Matrix Management: Benefits and Pitfalls

Matrix management brings together managers and employees from different departments to collaborate with each other towards the accomplishment of the organizational goals. As much as it is beneficial, matrix management also has limitations. Hence, companies should understand its benefits and pitfalls before implementing this management technique.

Benefits

The following are some of the advantages of matrix management:

Effective Communication of Information

Because of the hybrid nature of the matrix structure, it enables different departments to closely work together and communicate frequently in order to solve project issues. This leads to a proficient information exchange among leaders and subordinates. Consequently, it results to developed strategies, enhanced performance and quick productivity.

Efficient Use of Resources

Resources can be used efficiently in the organisation since it can be shared among functions and projects. As the communication line is more open, the valuable knowledge and highly skilled resources are easily distributed within the organisation.

Increased Motivation

The matrix structure promotes democracy. And with the employees working on a team, they are motivated to perform their duties better. The opinions and expertise of the employees are brought to the table and considered by the managers before they make decisions. This leads to employee satisfaction, empowerment and improved performance.

Flexibility

Since the employees communicate with each other more frequently, decision making becomes speedy and response is adaptive. They can easily adjust with diverse situations that the company encounters.

Skills Development

Matrix employees are pooled out for work assignments, even to projects that are not necessarily in line with their skill background. With this approach to management, employees have the chance to widen their skills and expertise.

Discipline Retention

One significant advantage of matrix management is that it enables the employees to maintain their skills in functional areas while working with multidisciplinary projects. Once the project is completed and the team wraps up, the members remain sharp in their discipline technically and return to their home functions.

Pitfalls

Here are some disadvantages of matrix management:

Power Struggle

In the matrix structure, there is always tension between the functional and project manager. Although their intent is polite, their conflicting demands and competition for control over the same resources make it more difficult.

Internal Complexity

Having more than one manager, the employees might become confused to who their immediate leader is. The dual authority can lead to internal complexity and possible communication problems. Worst, employee dissatisfaction and high employee turnover.

Heightened Conflict

In any given situation where people and resources are shared across projects, there would always be competition and conflict. When these issues are prolonged, conflicts will heightened and will lead to more internal problems.

Increased Stress

For the employees, being part of a matrix structure can be stressful. Their commitment is divided among the projects and their relationship with multiple managers requires various adjustments. Increased stress can negatively affect their performance in the long run.

Excessive Overhead Expenses

Overhead administrative costs, such as salaries, increase in a matrix structure. More expenses, more burden to the organisation. This is a challenge to matrix management that leaders should consider carefully.

These are just some of the advantages and disadvantages of matrix management. The list could go on, depending on the unique circumstances that organisations have. The key is that when you decide to implement matrix management, you should recognise how to take full advantage of its benefits and understand how to lessen, if not eradicate, the pitfalls of this approach to management.

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7 Challenges Facing Mobile Field Service ? And Overcoming them with FSM Solutions

Managing a mobile workforce comes with its set of challenges. There are multiple coordination levels, administrative hurdles when distributing tasks amongst your employees, the need to meet your customers? expectations, whilst still operating profitably. Your goal is to rake in more revenue, while striking a balance between the number of employees and the quality of the service being rendered. Under utilisation of the company resources may be misinterpreted to mean that you need more employees- which will affect your bottom line. Repeat visits with older jobs affect the response time for new client appointments. Clients get frustrated when their needs are not met on time. Remember that, for your client, their priority is getting their issue sorted- be it that pipe leak, electrical fault, damaged gas valve, or window installation completed on time. Administrative challenges on your end will simply come off as excuses, costing your brand dearly. The different fields share similar challenges- from utility firms, pest control, installation and repair services such as with plumbers and electricians, those running residential and commercial window cleaning companies, to property managers in charge of different buildings. Here are some of the obstacles faced:

1. Coordinating your team

Running things from the office can get hectic when your technicians are out on ground, and clients are at different locations. From appointments being delayed because the workers met traffic on their way, those calling in sick and requiring you to find replacements on short notice, clients who cancel appointments without notice- they all present a logistical nightmare. There is also the need to have a skill-based task distribution in place. Here, the focus is on getting the right technician for the job, not someone who has simply “dealt with it before as they helped their colleagues on a similar job“. With your firm having different personnel, you want to ensure that you spend the most appropriate technician to your client. This also aids the employees themselves, by increasing their morale as they will be dealing with tasks that they are particularly adept at, score you a high first-time fix rate, and avoid having to do follow up visits to resolve issues that were not properly addressed the first time round. 

Capterra undertook a field service software survey, which showed that 82% of organisations adopting FSM solutions saw an increased rate of first-time fixes, and a 90% rise in actual conversations from quotes.

Capterra

How field service job management software impacts businesses. Source: Capterra

 Follow-ups tend to cost extra with the additional dispatch, and take away your fiend agents from the work that had been scheduled to be handled. Resolving these logistical issues with traditional approaches can be problematic, especially with all the paperwork involved. In fact, let’s delve into that.

2. Mounds of paperwork

Having loads of data streaming in from your field workforce can put one on edge. Organising the documents, creating the spreadsheets and typing away at calculators, sorting the files in cabinets and the stress that comes when a single file appears lost in the heaps of sheets – it creates a bottleneck for your operations.  Manually handling the data at the central office also compromises on the accuracy of the process due to human error, from syntax issues when transferring information, incorrect inputs, to duplicate errors- which is expected to occur with increased frequency due to the tiring nature of the process. Actually, 46% of the respondents surveyed by the Service Council said that paperwork and admin work was the worst part of their day.

The field worker is also affected by the paperwork. From having to come to the office each morning to collect the documents needed for the day, walking with the bulky files from one site to another, perusing through lots of sheets whenever they want mire information about a particular customer or the job description- and the frustration that comes when some documents have been forgotten back at the office- it hampers productivity. Running out of copies of paper will also be unavoidable when your staff are away from the office- and more time will be spent coming back to restock. There are also additional issues like the forms getting soiled or torn, and even the wind blowing them away as your technicians are out in the field.  Dealing with the contracts, collecting signatures for each job that is handled, jotting down notes concerning the particular tasks that they are taking care of- it increases the workload. In fact, this often results in errors in data entry, and jobs being poorly documented.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case for your firm. Technological advancements have seen solutions being developed to minimise the paperwork involved. These mobile service management software allow the field worker to access all the details of the job via handy apps on their smartphones and tablets- as is the case with FieldElite. Instead of walking around with the documents and files, the information is stored via cloud, and is accessible in real-time. The job documentation- from photos, notes to the customer?s e-signature are all collected through the app, and the information is securely stored and immediately available to the personnel back at the head office. 

Service analytics- where you get to observe product demand, performance of your workforce and analyse your customer base growth through the dashboard reporting modules that come with the FMS software is a key tool for decision makers of the company. You get to optimise your performance without having to resort to adding more work hours, or pushing your employees into overtime. Field service analytics has been shown to increase profitability for leading companies by 18%, going by the ?Get Smart: Business Intelligence and Analytics for Service Organizations? study done by Aberdeen Group.

3. Scheduling conflicts

First, there are multiple jobs that need to be attended to- and disappointing your clients will lead to backlash. Secondly, you have a large team of workers- and you want to optimise on their productivity at an individual level. From an administrative perspective, you are also required to provide proper work structures that incorporate your employees? safety during the jobs being handled- and not to run them like mules, overworking them in a bid to hit your targets. Thirdly, the workers have different individual hours of operations- or they work in shifts. Running all this from a central point, allocating the jobs as needed and managing the different schedules, can be a tall order without the right field service scheduling software.

When your customers book an appointment, they expect that your company will deliver on its mandate, providing the services that they are paying you for as required. On the other hand, as the company, you are relying on your employees to meet those expectations. This means that you should have structures in place to ensure that your field workers stick to their assigned schedules. For this you will need to know their location in real-time, track their performance, and check on their adherence to the set schedules. Working with field service job management software allows you to handle the logistics of every task from one dashboard. By tracking your technicians while they are out in the field, you will be able to allocate orders faster, monitor the incoming customer requests, and manage the task distribution more efficiently. When you have an FSM that allows your workers to coordinate with the head office via mobile app, there will be an increased rate of job completion, and a reduction in overtime. Both your clients and employees get to be happy at the end of the day.

4. Lonely workers

Working in the office has its perks. You are surrounded by your colleagues, and can easily get the attention of anyone in management if needed. However, while out in the field, the workers can feel disconnected from the company structure, left to their devices while still bearing the responsibility of presenting the company in positive light- as they also double up as your brand ambassadors. The loneliness can get to them, with a report by the Service Council showing that isolation was the worst part of the work day for 21% of technicians. The chat feature that comes with the mobile service management software apps is one of the reasons behind their popularity, keeping the employees connected to the rest of the manager at the central office, and even other field employees- which makes them feel as part of one large family.

Safety is also a concern, especially for cases where your field staff will be working in hazardous situations – like conducting repairs on top of radio towers, dealing with gas equipment in concealed spaces. The central office needs to remain in constant communication with the workers, and have the appropriate structures in place to handle emergencies. You don’t want to lose employees because they don’t feel that their safety is a priority to you. A skilled technician is an asset that should be protected- and certainly you wouldn’t want to incur extra funds to hire and train personnel- which will end up being an additional strain to your budget over time. Field service job management software with features that allow your employees to check-in remotely via app will be handy in notifying the head office of their arrival at the job site, and in case of any incident, the field manager can quickly see the employees? last location, and dispatch help to them. 

5. Difficulty in assessing performance metrics

When you have a situation where timesheets are only handed in after the workday- and in some cases at the end of the week, it becomes difficult to assess the level of productivity of your field workers. Are you getting value for your money with the wages that are being paid out? Are there lots of lost work hours due to logistical hitches- or cases where the field worker delay the tasks, or take out sections of their day to attend to matters of personal interest- and still bill you for it? All this translates to poor customer service, with issues ranging from cancelled and rescheduled appointments, unmet targets, disagreements based on the scope of work being handled, to client dissatisfaction for not having their issues addressed in a timely manner- which becomes a hit on your brand.

FSM comes in to enable the field service manager to always be in the loop during the entire process- knowing exactly how long the workers are spending on each particular task, the jobs that are pending, cancelled or rescheduled, in order to constantly review and optimise the planning of the firm?s activities. With software like FieldElite, you even get a birds-eye view, as the work areas are mapped out, that way you will be in a position to direct your field workers on aspects like the best routes to take to avoid traffic gridlocks.

6. The break factor

How do you plan for breaks? Jobs are different, and there will be unexpected issues cropping up regularly. However, the field worker is still entitled to breaks during the working day- such as the all-important lunchtime. The problem arises when there is unextended time on some job sites, and cases of unscheduled breaks being taken. These have a ripple effect, as they will cause delays on other projects that are on queue, and you can also expect customer complaints to be coming in hot and hard. From a management point of view, you want to have the ability to respond to the issues as they arise, and reassign the jobs accordingly. Mobile service management software gives you this power.

7. Customer relationship management

Customers want to be part of the process, staying in the loop with the service appointments that have been scheduled- and understandably so. From the booking process, to following up on the progress of the job- it all factors in. In case there are issues that crop up- like service vehicles being delayed, situations where extra parts need to be ordered, or the session cancelled and scheduled on a different day- being fully transparent with your customers will be a great boost to your brand. Gaining new clients and retaining the current ones requires the firm to maintain a quality customer service.

Negative feedback because of your customers? feeling neglected will be a setback for your business. Integrating the customer relationship management into the field service will go a long way in enhancing their experience. Here, software solutions like FieldElite have also got you covered with a customer self-serve portal, accessible online through their browsers. This has the welcome benefit of reducing the number of calls as they conduct follow-ups, since they will be in a position to track the project right from the comfort of their homes and office desks, thus increasing customer satisfaction.

IT Security and the Threats from Within

When the economy makes a downturn, companies, then eventually, employees suffer. Now, I’m sure you’re wary of frustrated laid-off employees stealing valuable data. Who knows? That information might end up in the hands of your competitors. Then as if that threat weren’t enough, there may be jobless IT specialists who turn to rogue activities either to earn a quick buck or simply out of lack of anything productive to do.

That’s not all, as we’ve got more news for you. When we think of IT Security, what instantly comes to mind are hackers and acts laced with mal-intent. However, a recent worldwide survey on IT security showed organisations were more inclined to expect data leakage as a result of accidental exposure by employees (45%) than of anything maliciously performed by an external entity (15%).

If you’re not aware of this, you’ll be focusing your spending on protection against incoming attacks while exposing your innards through accidental leakages. Our solution? While we’ll naturally provide your data with protection from outside threats, we’ll also put special attention in protecting it from the inside.

The defences we’ll put up include:

  • Data Loss Prevention
  • Network Security
  • Firewalls
  • Malware
  • Authentication and Access Control
  • Mobile Security
  • Forensics
Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in Your Company in an Age of Business Intelligence

It doesn’t take a genius to understand why spreadsheet reporting still pervades the enterprise despite the rise of a complex but highly effective IT solution known to big shot CIOs as Business Intelligence or BI.

If you’re still in the dark as to what BI is, don’t worry because we?ll enlighten you shortly.

Business decisions from disparate data sources

In the meantime, let’s talk about how you make business decisions. If you’re a top executive, then you make decisions based largely on reports submitted to you by your managers, department heads, and so on. They in turn obtain information from different sources, like the company ERP and CRM as well as other external sources (e.g. market surveys).

Now, before their reports ever reach your desk, a lot of data is extracted, shared, filtered, analysed, consolidated, and summarised so that they become actionable information. In all these activities, one software tool gets to take part in most of the action – the spreadsheet.

The problem with spreadsheet reporting

The problem with spreadsheets is that they have very poor built-in controls. Thus, they are susceptible to human errors and are vulnerable to fraud. What’s more, collecting data and manually consolidating them into spreadsheets can be very laborious and time consuming.

If you don’t get accurate, reliable information, your judgement will be fuzzy and your business decisions compromised. In addition, if you don’t receive the information you need on time, your business will constantly be at risk of breaching critical thresholds, which may even force it to spin out of control.

Business Intelligence – actionable information on time

This is mainly the reason why large companies implement Business Intelligence systems. BI systems are equipped with built-in features like reports, dashboards, and alerts.

Reports consolidate data and present them in a consistent format composed of intuitive text, graphs, and charts. The main purpose of having a consistent format is so that you will know what kind of information to expect and how the information is arranged. That way, you don’t waste time searching or making heads or tails out of the data in front of you.

Dashboards, on the other hand, present information through visual representations composed of graphs and gauges that are aimed at tracking your business metrics and goals. The main function of dashboards is to feed you with actionable information at a glance.

Finally, alerts keep you informed when certain conditions are met or critical thresholds are breached. Because their main purpose is to prompt you at the soonest possible time wherever you are, a typical alert can come in the form of an SMS message or an email.

As you can see, all three features are designed to get you making well-informed decisions as quickly as possible.

The problem with Business Intelligence and the alternative solution

The usual problem with full BI systems is that they can be very costly. Hence, if your organisation does end up implementing one, chances are, not everyone under you will be able to access it. As a result, some departments will be forced to go back to using spreadsheets.

If your company cannot afford a full BI system, then that probably means you don’t need one. What you need is a more affordable alternative. There are actually Software as a Service (SaaS) Business Intelligence solutions that may not be as comprehensive as a full BI system, but which may suffice for small and mid-sized businesses.

The disadvantages of spreadsheets are more damaging than you could have ever expected. Be free of it now.

 

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