFM as restrictive and will likely push back on its adoption. Senior management will quickly see the financial benefits, but it takes time and a well-thought out communication plan to get the buy-in from the employees and front-line managers. However, when they realize the personal benefits, such as a reduction in unplanned overtime and an improvement in work/life balance, they soon become champions of the solution.
I hope these questions and responses have helped clarify some of the differences, challenges and benefits of implementing Enterprise WFM. For more information on the considerations you need to address when implementing eWFM, read the whitepaper: Enterprise Workforce Management: A Holistic Approach to Forecasting Workload and Scheduling Resources Across Different Functional Areas.