The VA Fiasco – Listen Up Interpreter Scheduling Professionals

dept-of-veterans-affairs.jpgYou may or may not be a fan of John Stewart, but his commentary on the Veterans Affairs (VA) Scheduling System challenges is pretty funny. Unfortunately, the problems that the VA is facing are anything but humorous. And sadly, some of their issues could likely have been avoided. The efficiencies of the Interpreting Industry are similarly tied to scheduling system technology, and so there is a lot that we can learn from the recent VA fiasco.

Scheduling is at the very core of our business. Without schedules, the Interpreting industry literally couldn’t function. It’s well known that Language Service Providers (LSPs) use a wide range of systems to manage their jobs and availability of their interpreters…everything from post-it-notes to sophisticated software solutions. Seeing what happened to the VA, here are the two main takeaways that all LSPs should be thinking about:

1. The wrong technology puts your business at risk.

Many small LSPs run quite effectively and efficiently leveraging tools like Microsoft Excel to manage their schedules. Using the philosophy of ‘Keeping it Simple’ can work in many scenarios. However, as businesses grow, the scale and complexity of their operations also increase. Often times, the requirements for running an effective Interpreter scheduling operation outgrow the basic tools. The scheduling platform that the VA is currently running is not only outdated, it’s not the right technology solution for their complicated requirements. This unfortunate combination has had a significant impact on the VA’s ability to service their community, and it has not only negatively impacted their operations, it has had a hugely negative influence on perceptions of the agency and their leaders.

LSP’s can avoid these challenges as their business needs expand and there are several sophisticated solutions available on the market specifically built to handle the complexities of the Interpreting industry. InterpreterIntelligence’s Intelligence Scheduling System is one such alternative and we have helped numerous LSPs transform their scheduling activities while significantly improving the efficiencies of their businesses.

2. Decision makers who acknowledge that their scheduling system needs to be improved need to act immediately.

There will likely be early signs that your current scheduling system isn’t the right one for your business. If you find that jobs and Interpreter availability are often times out of sync (or if you find yourself regularly cursing your tools) you’re probably ready to consider upgrading your Interpreter scheduling system. In the case of the VA, various VA managers and contractors had been pointing out that the system was inadequate for many years. The problem is that the decision makers did not act.

Migrating from one toolset to another is not a trivial decision to make, though. Time and resources are necessary to ensure that the process is successful, and there is often times fear that there will be a significant disruption to one’s ongoing business. However, many LSPs that have made this transition will tell you that if the new solution is a good match for your business needs, it will not only be a worthwhile investment, it will also dramatically reduce the stresses associated with using the wrong solution.

Finally, the migration process is not as complex and time consuming as one may think, and in InterpreterIntelligence’s case, we have a team of individuals and a set of resources dedicated to making the process as painless as possible.
CONCLUSION:

Watching the VA issues unfold was agonizing and we immediately thought of the countless LSPs who we’ve interacted with that are using the wrong technologies to run their businesses. The VA fiasco could have been avoided, and by realistically evaluating the current toolset that you are using, you may also be able to avoid a similar fate. If you’re interested in learning more about InterpreterIntelligence’s industry-leading Intelligence Scheduling System, we’d love to discuss how we can help you transform your business.

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