Q&A | January 10, 2014

Why You Should Pitch Mobile Field Service Management

Bernadette Wilson

By Bernadette Wilson, associate editor, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @bernadeditor


If you have customers who are still relying on paper records in their field service operations, you have the opportunity to sell management solutions with apparent ROI for them — and possibly recurring revenue for you.

Mary Brittain-White, CEO of Retriever Communications, a provider of mobile field service automation, says, “Mobile field service management allows for work orders to be dynamically allocated and sent wirelessly to the field staff.” Mobile apps — instead of a trip to the office — provide the means for recordkeeping and maintaining a history of the site or asset along with account records. Data can be transferred immediately to scheduling or accounting, along with signatures captured on-site, rather than waiting for field workers to deliver them at the end of the day. Additional benefits of mobile field service management are the elimination of paperwork, fewer data entry man hours, and reduced travel time and expenses. The results are a shortened billing cycle and lower costs. “Under a cloud-delivery model, break-even can be achieved in two or three months. Return on investment varies, but I’ve seen 15 percent improvements to the bottom line, which is outstanding,” Brittain-White says. She adds, however, “The most valuable benefit of these kinds of solutions may be that with nearly real-time automation, the office staff is able to see what is happening with each of their technicians at any time.”

When your customers ask about data security, let them know mobile management has an impact on it — security will increase, with data less likely to be lost and less accessible to unauthorized people. Brittain-White explains, “With a paper system, a field staff is collecting information and signatures on paper, and between jobs the information remains on a clipboard or inside a vehicle. Mobile devices increase the security of a remote environment because at end of each job, the information is transferred to the office and upon acknowledgement of a successful transfer, the job information can be removed from the technician’s mobile device.” Solutions providers should, however, add encryption to protect customer data.

Brittain-White says the convergence of tracking technologies and mobile field service management has resulted in a key technology shift. For example, geofencing — technology that uses GPS or RFID to define geographical boundaries — provides a way to acknowledge a technician’s arrival and confirm the time spent on site. It also helps schedulers immediately locate field workers if an emergency arises.

Regardless of all the potential benefits, Brittain-White says any solution’s design is the key to successfully deploying it. Two key aspects are the solution’s speed and reliability. This includes making sure technicians can work offline for extended periods of time and reference data is stored on the device, in case connectivity issues arise, and making sure technicians can back up and recover data quickly and easily.

She stresses, however, the most important aspect of the design is whether the solution as a tool that helps field workers do their jobs accurately and efficiently. “It must reflect the technician’s desired workflow rather than impose a software company’s idea of a good workflow — this is the cardinal rule,” she comments.