Creating a Mobile Strategy for Your Field Services Organization: Establish a Mobile Framework
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 field services, mobility encompasses more than mobile communications. For service workers, the smartphone is often the main – and sometimes only – means of communications back to the home office. In many cases, the smartphone is also the primary computing platform. Most field services employees have mobile phones, but few companies actually have an overall mobile strategy. In an October 2015 study, Webtorials found that 83 percent of today’s companies have not deployed a mobile strategy.
A successful mobile strategy for a field services organization can include:
- Using the latest 4G/LTE mobile plans now available, offering dramatic improvements in speeds, device capability, and base level functionality.
- Understanding and using new “native” mobile features like Wi-Fi calling and advanced messaging.
- Deploying mobile-first field services management applications, complemented with powerful collaborative general purpose apps.
- Providing a mobile presence to your customers, allowing them to interact with your organization using their preferred method of communications.
Evaluate the plan options from your available mobile operators. Most major mobile operators have been upgrading their networks to support 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). There are lots of technical benefits to 4G/LTE mobile service, but for your organization the key benefits are faster data throughput, improved battery life, and a nice capability called high definition voice that offers crystal clear voice quality (voice over LTE) when both subscribers are on the same LTE network.
In addition to the benefits brought by a network upgrade, several mobile operators offer new functions that can really help you do more with your mobile phone's "native" capability.
For example, so-called advanced messaging has become available by major operators, allowing rich messaging, contact presence (an indication your text buddy is logged on, busy, away, etc.), message-read receipts, picture sharing, and video sharing—all within the phone's basic dialer.
This can be really valuable in your day-to-day field services activities when you need to take a picture or video during a service call and share with colleagues or for that photo or video to be an artifact attached to a service work order. You do need to be sure that your mobile device supports this advanced messaging, which fortunately many of the newer mobile phone models do support. Today, advanced messaging doesn't work between different mobile operators, but over time, this will likely be supported.
Some of the mobile operators have been rolling out another capability over the last several months that can be very helpful to a field services company: Wi-Fi calling.
Mobile operators (and again, mobile phones) that support this capability allow you to use a Wi-Fi network to make and receive calls. This is helpful when you're in an area that has poor cellular coverage or perhaps you're in a basement or a building that has degraded or no radio reception. Wi-Fi networks are abundant (and growing) and more than ever, businesses offer public access.
In general, it's good practice to have your employees connect to Wi-Fi when they can to reduce data usage. Depending on the mobile operator policy and the terms of your plan of service, you may be able to use Wi-Fi calling when roaming internationally—this can offer big savings. The term Wi-Fi calling is a bit of a misnomer as generally the mobile operators also support messaging and some even support video calling across the Wi-Fi connection.
In my next post, I’ll explain how to apply this specifically for the field services vertical market.