By Jeanine Sterling
January 24, 2017
Today’s companies are under tremendous pressure to innovate and differentiate. From small boutiques to giant Fortune 500 corporations, a digital transformation is taking place in how work gets done. And a major component and enabler of that transformation is mobility.
Field service organizations deserve a strong pat on the back for their foresight in this regard. They have been at the forefront of mobilization in the workplace, anticipating early on that anywhere-anytime visibility and access could be game-changers for their workers, their management team, and their customers.
And as these field organizations have deepened the mobile capabilities of their field service management (FSM) solutions, the positive business impacts have become even clearer.
What Drives the Move to Mobility?
Mobilized field management solutions take the blinders off. They give remote service employees and their management the ability to both receive and transmit work-related information and guidance in real time via their smartphones, tablets, ruggedized devices, and even wearables.
Both the end-customer and the field worker have been driving this mobilization transformation. Today’s customers demand faster and better service. And they want to know what’s going on at any particular moment in the service cycle — before, during, and after whatever physical interaction takes place. They expect field service organizations to be on top of where their field techs are and when they’re arriving. Once onsite, they expect techs to have the materials and expertise to accomplish their duties on the first visit.
Employees, especially those just entering the workplace, also have high expectations regarding mobile support. They thoroughly enjoy the convenience of mobile apps in their personal lives — and many of them have come to expect the same level of assistance and convenience on the job.
Field service organizations have listened and acted. While their first attempts at mobile access focused on simply tracking worker location (dots on a map), mobile capabilities have become abundantly richer during the past 4-5 years. Pretty quickly, table stakes capabilities included features such as wireless forms, scheduling and route optimization, worker order and activity management, invoicing and mobile payments, contract management, and custom reporting.
An Impressive ROI
What have we learned about the impact of mobility solutions? Every year, Frost & Sullivan conducts a survey of North American businesses, exploring preferences and plans around various mobile worker solutions. When asked about mobilized field service management, the responses from enterprises with 500 or more employees are eye-opening.
Strong, high satisfaction levels: The vast majority of current enterprise users – 94% — report that they’re happy with their mobilized field service management solution. Only 2% report any level of dissatisfaction. These numbers are no fluke and have remained remarkably consistent over the past years.
Concrete plans to expand: When users are happy, they want more. High satisfaction levels translate directly into plans to expand their mobile deployments. In fact, more than two-thirds of current enterprise users – 69% — plan to increase their mobile FSM implementations within the next 12 months.
Positive, proven business impacts: What’s behind the high satisfaction levels and the strong expansion plans? Enterprises are experiencing a very interesting mix of hard-dollar financial impacts combined with softer benefits around engagement and competitive standing. A significant proportion of large users are reporting:
- A stronger competitive advantage
- Improved customer engagement
- New revenue streams
- Faster trouble ticket resolution
- Increased billing accuracy
- Decreased labor costs
- Expedited cash flow
- Reduced paperwork
For large businesses, the return on investment is clear and quantifiable. Mobilization of field service management solutions can result in positive competitive differentiation, happier customers, and a healthier bottom line.
Looking forward, Frost & Sullivan expects continued growth in mobilized solutions. We not only expect more field workers to be given the advantage of mobile access. We also expect these capabilities to continue to transition to a richer and more advanced level of assistance.
Implementing mobility solutions on a large scale requires vision and a willingness to closely monitor and anticipate customer and worker needs. Leading enterprise users have been making the following types of moves:
- Keeping an eye on developing technologies: Leaders are incorporating new technological advances in order to take their mobilized field service management effort to the next level of effectiveness and profitability. High-potential capabilities to consider incorporating include artificial intelligence (AI) tools, 3-D visualization and augmented reality, predictive analytics, wearable apps, and gamification solutions.
- Choosing wisely between custom and third-party solutions: Seventy-seven percent of current enterprise users prefer implementing prepackaged mobility solutions. The other one-quarter of large businesses prefer a fully customized approach. Each option has its advantages. Ideally, the customized solution provides exactly what the field service organization needs; however, creating it can be an expensive and time-consuming effort. Prepackaged products are typically less costly and much quicker to deploy, although they may not directly address all needs.
- Focusing on ease of use: Successful mobilization requires solutions that are simple to understand and use. Complexity is today’s app-killer.
- Including field employees on solution evaluation committees: Currently, only about 10% of enterprises include the actual field user in the mobility decision-making process. The other 90% may find themselves paying for this omission later when the workers reject mobilized solutions that don’t address their needs and/or are too difficult to process.
- Moving from on-premise systems to cloud-based delivery: Cloud solutions can provide much-needed affordability, scalability, and solution expertise – and allow the IT organization to refocus its time and energy on core duties, such as infrastructure management, data security, etc.
- Expanding the deployment of mobilized FSM to other constituencies: Field workers are not the only party that can benefit from mobilized access and visibility. Sub-contractors, partners, and field supervisors are three additional high-potential user groups.
In summary, mobility is not a single, static decision point. Best-in-class field service organizations treat solution mobilization as an ongoing process. They regularly re-evaluate what’s needed by their techs, by dispatch, and by their management team. They regularly re-evaluate and prioritize vendor partnerships. And they regularly take a beat to catch up on new mobilized field service management capabilities and new technologies.
Taking a disciplined but expansive approach to mobility solutions promises significant rewards to today’s visionary field service organizations.
By Jeanine Sterling
Jeanine Sterling is an Industry Director for Frost & Sullivan, a global research and consulting firm. Sterling's coverage focuses on mobility solutions for business, including mobile workforce management apps, mobilized sales force automation tools, mobile asset tracking offerings, and enterprise mobility management platforms in the North American sector.
Today’s companies are under tremendous pressure to innovate and differentiate. From small boutiques to giant Fortune 500 corporations, a digital transformation is taking place in how work gets done. And a major component and enabler of that transfo...