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• Doug Casterton

# If you can’t build it by hand don't pick up the power tool

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

The modern-day Formula One racing driver understands, to a fairly decent level, the workings, and mechanics of the car being driven. This does not mean they are able to design, engineer, or maintain the car themselves but it does enable the driver to work more effectively with the development and mechanical team, and most importantly it makes them a better racing driver as they know just how to get the best out of the car.

This is no different in WFM! If you can only push the buttons, but don't understand what your WFM system is doing in between the button push and the output, how can you quality check the output?

For example, many would agree that Erlang has become outdated and that it is time for something more advanced to meet the modern complex multi-channel, multi-lingual contact center. However, understanding the Erlang formula, probability, and other variables is a really good way of learning and understanding all of the nuances of WFM Theory. If you understand the in & outs of workload, traffic intensity, shrinkage, you will be able to gain a better grasp of what your current WFM system (or excel model if that is what you are using) is generating in terms of output.

Back in September, I posted the above to cover Vinay's excellent article on the mechanics of the erlang ASA model (follow this link if you have not read that), and the post received some very insightful comments which I believe are worth sharing again.

I once interviewed a candidate that had over 10 years experience in "senior" roles in a WFM team and looked great on paper. Once I asked him to explain the relationship between different service levels and occupancy he looked at me with a blank expression and just said WFM does that for me. Understanding the mechanics and relationships between different metrics is key if you're trying to understand why your actual delivery doesn't match up with your forecasted performance.
I find there's a lot of value in sitting someone down with the most basic Excel based Erlang calculator, explaining what all the various variables are and just let them have an hour to play around changing different variables and observing the results. Anyone that hasn't had the curiosity to try that in a 10 year career isn't the sort of candidate I'm looking for.
If you have not show the curiosity to educate yourselves on the fundamentals of the job (no matter what job) then you clearly do not have passion for it. Passion for what you do, that is the number 1 skill I look for in any candidate for any role.
This has always been a huge frustration of mine when talking to prospective customers looking to deploy a WFM system to replace excel. Many seem to expect the solution to be a magic bullet to solve all of their issues. I have gone to great lengths to explain to them that WFM is a practice and a process and regardless of whether you are using excel or one of the many solutions available, you really do need to understand what you are doing, and what the effect that changing item A then affects B and C etc.
It is critical that those performing the WFM function understand how it all works and fits together. Unfortunately if they don't, regardless of whether they are using excel, or have spent many dollars on a dedicated solution their chance of achieving success will be very limited.
A lot of workforce professionals use their WFM system as the end all be all. You must understand the basics just to gut check. I've experienced systems that are creating skewed outputs due to a behind the scene error. A WFM system is only as good as the data that's captured. Always know how to go 'back to the basics', to find your answer.
This has been and always will be a challenge for us WFM professionals - 1st to understand the mechanism behind the tools used, 2nd to maintain the quality check of the output.