2013 Mobilizer Awards Innovation

By  Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor & Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — November 04, 2013


Founded in 1909, ABM started as a window washing company. Today, in addition to janitorial and facility services, the company offers building and security solutions, as well as electrical, lighting and power solutions. ABM employs 115,000 individuals.
The service business, regardless of industry or culture, is often defined as “obsequious hoop jumpers compelled to provide consistent delivery amidst a sea of variables,” said Greg Lush, Senior Vice President, Learning, Quality, Innovation, ABM. Lush learned that when he was a field technician himself, back when metal clipboards and paper were common, and employees often tried to find a payphone to call the home office.
Driven to ensure that personnel always have what they need to exceed client expectations, ABM deployed the Unified Workforce (UW) activity management system. Its goals were to provide access to work order data, reduce employee attrition and increase contract revenue.
The many vertical markets served by ABM required different types of work order management systems.  UW provides a common web-based access to work order data, regardless of content origin, and the use of a common mobile application for field personnel, regardless of how many work order systems are feeding the service buss. 
ABM needed a scalable and elastic cloud-based solution, one with a utility-based licensing model. (That is “use more water, pay more money.”) A client or server-access model would not be acceptable, because 300K individuals might be in the system in total, but subcontractors might be in only once or twice a year. In addition, the ability to work off-line was essential.
Deployment began in early December. Key components include Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Visual Studio, SiteCore, Vimeo, Microsoft Silverlight and Maximo. The UI is HTML5/CSS/JavaScript using local storage, indexDB. The UI acts as a wrapper around applications surfaced in Unified Workforce.
Four Microsoft partners took part in the initial configuration and design, including Microsoft Consulting Services. The core design is modeled after Windows 8. “We did things no one ever had ever done. Redmond had to send experienced employees to assist,” Lush said. In fact, they sent over Windows Phone and Xbox experts to help create the user experience. The result? “It is absolutely gorgeous,” said Lush. “It looks like a Microsoft product.”
Having a true operating system and browser agnostic user interface allows access by anyone on virtually any device.
In addition, the Social Dispatch function is a unique feature that allows qualified workers to pull work orders based on their “social standing” scores. Lush dubbed it a “very sophisticated Angie’s List for the enterprise.” Those with the highest score (points are accumulated or decreased daily based on 150 variables such as completed work orders, assessed skill levels, etc.) are the first to be notified regarding nearby opportunities. Not only does the system act as a behavioral modification tool, but provides freedom of choice to the worker and shows the company a snapshot of employee productivity.
The flexibility of UW can extend far past matching the best resource to the work activity.  Clients may use the UW platform while under contract with ABM, to assist them in managing their own services.  Extending the use of UW allows ABM teams to create an “elite” offering.
UW projects a 15% increase in revenue and a 5% higher win rate and reduction in the sales cycle.
Lush also noted that retaining talent in the industry has been challenging given the rate of retiring employees and decreasing rate of students interested in this specialized occupation. However, UW projects a 5% reduction in employee attrition by allowing employees to perform work in areas or markets in addition to their own. 
For someone who has seen the service industry evolve over the years, where does he think it’s going next? “The convergence of scarce labor resources and abundant points of data will create new demand for future service organizations,” Lush replied. “Value will be determined not by a work day; but, instead by our ability to deliver discrete activity based service.  Prosperity will come to those that have become adept at community-based governance and continuous empowerment.”


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