The standard Microsoft Dynamics NAV service module seems to support—at least—two different roles when it comes to managing service orders:
(a) A sales and/ or service contact person creates a service order including some basic information such as customer name, service item(s) and associated SLA (response date).
(b) The dispatcher then is to assign these service orders to service technicians and to plan for the time that working on these service items should take.
A visual scheduling solution tailored towards the service module should support the day-to-day work of the service dispatcher. There are at least two different kinds of information which are relevant to him:
Which are the service orders that are not yet allocated to a service technician? How urgent are they and are there any SLAs with the customer in terms of response time?
What are the schedules of the service technicians? When are they “booked” to be at a customer? Who of them is available to take an urgent task? How will their schedule change if tasks are moved?
A proper visual scheduling solution should therefore combine a visual representation of the service schedule for all service technicians with a view on the yet unassigned service orders. There are actually two types of views that I recommend taking into account – depending on the definition of priorities of the dispatcher and the underlying business need.
If the SLA and meeting the response date is the key concern, I recommend working with a two Gantt chart view. This view should actually show two Gantt charts on one screen: In an upper Gantt chart, the Dynamics NAV user should see the service tasks schedule for every service resource with the bar color indicating the priority of the service order. In a lower Gantt chart, the user should see the not yet allocated service orders or the service item lines, respectively. A symbol should indicate the response time. The timelines of both Gantt charts should always be synchronized and the user must be enabled to drag & drop service item lines from lower Gantt chart to upper Gantt chart. When service orders or the service items lines are allocated to the (upper Gantt) service staff schedule, the dispatcher should have the capability to change the duration of the service task by simple mouse actions. Likewise, he must be able to move service tasks from one technician to another. A sample visual schedule applying the "two Gantt chart view" is shown below.
However, meeting SLAs and keeping response dates is not always the highest priority in any service organization. I also am aware of cases, in which the dispatcher’s key concern is to achieve best possible resource utilization. In that case, I recommend a combined Gantt and tree chart view.
As before, the Gantt chart should show the service task schedule for every service resource. Due to the fact that SLAs no longer are key priority, the second Gantt chart should be skipped: Not yet allocated service orders should be shown as list right to Gantt chart; or better: as a tree-structure list which is sorted by priority and/ or response date. This type of screen set-up then frees some space for a histogram below the Gantt chart which allows the user to see the resource utilization for resources and resource groups. In a view like this, the user can drag & drop service item lines from the tree chart/ task list into the Gantt chart. Of course, he should still be able to move service items lines vertically, i.e. from one resource to another and to interactively change the duration of service tasks.
By click on a resource or resource group, the Dynamics NAV user sees the resource utilization as histogram below the Gantt chart. This helps him to immediately understand the impact changes in the service schedule will have on the overall resource utilization. The below screenshot illustrates this alternative visual service scheduling view.
A proper visual service scheduling solution should also facilitate some advanced interactions on top of the drag & drop changes: The dispatcher user should have the option to cancel already allocated service orders from the service schedule and let them appear again in the “not yet allocated” area. Likewise, the user should be enabled to split service order allocations and separately manage and schedule the individual bars in the dispatch board.
Hence, when designing or looking for a visual service scheduling product to be used within Microsoft Dynamics NAV, please make sure that you follow an approach that:
Is based on the unchanged standard NAV service and resource planning module.
Provides different views supporting different dispatcher’s priorities (SLAs vs. resource utilization).
Enables users to allocate service orders to service staff, change and cancel allocations, and split service orders.
Works with intelligent, context-sensitive visual alerts.
Supports the service dispatcher coping with his day-to-day job.
Want to learn more about Dynamics NAV visual scheduling? Read our complementary Ebook "Introduction to Visual Scheduling for Microsoft Dynamics NAV".