Why enterprise mobility in field service has gone from ‘nice to have’ to ‘crucial’

Enterprise mobility is going mainstream in all industries. Working remotely on mobile devices somewhere other than the office is rapidly becoming the new normal.

There are three main reasons for this. First is the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated smart devices that can be used anywhere over a 4G data network. Second is that digital natives are starting to dominate the workforce and expect constant connectivity and instant communication and collaboration with colleagues via mobile apps. Third is that countless surveys have shown that employees able to work more efficiently and flexibly wherever they may be are happier and more productive.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that in the field service industry, enterprise mobility went mainstream years ago. After all, this is an industry where employees, by definition, work remotely. They spend all their time at customers’ premises installing, maintaining, inspecting and repairing their machinery and equipment. This is the industry that needs enterprise mobility the most.

But the field service industry isn’t the quickest at responding to technological change. It’s only now that the economy has become service-driven, creating new opportunities for profitability in field service, that providers are racing to catch up with the mobile revolution.

Investing in mobile technology has become a priority

A 2019 global survey by Zebra Technologies on the Future of Field Operations revealed that currently only one fifth of organisations are using mobile devices in the field. But the same survey stated that investing in mobile technology is a top priority for 36% of organisations and a growing priority for an additional 58%.

Similarly, a 2018 survey by Enterprise Mobility Exchange found that 86% of organisations believe that it is either essential or very important for field service agents to incorporate new technology into their service activities. It also found that 55% of organisations still struggle with manual or paper-based processes. Meanwhile, 39% said that one of their challenges is the fact that mobile workers are disconnected from the office.

Why the lag?

The reason the field service industry has been lagging behind in enterprise mobility is that it’s a traditional industry. A machine or a piece of equipment breaks and a field engineer comes and fixes it. It’s a basic approach to service that’s existed for millennia. As such, many modern field service organisations have been operating without change or disruption for a very long time.

Now that disruption has come. Advancing technologies are making our machines more reliable and customers are demanding better from them. Focus among field service organisations is shifting from reactive service to preventative and predictive service. From fixing it when it breaks to stopping it from breaking in the first place. It’s only recently that field service organisations have started to realise that the old way just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The other reason for the lag is that field service is currently dominated by older generations of workers who’ve been doing the job the same way for years. Many of them aren’t interested in new technologies such as enterprise mobility because the way they do it works. This creates a challenge for business leaders who have to convince their engineers that their way is better.

Why businesses need enterprise mobility

Of course, enterprise mobility is not just ‘better’. It’s crucial to field service success in modern times. Enterprise mobility makes operations faster and organisations more proficient at gathering data and producing reports. It makes field engineers more productive by giving them access to live information about jobs, customers, machines and stock in the field, and by enabling them to do everything they need to electronically. This includes receiving job specs, viewing asset information, making parts requests, filling in service reports, scanning barcodes, adding photos and external documents to jobs and capturing customer signatures. Enterprise mobility also enables engineers to collaborate more easily with their colleagues in the field and the back office.

The net effect of all this is a more efficient operation and better, more proactive service to customers. The reason it’s become crucial rather than nice to have is that today’s customers expect a level of service that paper-based systems just cannot deliver effectively or profitably. Similarly, new employees — particularly digital natives — are looking for companies where efficient and flexible remote working is a given.

What’s more, now that the field service industry has woken up to these realisations, huge numbers of providers are already jumping on the mobility bandwagon. Consequently, providers that stick with paper-based field processes and antiquated mobile capabilities are rapidly getting overtaken by their competitors. It’s become integral, therefore, to implement an enterprise mobility solution if you want to stay in the game.

A fundamental component of field service management

An enterprise mobility solution is one of the most fundamental components of a good field service management system. The work engineers do is the bread and butter of any field service organisation, so empowering engineers to do more of it, more effectively, is a beeline to increased profitability.

Asolvi offers powerful, platform-independent enterprise mobility solutions that streamline engineer workflows, eliminate paper, improve compliance with SLAs, accelerate service-to-cash cycles and increase revenue. To find out more, please contact us at sales@asolvi.com.

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