A Field Service Management System
Software to Scale an Employee-Governed Shop
The employee-owners say that the new software system
“provides consistency and structure”;
“allows workers to transition to owners by seeing the overall business through day-to-day recorded actions and interactions”;
“ helps unify our internal processes”;
“we now have a sales pipeline”’
and not least of all, “gets information out of the founder’s head, and into a shared system.”
An employee-owned electrical contractor from Pacific Electric Worker-Owned Cooperative came to Jocelyn for assistance choosing and implementing a field-service management system for their shop that would enable them to continue on a trajectory of fast-paced growth. Jocelyn first took the time to walk in each team member’s shoes–riding in the work vans to visit parts suppliers and job sites with the foremen and project managers. She also worked alongside the electricians and administrative staff, pitching in and watching their work processes and how they used their existing software tools. She observed their communication patterns with each other and customers and interviewed each team member to inquire specifically about their ideas for improving the company–not just its efficiency and profitability, but also its working conditions and rapport. She also asked them about their own career goals and what they hoped to contribute to the company.
What emerged from the needs and business process analysis was a set of user stories that showed the company needed a classic software system designed specifically for construction companies. But it also evidenced Pacific Electric’s unique structure as a union shop and worker-owned cooperative. Because everyone who had been on the team for at least three months was an owner or prospective owner, it didn’t make sense to sequester information. The shop needed a field-service management system that maximized team member access to both logistical and strategic information, from scheduling and the status of projects to the profitability of projects and the length of the sales cycle. Furthermore, Pacific Electric’s composition as a cooperative meant that time tracking needed to include tracking hours toward ownership eligibility. Unlike most construction firms, the ownership culture and youth of the leadership meant that the staff did not convene for administrative and management work in a central office. Instead, they gathered for ad hoc meetings and conference calls while out in the field or based at their homes and coffee shops. Therefore, they needed a web-based system that would work well on tablets and phones.
Equipped with a budget and the freedom to negotiate with vendors, Jocelyn evaluated the leading field-service management systems for contractors and also considered free and low-cost project management tools not designed specifically for the construction industry. She recommended a fast-growing software startup, My360e, based out of a more established web development firm that fit Pacific Electric’s technical needs, but just as importantly, had compatible values and accessible training and support. The price was right for the software alone, but My360e’s owner, Joe Rohan, offered a wealth of free advice on business processes and bidding based on his observations of other electrical contracting firms around the country.
Jocelyn led Pacific Electric through a six-month onboarding process. The team was enthusiastic about the software choice because they were able to participate in the choice and saw how it fit their goal for growth with transparency. Joe reported that Pacific Electric’s onboarding was the fastest and most complete he had ever seen among his customers. Jocelyn’s deliverables included that someone from Pacific Electric’s team would be capable of using and training others on each of needed components of the software. Pacific Electric now has an independent support relationship with My360e and is not dependent on Proficia for understanding and using the software.