From Chaos to Clarity: Building a Robust Workload Forecast for Back-Office Operations

Posted by Laura Horton on June 27, 2023

In the world of back-office operations, designing an effective workload forecast is crucial for efficient staff planning and decision-making. A well-designed forecast provides valuable insights into the volume of work coming in, the time required to complete it, and the deadlines these tasks need to be completed by. It serves as a foundation to making various staffing decisions. Additionally, it helps to guide employee development, fill skills gaps, and allows leaders to meet their objective. 

In this blog, we will explore the process of designing a back-office workload forecast.

  1. Vision and Mission: To begin, it’s important to understand the company’s vision, mission and strategy. These statements provide valuable insights into the organization’s current state and company direction. Gathering information about the company’s goals and objectives is a good way to sanity check work priorities and align those with the broader business objectives.
  2. Gathering Documentation and Insight: Next, gather as much relevant documentation as possible. Prepare in advance and make the most of leader’s and subject matter expert’s expertise. During discussions, be sure to capture the following information:
    • Operating practices
    • Work priorities (from highest to lowest)
    • Work that is not captured in the existing system
    • Tasks that require special handling or segregation
    • Service level expectations for each type of work (consider the end-to-end process)
    • Interdependencies with other teams or departments
person writing on white paper

  1. Drafting the Task List: Based on the insights gathered, create a draft task list. The task list should be designed logically and tailored to meet the business needs, but don’t overcomplicate it. Remember that you are building a workload forecast, not a list of reporting requirements.
  2. Analyzing Task List Data:  Ideally, you should have at least six weeks of intraday or daily data to identify intraday patterns and day-of-week trends. To identify seasonal and growth trends, a minimum of 13 months of daily historical data is required. Running trial forecasts using the new task list data will help demonstrate its value to each team. Be on the lookout for volatility or large fluctuations in the volume and then dig into why the fluctuations are happening.
  3. Turn around time:  How do you measure how long it takes to complete tasks in the task list? There are numerous ways in which the data can be collected. Source systems, time and motion studies, 80/20 rule. If using time and motion studies, be sure to utilize middle of the pack workers. The ones who are not your superstars and not your poor performers. Setting a standard for what is expected gives you a good baseline to grow and improve on.
  4. Service level expectations: Most of the work in the back office will come with a goal to complete. Each task type will have different expectations depending on the priority, and importance of the work to be completed.  Be sure that when you present your staffing requirements to leaders that the service level is included.

  1. Validation Workshops: Schedule a workshop where the task list and forecast workload demand are presented for validation. You should present your numbers in terms of volume, workload, and resource requirements. An open forum discussion allows for clarification regarding the task list, task mapping, and forecast details. Be mindful that not has a deep understanding of forecasting and its metrics, so explain the information in a way that can be understood by everyone. Encourage participants to challenge the insights and provide their input. This calibration process draws out missed information and outliers which improve the forecast process and to build trust. Make sure to allow sufficient time for participants to digest and reflect on the presented information.
  2. It’s time to get sign-off: Implement the pilot team with the finalized forecast. Take the time to get everything right, as gaps or omissions will quickly become apparent and could generate a lot of rework.
  3. Replicate the process from Step 2 for each team, considering the complexity of their specific operations. Following these steps diligently will result in a valid and usable forecasting task list, building confidence in achieving forecasting goals.

In conclusion, designing a robust workload forecast for back-office operations is a critical step in optimizing staff planning and resource utilization. At Call Design, we are committed to helping contact centers and back-office operations overcome challenges and drive positive change within their organizations. Stay tuned for the next instalment in our three-part blog series, where we will continue to explore WFM back-office tips and best practices. Contact us today to learn how we can partner with you in achieving your business outcomes and empowering your workforce. Together, let’s unlock the full potential of your operations and create a happy, engaged, and aligned work environment.