Five Steps for Taking Charge Of Mobility in Field Service
Technological innovations are helping to change field service and providing a wealth of new tools for administrators, field managers and technicians. For example, fast data transfers via mobility can provide instant access to critical content, not to mention increased communication and improved customer response times.
Such field service technology advances are providing a range of capabilities, from improved scheduling and management, real-time access to historical data and remote diagnostic tools/maintenance alerts for field assets to faster resource information retrieval and task management automation, to name a few.
The list could go on, but the trend is obvious. Mobility offers new potential for field service operations, whether in heavy industries, such as mining, agriculture and utilities, or other sectors including utilities, telecommunications, insurance and healthcare.
However, as an organization expands its mobile capabilities, there are crucial points to keep in mind:
1. Understand the business benefits of a truly mobile workforce
In general, executives to field technicians are excited about the potential for using their own mobile devices. Although there are significant benefits with mobility, the increased use of smart devices poses significant control and support issues.
The popularity of BYOD requires an already overextended IT to systematize and monitor an ever-expanding range of devices. As a result, it’s important to consider implementing a mobile program with clear guidelines and, if possible, providing a workforce with corporate-sponsored rugged devices, where applicable.
Ultimately, the benefits of mobility extend to every aspect of field service. They include achieving maximum productivity through streamlining/ automating processes (i.e., paperwork reduction, more efficient dispatching, increased communication, etc). Another key benefit is faster data access for improved service calls. This also includes the ability to maximize asset/equipment utilization in a number of diverse sectors, from heavy industry to healthcare.
2. Adapt business processes to gain the full benefits of information anywhere
Instant access to rich mobile content has had significant impact on how technicians work in the field as well as for providing benefits to the customer base. Moreover, onsite data access can help minimize or eliminate worker and asset downtime. But it’s important to update business processes to match the changes introduced by increased mobilization.
For example, while service technicians are not traditionally sales people, leverage their customer access to accomplish other tasks, such as upgrading service levels or cross-selling products. Diversify and increase workforce flexibility and capabilities by ensuring that training, related content and protocols are easily available.
3. Work with mobile device users across the organization to ensure secure practices in a converged world
The first step in effectively managing a mobile environment is workforce cooperation. While Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms and security policies are critical, a workforce that agrees to follow protocols is also important.
Some field service organizations have specific requirements related to the industry they serve. It’s important to make sure the user base understands such regulations. Such policy development should be part of any mobile initiative.
With so many diverse users and devices, companies must implement rules and policies, such as who pays for device expenses, how data is stored and shared, and questions of ownership. IT control also needs to be clearly delineated.
4. Make the relevant data available to your field service teams where and when they need it
Providing technicians with accurate information at critical moments can increase the number of service calls. It also can help dispatchers make the right decision — without sifting through paperwork and wasting valuable time. Providing useful, timely data enables field technicians to take advantage of customer ‘face-time’ for possible cross-sell opportunities, increasing an organization’s bottom line.
It’s also important to ensure that field technicians arrive on time with all the information, parts and materials required to expedite problem resolution. The cost savings from taking these steps is the result of less customer downtime, shorter on-site appointments, and more issues resolved on the first visit.
5. Understand device and application management and apply it to your mobile environment
Most companies only have policies for employees accessing their networks through devices that the enterprise owns and manages. Set policies to define clear expectations around what BYOD users can and can’t do. It’s crucial to balance flexibility with confidentiality and privacy requirements and to make sure that all users adhere to these rules.
An important element in security assurance is Mobile Device Management (MDM) implementation. The increased use of smart devices in field service poses significant control and support challenges for IT. When it comes to MDM adoption for field service, companies must carefully consider the best approach and the steps that are necessary for effective mobile device control.