Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | May 04, 2012 |


UC, Meet Time and Motion

UC, Meet Time and Motion Consider using UC to explore which business processes you can improve. Then, observe your customers, employees and suppliers to understand the processes that hinder them.

Consider using UC to explore which business processes you can improve. Then, observe your customers, employees and suppliers to understand the processes that hinder them.

You can laugh off the old timers' notions that were widely used by Western Electric and numerous other firms even during the 1980s. I remember. The old studies by W. Edwards Deming are still in use today. "Time and Motion" studies cropped up from Frederick Taylor's idea of improving business efficiency through scientific study. According to Taylor, every task required only a certain amount of time to accomplish, but the issue with these studies is they didn't consider human behaviors.

I recall a team of three individuals working for a Fortune 500 firm in the Washington, DC area that went around and clocked call center agents' time on the phone in different departments. They refocused their work once early ACD Star Reports materialized showing better data about agents using old 2A and 3A ACD Number 5 crossbar technology with 1A2 key equipment. Agents were often unfairly evaluated on data that was simulated and inexact. A hung trunk could cause chaos and give the agent an appearance of talking too long on the phone. Disconnect supervision wasn’t quite perfected either. This team of three management prognosticators didn’t talk very much, at least openly, and most employees didn't talk to them either for fear of losing their jobs.

Taylorism followers believed in the methods, and they weren't completely wrong, only ill advised when it came to understanding human behaviors. Since then, Time and Motion studies have been rethought, redone and rebranded. Deming's management points are completely different than Taylor, in that Deming did understand human behavior.

Now, revisiting what I wrote in UC Sell Job, I want to mention some "observations" that I've made, particularly in the Health Care vertical. This may sound like another "sell job" and I could have whipped out my iPhone and clocked employees at a customer site entering data in both back and front office applications to eventually conclude, like the team of three or even Taylor himself, that each process should take so much time for a worker. That method doesn't win friends or establish allies.

Here's what happened.

UC deployment was widely accepted by the employees. We spent time with each employee showing how to use the UC features and answering questions, and then observing them while taking calls. Immediately, we noticed that when the call center employees went into a web session for scheduling patients, they lost their immediate visibility of their UC client showing status and presence of other call center members. But even more important, as the agent made his/her way through the scheduling process with the patient on the phone, the agent minimized the current screen or opened a new tab and launched another session to another application to retrieve data to enter into the initial session. This process was repeated in other tasks within the organization for billing and claims.

Now, foot traffic to and from the Supervisor's office noticeably decreased, according to the call center Supervisor, and everyone really likes the chat feature and having the flexibility of using their desktop computer to work with the telephone to transfer and handle phone calls with a click. Employees showed us their methods of dealing with obtaining patient and other data to finalize the transaction (patient phone call). We asked whether or not they thought having dual computer screens would ease their pain. Most said yes and a few weren't so sure or were reluctant because of desk space. The call center operators definitely want dual screens because they want to observe the queue while on the phone with patients, since they are under more pressure to handle patient calls. The operators have been empowered by management to ask for backup operators to login and field calls when the operators see the queue is getting backed up. This process could be done automatically but management wants the operators to make the call, not the system, and for good reasons. The backup operators are multi-tasking and their work is less predictable, including time away from their desks doing other tasks.

This is where you need to understand where and when to part ways with Taylorism or some management thinking that's still alive and well today. Reducing the time on calls isn’t necessarily always a good idea. Instead, providing the employee with the necessary tools to make their workflow smoother not only affects the employee but the customer/patient in the way the call (transaction) is handled. Dual-computer screens aren't something new and improved, but to the right workers they can make a huge difference to their daily workflow. The key is discovering the deeper issues that hinder a worker's ability to complete tasks and workflows that are inherently designed with disruptive points that only increase human latency.


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