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The Vertical Approach to Mobile Strategy for Field Services

 

In this blog post and over the following weeks, I’ll share how to create a mobile strategy for Field Service organizations.  A portion of the content in these posts was originally published in CIOReview. In my previous post, I discussed how to establish a mobile framework for your strategy.

An appetite for verticals

In a widely read 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, entrepreneur and investor Mark Andreessen famously penned that "software is eating the world," the point being that all sorts of industries are being disrupted by software and online services.

This is happening in the field services domain at a quickening pace as software-based field services management solutions drive increased automation of business process and workflows. Benefits include workforce optimization, better allocation of resources (capital assets as well as human resources), enhanced transparency of business process, and improved customer satisfaction.

Most field service management (FSM) solutions include some combination of scheduling, dispatch, work order and forms digitization, location tracking, inventory management, and payments. It doesn't hurt that these FSM solutions, when effectively implemented, can improve time to cash.


Don’t miss Kevin Summers speaking on a field services productivity panel at Field Services USA in Palm Springs



For the managers of services teams and service companies, it’s a buyer's market for FSM solutions with many choices available. Solutions that once were offered only as enterprise-style solutions (you run the applications on in-house servers) are being augmented and even supplanted by cloud and SaaS-oriented solutions.

Most FSM solutions offer a mobile app to extend the functionality out to the field teams; several app developers are building from a mobile-first perspective, optimizing the experience on the mobile device. 

More forward-thinking FSM solutions have begun to include collaboration and communications from inside the mobile field services management mobile application itself. Examples include sending automated SMS text messages to the customer informing them of the assigned service technician's estimated time of arrival; service dispatchers in real-time finding the best available technician based on location, skills, and availability; real-time communications and collaboration (think chat, voice and video calling); and collection of analytics data that helps business owners better manage service teams.

The supporting cast

Beyond specific field services management mobile applications, several general purpose apps may prove to be useful to service teams. A key selection criteria is that they be cloud-based, accessible via a web browser, and have a solid mobile application.

Team-centric storage that enables sharing of files in the cloud is helpful for building up a knowledge base, storing soft copies of manuals, troubleshooting guides, reference pictures, videos, and audio recordings; the choices here are plentiful and include offers from Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, Microsoft's OneDrive, and Amazon's Cloud Drive, among others.

Apps focused on collaborative note-taking include Evernote, Google Keep, OneNote from Microsoft, and Notability (currently iOS only).

Another excellent addition to the stable is Waze, a crowd-sourced geographical navigation app that offers turn-by-turn navigation, traffic updates in real-time, and location-specific updates like road hazards.

In my next post, I’ll explain how to take these inward facing tools to initiate your mobile strategy within the Field Services vertical market.