I always have this need to call the Service Calendar the ‘Resource Scheduler’ and I don’t know why. This is not a bad description though, it does schedule resources, with a resource being whatever you want it to be and having the ability to schedule it for whenever you want.. providing it’s within business hours, not while the business is closed, whilst the specified resources are available and have the capacity to fulfill your request, and of course, that the resources qualified to perform your service are not on holiday, the specified equipment is available, and the equipment and the resource are at the same site at the same time. Sound a lot? Not really, not for the inbuilt Scheduler in CRM 2015 (and previous versions..) which comes standard, out of the box with no need to customise. Depending on how much you want to use it, it only needs setting up and configuring.
Unfortunately this is what gets a lot of people lost and confused. The Service Calendar does SO many things and it can be very easily overwhelming. The main thing to remember is you might not need it all. Just because you can have it doesn’t mean you should have it. Having it all may over complicate things, make things harder for you and most importantly take more time than seems worth it. Resulting in you giving up using this amazing functionality all together.
This post is part of a two-part series. The first one is to introduce you to the functionality and show you just how simple it can be. I recommend you initially use it this way so you get more comfortable with scheduling resources, setting up services and such. The second part will take a deep dive into the depths of the functionality and show you how you can make the automation engine of the service scheduler bend to your will by taking note of business closures, introduce equipment, capacities and customer preferences to name a few.
Introduction to the Service Calendar
Navigate to the Service Calendar from your dashboard by going to ‘Service’ and then ‘Service Calendar’ The screen you should land on will resemble very closely to the screenshot below. Don’t click on anything just yet, lets deconstruct this page first so you are familiar with it’s purpose and the functionality in each section.
The main purpose of this screen is to give you a birds eye view of the week, day or month by displaying booked in ‘Service Activities’ and ‘Appointments’ for ‘Resources’. The result is you can then easily see who is looking sparse in terms of workload and who is booked up for the next month.
- To the left you have your resource list. Your most likely going to see Users here first, but the default view is called ‘Resource’ which you can see just above this list under ‘Type: Resource’. When you add them you’ll actually be able to see Facilities/Equipment under this view also (you’ll notice this in a few later screenshots). This is a system view that lets you change what you see, and the second view is a filter based on the selected ‘Type’ – very similar to how Queues are.
- To the right of the Resource List we have the actual interactive Calendar which is split into hours or days depending on the current display of month, week or day.
- To the far right you have the Calendar selector where you can click individual days in the month or select between ‘Month’ ‘Week’ or ‘Day’ to change the main Calendar in the center of the screen
- At the bottom left and right (sort of like a footer) you’ll see a ‘From: XX/XX/XXXX‘ and ‘To: XX/XX/XXXX‘ selector – this is another way of filtering the Calendar. You will also notice in the center footer there is Zoom functionality for the Calendar.
What is a Service Activity?
The Service Calendar shows Appointments and Service Activities. Appointments are just Appointment Activities that we all know and love however Service Activities are a special type of activity whose purpose is to be used with Services and the Calendar.
A Service Activity can be viewed as a Job. A Job has a specified requirement e.g. Walk the Cat, it is on a particular day and time, it has a certain duration, it is for somebody (customer), it is at a location (site), and you may require certain equipment and people to help you do the job (Resources). These are the details a Service Activity records. Its very very close to a task but it’s not, its much more formal.
What is a Service?
The Service Activity has a lookup to ‘Service’ which is an entity in itself. A Service is something that a company sells or performs as part of what they do, they provide it as a ‘Service’. An example can be ‘Maintenance on a Bike’ or ‘Consultancy’. There are no rules at how broad or how specific you have to be to set it up as a ‘Service’ in CRM, it can be anything and should be anything. It also doesn’t have to be performed by a person, it can be performed by a machine/tool also (Facility/Equipment). An example is below where I have created a service for CRMCAT where they offer a cat walking service.
When a Service is set up you name it and specify what the ‘Initial Status Reason’ is. You have a few options here and I normally just go for Pending or Reserved but you’ll notice you have a lot to choose from and it really depends on how many people in your organisation plan on using this. 10 People could be in-charge of resourcing through multiple departments so it may be best to go with ‘Requested’ until it’s been confirmed and then it’ll have to be updated e.g to ‘Reserved’. Don’t think too much about this for now, again it’s best not to over complicate it’s use – if it’s 1 person using it and you go through all the statuses for each service activity it’ll be a full time job changing statuses, which it doesn’t need to be. Saying that, being smart about it’s use could lead to some pretty cool dashboards and views.. it is definitely worth putting together some use cases and business process flow diagrams for your organisation so this can happen.
Add a default duration and when the activity starts every interval, finally when it begins on a daily basis (though this is not required, the scheduling engine ignores this*). It’s important to remember that some time scaling is done through the resource’s ‘Hours’ which can be accessed through the Resource’s record and click on ‘Work Hours’. (e.g. User card > Work Hours) – See the screenshot below. Though bear in mind the timing is also influenced by Business Hours and a Resources Service Restrictions also which we will cover in the next post.
On the Service form, you’ll notice a section at the bottom called ‘Required Resources’ which looks unfamiliar. This is a set of rules to be configured for this service and is used by the scheduling tool, so when your reading ‘Choose from..?’ it may sound weird, but these are a set of rules for the scheduler to follow. Think about it from a code perspective and it will make a lot more sense – ‘Choose <Quantity> from <Where> from <X>, <Y>, <Z> Resources.’ The first bit is the Selection Rule (Where to select from and how many) and from what pool of Resources.
When you create your first Service, make it simple. Select the blue text to configure and keep the Quantity to 1 and select ‘Any Site’. Select ‘Add Resources’ and add in at least one User. I’m going on the assumption you have not made any Equipment, Resource Groups, or started adding capacities which we will cover in the second post. Save and Close your new Service.
Using the Toolbar on the Service Calendar Screen
Go back to the Service Calendar and check out the toolbar at the top of the screen under the main blue Navigation. You’ll notice from left to right ‘Service Activity’ and ‘Appointment’ which will just create the selected records. To be able to take advantage of the automation engine in finding a time for a service, select Schedule. (Highlighted in purple on the screenshot below)
Other items in the toolbar from left to right from ‘Schedule’ include ‘Reschedule’ where you can reschedule an existing service activity providing you have one selected in the Calendar, ‘Change Status‘ which changes status of the Service Activity (Remember when I said this can become more of a full time job – A Service has a ‘Default Status’ which gets copied into the Service Activity but this can be changed. It can then be changed constantly given the progress of the Service Activity depending on who is using the system, whether that is the scheduler or the schedulee.) Next to this there is ‘Conflicts’ which checks the Calendar for any Service Activities that have (overlap) conflicting times and ‘Send Direct Mail’ allows you to send an email from a defined template to the Customer of the Service Activity (only, not appointments), an error occurs if you have no Customer defined in your Service Activity.
Using the Scheduler to Schedule in a Service
From selecting ‘Schedule’ in the toolbar of the Service Calendar page, depending on your connection speed, it will first appear that it will open a blank Service Activity record only, but wait. It opens something else as well on top of the Service Activity which is the Scheduling Engine.
This really is mainly a Service Activity form, it just has a few differences (aside from looking better). You’ll notice only two mandatory fields which are Service and Duration. Duration is read only anyway if you have ‘Use Default Duration’ selected which is automatically checked on open of the page. Go ahead and select your Service you created in the first step in the ‘Service’ Lookup. Without selecting anything else, select the button ‘Find Available Times’
The automation will have gone away and listened to your rules you created in the service and the result will be a list of all the resources available to perform that service in the small view with the label ‘Available Times’. Select one in the list and Click ‘Schedule’ in the bottom right corner. The end result is your Service Activity form will be prepopulated with the detail you selected. Enter a Subject and you can now Save and Close this and see it appear in your Calendar.
If you don’t believe in the powers of scheduler, then set up a Service which is a particular user, and see if it picks up the user that isn’t specified for the service. It is noteworthy to mention you don’t have to use the Scheduler to schedule in a Service Activity and it can be done manually which is perfectly fine.
*An important point to make is you may have noticed my service ‘Walking the Cat’ started at 9am, however I managed to schedule it for 8am. This is because the Resource was available. It doesn’t prioritise (or actually care about) when the Service can start which is a really important point to make – it allows you to override this. (You’ll notice it is not mandatory on the Service Form). – it pays attention to your ‘Requested Time’ in the Scheduler (Business Hours, User’s Work Hours and Service Restrictions) more.
In the next post I’ll cover Business Hours, Capacity, Facilities and Equipment, Resources Groups, Work Hours and Service Restrictions which adds a lot more depth & intelligence to the Service Scheduler.
Any questions please feel free to post them in the comments below & I’ll do my best to help!