Work orders keep tens of millions of American workers in utilities, facilities management, HVAC, and other field services on track every day.  “Work order management” refers to a company’s set of processes and procedures for handling work orders, from creation to completion.  A work order management tool is a system or platform that a company uses to streamline, automate, or enhance work order management processes.  These tools can be critical resources for businesses looking to accelerate workflow, eliminate human error, and increase productivity.

According to a 2013 study by Broaddus and Associates, companies that shifted from paper to digital documents experienced a 9 percent reduction in processing time.  That’s 9 percent more time every workday to focus on more important objectives.  And that doesn’t even take into account the multitude of other features many work order management systems offer.  But how should managers and supervisors select the ideal tool for their operation?  Here, we offer some methods for narrowing down your search for the ideal work order management tool.

Compare Work Order Management System Functionalities

Work order management systems (WOMS) are all about visibility and access.  As the head of your operation, you want a work order management tool that allows you and your field team to access work orders from anywhere, on a variety of devices.  But there are other features to keep an eye out for when selecting a WOMS.  You want a system that enables your team to access as much information as possible about those work orders.

Look for a WOMS that include customer histories, parts descriptions, and even information and instructions tailored to specific tasks.  The best work order management tools are sophisticated platforms that deliver more than just end-to-end work order visibility. They should also provide the details and information to ensure those work orders are executed with proficiency and confidence.

Transitioning from paper to digital work orders is great—an essential step in modernizing your operation and increasing its efficiency.  But you also want to be looking for how integrated those digital work orders are with other aspects of your operation.  Because the more information you can equip your techs with, the higher your first-time fix rate, productivity, and customer satisfaction will rise.

Learn more about effective work order management with our blog, The Work Order Management Process Explained.

Consider Learning Curve and Interface

Look for a WOMS that include customer histories, parts descriptions, and even information and instructions tailored to specific tasks.  The best work order management tools are sophisticated platforms that deliver more than just end-to-end work order visibility.

There are dozens of work order management tools out there, and none are exactly alike.  When deciding on the perfect one for your operation, you’ll want to consider two aspects of the technology that don’t always spring to mind: learning curve and interface.  The learning curve dictates how quickly you and your team can pick up the tool’s functionalities.  You’ll likely find your team more willing to embrace systems with lower learning curves than more complex platforms.  Learning curve and ease of use are critical to successful implementation.  Select software that requires too much adoption time and you run the risk of frustration and pushback from employees.

A work order management tool’s dashboard, display, and visual arrangement of features are all part of its interface.  Operations chiefs should look for simple, intuitive interfaces that are aesthetically pleasing and practical.  A WOMS’s interface not only influences its learning curve; it can also affect how willing techs are to utilize the technology.  Just like with websites, software programs, and computer applications, look, feel, and overall presentation matter.  Search for a work order management tool you think your team will explore without being confused or intimidated.

Think About How You Want Your Operation to Change

The impact of a WOMS can be subtle or substantial.  Before acquiring a work order management tool, you’ll want to seriously consider how you want it to shape, reconfigure, or transform your operation.  Some software focuses exclusively on processing work orders.  Operations heads looking for more multifaceted software can go in a variety of directions.

If you want more fluid, responsive communications between field techs, dispatchers, and managers, consider a WOMS with geomapping and dynamic routing.  If you’re looking to overhaul how your business oversees parts and equipment, look for software that includes inventory management.  Work order management software can be a one-dimensional tool or a Swiss Army knife.  Carefully decide how you want your operation to change—whether through communications, efficiency, accountability, or technological adoption—and look for a WOMS that supports those transformational goals.

Considering bringing on a vendor to assist with enacting changes? Vendor Evaluation: Ask These 5 Questions Before the Job Begins

Decide What Supplemental Features Matter Most to Your Business

One of the most important methods for narrowing down prospective platforms is establishing the functionalities that matter most to you.  At their simplest, work order management tools process work orders through a digital database.  Managers, field techs, and back-office personnel can access that database and those work orders from almost anywhere.  Employees can add, modify, and update work orders in a streamlined fashion that can easily outperform paper-based systems.  But after that, work order management tools can vary dramatically in terms of capabilities and features.

Managers that put a high premium on field visibility and workflow flexibility should look for a WOMS with dynamic routing and advanced mapping capabilities.  Managers and dispatchers can use real-time mapping to see where their field service engineers (FSEs) are and assign work orders based on location and availability.  Operations chiefs overseeing sophisticated field assets, meanwhile, may want to look for a platform that supports automated maintenance scheduling.  These systems establish preventative maintenance measures that can extend asset longevity.  Other platforms feature cutting-edge data visualizations and metrics reporting.  Managers eager to embrace the big data revolution and reshape their business according to the latest industry analytics may want to consider software with top-level statistical reporting.

Managers that put a high premium on field visibility and workflow flexibility should look for a WOMS with dynamic routing and advanced mapping capabilities.  Managers and dispatchers can use real-time mapping to see where their field service engineers (FSEs) are and assign work orders based on location and availability

Download the Ultimate Guide to Work Order Management by EnSight Plus

Conclusion

Work order management tools are rapidly evolving the way field service professionals simplify workflow, automate tasks, and streamline logistics. Transitioning from paper to digital work orders is only the tip of the iceberg.  To find the WOMS that’s right for your operation, carefully research your options and the specific functionalities they offer.

Shifting your operation onto one of these platforms can be as transformative—or as unintrusive—as you want it to be. Analyze the marketplace and establish the features you’re looking for.  Eventually, you’ll pinpoint the right platform for your business.

We encourage you to visit our EnSight+ page to learn more about the work order management tool’s range of practical, interconnected features and how they can elevate your operation.

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