What’s The Role Of #Social in Field Mobility?
Author: Sarah Nicastro, publisher and editor in chief, Field Technologies
At ClickConnect 2013 in Nashville, TN there was no shortage of buzz about social. ClickSoftware talked during the conference about its new app, SHOUT, which enables techs to share knowledge and collaborate in the field with a social feel. Analyst William McNeill of Garter spoke at the conference about social being one of the four pillars in Gartner’s “Nexus of Forces.” And I had a chance to talk one on one with a number of end users to hear their thoughts on social.
In talking with those end users, it seems there are some conflicting opinions on what the benefit of social collaboration in field service could be. During a roundtable discussion on mobile workforce technology trends that I moderated, two very different opinions were brought up. One participant said that he thinks social collaboration among techs could be extremely beneficial. His point was that it can be difficult at times for techs to easily access the knowledge they need in the field, and that if a social collaboration tool can enable a more experienced tech to help a newer tech get a job done, and avoid a return trip or frustrated customer, it’s a tool worth investing in.
Another end user at that same roundtable said she thinks that a social collaboration tool would actually be a negative for their field operation. Her opinion is that such a tool would decrease productivity rather than increase it. She said that right now, her techs often call one another if they’re doing a job in the field that they need help with. When they’re on the phone with a peer, they’re still working – they can talk on the phone and continue the job at the same time. She believes that with a social tool, the worker would actually stop all work to type in a question, await a response, etc.
Who’s right? I think it depends somewhat on the type of work your techs are doing in the field, and also in the makeup of your field service force. For an older workforce, the idea of a social collaboration tool may be unrealistic. It can be hard enough to get older workers that are more unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable with today’s technologies on board with using a mobile device, let alone a social app. But if your workforce is younger or more technologically inclined, they may find a social collaboration tool easier to use than placing a call – and it may very well help them be more productive in their jobs.
I liked the point William McNeill brought up during his talk about social at the conference – mobile is crucial, social may not be for everyone. You can’t go without mobile – it’s a must-have. If you’re not currently using a mobile solution in the field, that needs to change as soon as possible. And if you are, you should continually be looking for ways to evolve and extend the benefit you’re receiving from mobile. Social collaboration may be one avenue to consider.
About the author:
Sarah Nicastro is the publisher and editor in chief of Field Technologies magazine and Field Technologies Online. Together, the magazine and website provide service professionals with information on technologies including field service automation, mobile computing, and fleet & asset management. For more information or a complimentary subscription, visit www.FieldTechnologiesOnline.com.