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Enterprise Mobility: Empowering Field Services

by Simon Cooper, ServicePower Technologies September-2016

The initial shift to mobile was pioneered by field service organizations that began using enterprise applications on the first mobile devices to enhance field worker productivity. Now every industry and every enterprise user is leveraging a BYOA (Bring Your Own App) approach using third party applications and cloud services in the workplace. Furthermore, users work across a number of disconnected devices encompassing a mix of enterprise hardware and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device.

What is Enterprise Mobility?

Enterprise mobility today is the convergence of devices, sensors, apps, cloud services and analytics that is often referred to as SMAC: Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud. Gartner has coined this convergence as the Nexus of Forces. 

Critical Features of a True SMAC

• Support for any device. It’s not enough to develop a single app for a single device. Just as multiple applications are now being deployed, people are now using multiple device more than ever. Organizations must provide an OS/device centric user experience beyond basic responsive design that takes advantage of each device's specific capabilities. This also implies that data must be instantly and seamlessly transitioned from one device to the other. For field service it’s easy to use a tablet or laptop while standing on the ground, but the need changes when a field resource is on a utility pole where a smaller device is the safer option.

• Consistent experience regardless of connection. We all expect connectivity wherever we are. Unfortunately, not all bandwidth is created equally. The best in class enterprise mobility applications must properly manage how data is managed when a device goes out of coverage. Field resources in basements or remote areas without a connection still need to access job and customer data, schematics and complete processes without needing to worry about connectivity. Loss of data access and reduced functionality is not an option.

• Integration. Field resources want to be able to quickly collaborate for sharing information, helping solve issues, and delighting customers. This collaboration will occur over many different channels. IOT/M2M is facilitating another evolution from reactive repair-based services to proactive uptime based services. This is accomplished by integrating with IoT/M2M data feeds and analytics to predict a failure before it happen. 

• True status. Enterprise users and customers expect instant status. Messaging services can tell you if a person is immediately available or not, what they are working on, listening to, or watching. Shipping carriers can provide live updates on a package. The best in class enterprise mobility deployments cannot be any different. As information, assignments, messages, and data are updated, knowing and publishing the true status to all interested parties is critical and expected. Field service organizations are adopting new process flows and integrating channels of communication to keep everyone in the loop from call center, dispatch, parts orders, field resources and customers-everyone knowing the true status.

• Performance visibility. More than just monitoring metrics like productivity and efficiency monitors the use and adoption of mobile tools, apps and services, ensuring they are all being used effectively. Quickly identifying users who are struggling to help technicians resolve issues in the field at the first attempt is necessary, and should be tied in with performance management at the same time.

Benefits of Enterprise Mobility

• Full mobilization of processes. Users can work anywhere on any device. Jobs can be complete with a single truck roll, improving first time fix rates.

• Improved productivity and line of site. Mobility improves productivity and efficiency of staff. Communication to the customer and to the enterprise is also improved with mobility.

• Improved customer satisfaction & reduced costs. Customer satisfaction is greatly improved by providing them real-time feedback and allowing social interactions. Resolution in one trip makes the customer happy and reduces overall costs. 

• New business opportunities. Enterprise mobility facilitates new business opportunities, based on the new process enabled on devices, integration to data and analytics. Being able to inspect a product, create a quote, process a payment and set up a subscription, all from the mobile device, improves attachment rates and eliminates subsequent paperwork and mistakes.

Challenges to Consider

• ROI. Determining and maintaining an ROI can be challenging. Key stakeholders must be involved throughout the process. Develop policies that dictate employee utilization of the software. Perform regular health checks & system upgrades while continually training. Track KPIs including user adoption/experience.

• Security. In a BYOA, BYOD or WYOD deployment, security is more critical than ever. Always enforce mobile device PINs-larger PINs are more secure. Use the device's built-in hardware encryption. All data exchanges must be over secure encrypted channels. Encrypt all data at rest. Ensure that the application only downloads as much data as required to complete the required task and then quickly remove it from the device. Finally, leverage device management software to enforce all policies including device wipes. 
• Scalability. Enterprise mobility deployments must be scalable. New demands such as users using multiple devices, real time social collaboration (especially video chat), and all of the IoT sensors feeds are going to introduce greater storage and bandwidth demands that the enterprise must be ready to handle.

What simply began as a single enterprise app running on a single device to improve user is so much more today. Now, enterprise mobility includes connected devices and sensors, multiple applications, social collaboration, cloud services and information that can be collected at all points, and fed back into the organization for continuous line of sight, and overall improvement. 

Enterprise mobility is a ‘must have’ for any organization and especially those providing field based services.