Four Tips for Working with Workforce

Workforce takes operations from ad hoc paper based system or a disconnected collection of GIS features to a systematic flexible and programmable to do list. At its heart there is a focus on keeping work loads simple. That means seeing only the information you need to perform the tasks relevant to you. 

I love this way of working. We all wear different hats from time to time and breaking the workflow down into defined roles helps you simplify a complicated workflow based on what you’re working on at the moment. Workforce does this by making the distinction between ‘Dispatchers’, people who want lots of information, and ‘Workers’, people who just want to know what they need to do. In my experience there is nothing more frustrating to field staff than getting these two paradigms mixed up.

Before workforce the phrase ‘I just want to know what I have to do’ was very common.

Dispatcher view:

Shows all the work currently underway. I’ve logged myself a test job and could log jobs for others to complete. This job will pop up on my IPAD, where I’m logged in as a worker.


Worker view:

Jumping over to a mobile device and I can see the one job logged to me and I can hit the start button to tell the Dispatcher that I’m beginning to work on it.


Once I’ve done that it turns to green on screen and I can see I’ve got no more work to do today. The front end design is clean, and there is no messing around in the field.


That’s all out of the box functionality. Now for the tips and tricks

1# Prepare your Project

You get a choice about what kinds of jobs you want to do. I suggest giving this some thought, they are going to become fields in an attribute table which you can filter on. So if you want to be able to visualize anything particular for your boss or someone you want to wow then do. I am going to do this for jobs picking up ‘E-waste’ because people keep asking me about it and it a time saver to be able to filter for it on the fly.jobtype

ESRI have an app ecosystem which I’m quite liking. I’ve used many of these apps independently, they all have their strengths and weakness, but the ability to like to other apps from within workforce really does tie them together. It means a direct link to navigation features without operations staff having to type in any addresses. That is amazing. It’s the difference between people using your app and not using your app, it’s super valuable. You can also link to collector or survey123 to score real data about whatever it is you’re doing. For me I’ve got pictures of E-Waste which is really useful when people want to know why you’re spending money on collecting trash early. It’s a great visual way of showing off a problem. To configure these app links just expand the App Integration panel and enable them, users will then be able to pass from app to app seamlessly.


2# Designate your Dispatchers and Worker

When developing any application you need support and feedback from your users, but most of all you need them to like and want to use your app. When I first launched Workforce it was seen as confusing because I was talking about Survey123 and Navigator as well. I thought that would be a slam dunk, but no. Introducing too many apps at once was a total fail. I realized my mistake in time and just focused on Survey123 for data collection and waited for them to call me about not being able to find the things too survey. This might seem illogical and backwards but from a user point of view it lets a need develop naturally. This is a timeless strategy for success, find a problem and fix it. You don’t necessarily want to preempt every challenge.

3#Demo your data

Management loves an orderly process and a live demo once you have people using workforce routinely will take your project from the margins to the front stage of any organised operations efforts. Even an elevator pitch can be used if necessary. You can easily automate a data download from ArcGIS to deliver live graphs or statistics on work in progress.

4#Hacking your assignments

Once your project is up and running complexity will inevitably increase as people want more and more work in the system. While this is a compliment, people are finding it easier to work when jobs are on a map, it also makes the dispatchers life hectic. Because workforce is based upon feature services which are fundamentally hackable, we can help ease that burden by automating anything routing with a simple python script. All you need to do is combine some python scripts with windows task scheduler (or cron if you’re a unix type) and hey presto, automated work orders!

You can also use the same process to remove clutter from workforce, something I like to do every Friday, after archiving my data.

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