End-to-end planning is a colossal opportunity and we’re inviting planning pioneers to join this network and shape the future of planning together. You can’t grasp the big chances if you are just planning in a silo and COVID-19 has opened new areas for change. We’ve had the license and need to do things that may have seemed impossible before. Organisational strategy will be urgently changing, given the economic impact, as we come into the ‘new normal’. Are we ready to grow, desperate to get steady, needing to drastically cut back or looking to fill a gap left by firms that didn’t make it?
The future of planning
This brings into sharp focus the potential for planning and we need to think end-to-end as we’ve seen with the NHS. While the front-line takes much applause, there are so many other factors that enable them to do their fantastic job, not least logistics around supplies. The front line in many of our organisations have big supply or fulfilment chains and external partners. In field operations, we need to plan for tools, equipment, materials, vehicles, permissions etc. To plan in a joined-up way we will both build on crystallised knowledge, from the last 20 years, and transform it, as end-to-end thinking shapes our workforce and wellbeing strategies and brings new ideas back into contact centre planning. We need to work side-to-side across an organisation, building consistent planning principles and data. Look at where one area impacts another, across channels or by blending and cross-skilling. Look at your operations from a customer perspective, modelling end-to-end journeys and joining up the tasks, touchpoints, handoffs and dependencies that contribute to an overall customer experience.
What is an end-to-end plan?
What should it look like? What will it help us do differently? As we go into new areas, don’t just replicate what you do now, but evaluate new scenarios and create the right operating model to support your strategy. At the start of the Planning Cycle, begin with strategic analyses, budget alignment and baseline your current operating model. Don’t plan in siloes, optimising each bit in isolation. Learn from teams in our standards benchmarking. RSA (pg 28), are making strategic planning more lean, agile and connected. At LV= (pg 26) the new planning proposition has been driven by System Thinking and a clear purpose. At Sky (pg 30), pioneering new approaches for Field, there’s a massive commercial focus across the business and capacity for innovation in the planning team.
Capacity: supply vs demand
If you haven’t got a joined-up capacity model, now is the time to build one. Spend lots of time talking with people, so that you understand exactly how things are done in their world. You need to understand an end-to-end process before you can plan for it. At a science research organisation, there was much information in people’s heads or notebooks. This needed teasing out, with careful questioning and discussion. Never assume a word is used in the same way as you might use it. ‘Paid time’ turned out to give information about resource utilisation. As a planning pioneer, be clear about the information you need for capacity planning, across the whole planning cycle. Explain this effectively, discuss assumptions and help stakeholders understand what data could validate or challenge these. Remember, you won’t need all that information from the outset. Interactive, assumption-based, ‘what-if’ models can generate a huge amount of understanding, when starting work in a new area or sharing learning with other departments or organisations.
Proving the concept
Be careful to avoid creating something that doesn’t have an audience. End-to-end planning requires buy-in from the very top and if you don’t have this yet, you need to build credibility step-by-step. A proof of concept can help hugely, to show what people are not currently seeing and how you can help them with this. This is a common challenge across many sectors, either as an organisation not used to customer planning or a function outside the contact centre. In one field operation, the training plan aligned to nothing before planning got involved. Nobody picked up that a lot of training attendees failed to attend and needed rebooking. Often there’s a huge amount of failure, but its invisible because it’s not measured, and no-one sits down to talk about why it is failing.
As planners we can start by talking to people and joining up the conversation. In an insurance company, where planning was new to the account management teams, there was little planning structure, it was impossible to see the wood for the trees and forecasting demand was a good first step. You often need an external perspective to help you find the way out of the woods, people who have seen it done before. In housing, this proved a real eye opener, when some illustrative ‘what-if’ models demonstrated how the business was actually working end-to-end. This can be hugely valuable to business leaders. Look for practical things that get people thinking and an audience who can use this.
Tackling data challenges
If there’s been little or no resource planning, data will have been collected for a different purpose, which is why it has an unfamiliar name, but there is always data about some things. Equally, it’s good to know where there is no data, as giving visibility here is a potential ‘quick win’. In gathering data, there are usually many obstacles to overcome. With legacy systems you often need to build a data-layer on top. With handoffs, you may need to set up data capture, as people may never have thought about this before.
Corporate teams like HR, training, sales and finance have often never counted things around their demand drivers, especially if they have been supply-led (we do what we can with the people we’ve got). The ‘devil is in the detail’, but in these areas more detail becomes confusing and a high-level, assumption-based ‘what-if’ model is the better place to start, as it builds understanding more quickly. Data can be very system dependent and sometimes you need to invest a lot of time to make progress — even more than technology spend. More generally, a data glossary and data dictionary are key tools for making information usable. Data, when you get it, is often a real catalyst for change in how you plan.
Planners as consultants
Getting started is the hardest part and you need the right skills to succeed as an end-to-end pioneer. You need to be not just technical, but also an advocate, to break down siloes. You have to really understand how the business works. You can be easily ignored, until you prove value. External experts can help to start the change, as they will have experience to share from elsewhere. We need the confidence to go into new areas knowing that the core planning principles apply really well and that our work can be totally transformational.
In fact, it is remarkable how much similarity planning pioneers see in most stages of the planning cycle across very different types of operation, especially strategic budget planning and operational readiness or effectiveness. There are differences, of course, and the language we use, the expectations of stakeholders and the details of operating models are diverse and challenging in different ways. This is why it’s a great opportunity for experienced planners looking to pioneer work in new areas.
Top Tips for End-to-End Planning
- Understand your organisation from a customer perspective. Model end-to-end journeys: tasks, touchpoints, handoffs and dependencies.
- Deepen your knowledge of how the organisation works. How do support areas enable the front-line to deliver? Plan for this.
- Identify what drives both customer interactions and internal process. Use this as a basis for your forecasting. Forecast for support areas too.
- Build credibility in your plans and join up conversations. Show how your plan creates opportunities to drive improvement.
- Use end-to-end planning as a catalyst for your workforce strategy: supply vs demand, skills, flexibility, home-working & site strategies.
This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge
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