The Importance of Systems, Processes and Tools Relating to Workforce Resilience
Over the past 5 years at Scoop, we have focused on building a mobile, cloud-based software that equips in-the-field solar teams to efficiently execute defined workflows in a way that is connected, in real time back to the team in the office. Today, with the global health crisis reaching pandemic stages, we are spending a lot of time thinking about how organizations and teams will need to become more resilient when facing challenges like physical workforce disconnection, displacement or long-term illness/care-taking.
How the Crisis is Likely to Affect Your Solar Workforce
Normally with the whole team at the office, it is easy to verbally communicate on new sales opportunities, proposals, designs, documents and projects. This casual form of coordination stops working when some or many team members are not at the office, leading to confusion, loss of direction and momentum.
Emails, shared drives and messaging apps can help but the challenge with these tools is two-fold: a) the time it takes to establish context and b) the information scatter / loss of big picture that ensues.
The recurring cost of establishing and re-establishing context
Think back to when you needed to email or text a colleague about an issue related to one of your projects. You probably hadto dedicate half of your message to explaining which client, which aspect of the installation, the history and other details before getting to explaining the actual present issue. Often if the problem is complex enough you might have had to spend time finding and attaching, then explaining additional details referencing pictures, drawings and documents.
Although inefficient, this can work in the early days of most solar companies. With a small team it is possible for everyone to maintain a mental map of context, status and progress. However, as solar companies grow the tools introduced along the way require establishing and re-establishing context in an increasingly complex and disconnected system.
Information scatter & exponential complexity
Situations can quickly get very complicated, especially when multiple team members and often outside contractors are involved and when follow-up tasks need to be organized and tracked through to resolution including any additional issues or questions that may crop up along the way. What happens when a new person needs to be looped in on the evolving discussions? Some communication and some documents / pictures may have been cc’d but perhaps not all? How do you manage if there hasn’t been 100% compliance to the tools and workflows that have naturally evolved with the company’s growth. Some people have one version of the document, while others another version or none at all.
Fact is, these complexities are also present under normal conditions when everyone is at the office but, whereas before a casual conversation or a meeting 2 or 3 times a day could have helped things remain manageable, in the absence of this personal contact, things can spiral out of control very quickly.
The silver lining: as unpleasant, concerning and disruptive the current situation is with the looming pandemic, it presents an opportunity for some, and a forcing function for others, to re-examine work processes, data collection and access, document management, team communication and problem solving methods. All with an eye to increase efficiency and resilience.
While no one can exactly predict where the current crisis will end and the full impact, two points are for certain a) Given the interconnected nature of today’s world this won’t be the last disruption and b) Given the outsized (64%+) proportion that “soft costs” (inefficiencies & overhead) occupy in the overall cost of a PV system, re-thinking your processes and increasing efficiency will help your business be more competitive and resilient regardless of whether we are in a crisis or not or whether we are in a bull or bear market.