How to build an effective sectorization

 Apr 16, 2019

Photo credits: Leio Mclaren - Unsplash

The performance of mobile teams (sales force, logistics, installation or maintenance) will depend to a large extent on the quality of the sectorization. In effect, the way a defined territory of action is assigned to each mobile resource or team will determine how efficient operations on the ground will be, and, as a result condition the ability of the various actors to achieve their objectives. ‘Agreed’, you will be saying, but how can we be sure to create a ‘good’ territory breakdown? Which criteria will we need to take into consideration? Where do we start?

Start from the existing situation, or harness a particular strategy?

Whether you are seeking to balance customer portfolios, assign prospection territories, distribute workloads or define delivery zones, you will always have recourse to two possible approaches:

  • Start from a known quantity that is to say the current realities for the organisation: its operations and financial results. It’s important to clearly identify weak points in the existing structure and objectify the constraints – geographic, financial and/or social – you have to take into account to build a new, more efficient, but also more realistic sectorization.
  • Start with your strategy and work backwards: this ensures the result will better serve your strategic priorities, and the constraints inherent to your business, your resources and the territories concerned, will be part and parcel of the plan.

In practice, your sectorization work will have to be an exercise of iterating possible solutions that fall within the extremes of these two points of view: the existing scenario on the one hand, because you are certainly starting from a point you can describe and characterise (even if you have decided to make a clean break with the past and start with a clean slate); on the other hand, the strategic vision, because that is what inspires and justifies the search for the optimum territory breakdown, whether it is a question of creating something new or reworking an existing scheme.

An exercise in analysis and iteration, with some mapping help

A cartographic representation of your activity will allow you to objectify the analysis of the existing scenario. A map of your sales sectors showing exact customer locations immediately shows how well the market is covered, and whether the number of customers in each sector is roughly equivalent. Importing turnover data by sector into this map, you will immediately see if there are imbalances between the sectors. Importing data for time spent on the road by your mobile resources, any imbalances will show up, and may provide explanations of why some resources are not managing to achieve the expected number of visits.

If you tackle the exercise from the other end of the problem, mapping will be just as helpful. As we like to say at GEOCONCEPT, mapping is the best way to always keep sight of the geographic dimension of your business: how it is rooted in the physical world in effect and mapping your most important ally . For example, if your priority is to reduce intervention times for emergency breakdown teams, you will manage far more quickly on a map than by manipulating data in a spreadsheet to work out the optimum number of sectors to create taking into account a number of dedicated resources assigned to interventions, their departure points, and the territory to cover.

Calculating simple indicators that qualify situations (average, median, deviation, variation coefficient…) and then mapping all these values that quantify the workings of your business (number of customers and staff, volume of sales, potential revenue, distances, number of interventions…) will provide you with most of the information you need for an in-depth analysis of an existing sectorization, so you can understand the imbalances, and analyse the impact of any alterations planned to achieve the objectives you are setting as priority targets.

The four dimensions you need to take into account

Every sectorization exercise depends on simultaneous optimization of four dimensions covering each of the criteria and indicators that define the territory and business activity concerned.

1/ Balance. A good sectorization is above all a balanced sectorization. Balance is the top consideration for a sectorization to be accepted, adopted and respected by staff. This means that your sectors must be equivalent in terms of potential, comparable in workload, equitable in terms of distances to be travelled…. For a more finely tuned result, these balancing variables benefit from being weighted, for example to take the value of customers or the times needed for visits into account.

2/ Travel. Whatever the mobile business, judicious sector definition involves taking travel into account. This means being sure that each member of staff will not be at any disadvantage due to having to spend more time travelling than their colleagues.

3/ Geography. We would naturally aim to design sectors for action and intervention that are as compact as possible, drawing possibly on administrative boundaries (towns, districts, departments) but above all taking the topography into account along with the quality and density of the road network. It goes without saying that travel in a sector that is 80% mountainous will be more difficult and less rapid than in a sector spread over level ground. A sectorization taking the ‘invisible’ barriers – both cultural and psychological – into consideration will also be better accepted: a technician living in the urban part of Toulouse will always be disinclined to be based in an agency located at Bordeaux…

4/ History. Most sectorization projects do not start with a blank page. When embarking on a new creation or a total redesign, the human dimension, the relational past, customer knowledge, and accumulated experience by certain staff members must all be taken into consideration as potentially valuable assets. If a longstanding relationship of trust exists already between a customer and a resource, it may be wise to preserve this at all costs, rather than to rigidly insist on starting again on a new footing.

Are you thinking to yourself that this is all a bit more complex than you had expected? Be reassured: firstly, your organisation already possesses most of the data needed for this exercise; secondly, we have the expertise and the tools to exploit these data and help you build the sectorization that will best serve your objectives.




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