Your job is a lot harder than mine. You have to figure out the right mobile computing tools and software for your organization’s specific needs, work the budget, plan pilots and roll-outs, and then keep it all running every minute of every day. To do this you need information – credible, concise, actionable information that will enable you to develop the best possible mobility solution within your budget parameters. Information that, you’re confident, will help you avoid any costly mistakes while ensuring you make the right decisions to secure your desired results. Thus, you must figure out how cut through the marketing and look beyond the self-serving articles that technology manufacturers use to tout why “our product is best”. That’s where technology industry analysts come in.
Their whole job is to research what’s really happening – and what’s not – in various industry sectors and provide facts and recommendations from an unbiased perspective. That’s why tech manufacturers often cite reports from analyst firms VDC, Forrester and IDC when validating their claims. These reputable analysts have spent months conducting objective deep-dive research into the mobile device market, for example, and can provide credible insights for their customers on how well manufacturers’ solutions will perform in various situations. Today, though, I’m going to reference a new Frost & Sullivan report titled North American Mobile Workforce Management Solutions – Transforming Today’s FieldService Sectors, published in May 2017.
In short, the Frost & Sullivan report says that CEOs and other executives finally see the ROI advantage of mobile technology and, therefore, the analysts are seeing greater use of mobile technology in field service organizations. Personally, I find it gratifying to see yet another analyst firm’s study confirms that the ROI for field service mobility is strong, and that C-Level execs acknowledge this. For the first time ever, four out of four analyst firms agree that there is little resistance to the belief that more mobility tools are needed. They do agree, however, that there is still some delay in organization’s ability to figure out how and when to invest in not just mobile technologies, but the right mobility solutions.
What’s important to remember is that the mobile device alone can’t make or break the success of your organization’s project. In fact, the Frost & Sullivan report talks at length about how critical software has become for field service. As I’ve long said, and Xplore has long supported: Your choice of software is the first and more important decision no matter the size of your mobility project or scale of your overall solution. The software will define the workflow, so you must choose software that best mirrors your workflow if you want one that’s easy to deploy and support. Then, once you decide on the software, it will be easy to determine which mobile computer will best support both the software and supplemental workflow technologies, such as peripherals.
For example, F&S addresses the criticality of your software decision by distinguishing between the three basic types of software architectures:
- Those designed for mobile.
- Traditional field service software suites that now have added mobile features.
- Enterprise-level software suites now being adapted for field service environments by bigger players.
Most field service organizations are likely running software from one of the last two categories today on back-office desktop PCs and notebooks. With the right mobile device, however, it’s now possible to run the same software in the field, thus maintaining your current workflow without requiring a complete software re-write or process change for workers.
That’s not the best part, though: F&S says that as organizations deploy mobile tools, they quickly see the value and start expanding upon their mobile capabilities. We’ve talked about this phenomenon in the past in this very blog. Many organizations will calculate their ROI, and execute the first phase of their mobile technology deployment, based on basic workflow requirements. But, once deployed, it becomes easy to find new ways to exponentially expand those mobile capabilities. That’s why more and more organizations are able to turn their service into a profit center. Since it is likely you’ll want to add capabilities once you deploy mobility technology, pick tablets that can support that future growth of capabilities.
So, how can you replicate this level of success in your organization? We recommend a set of discrete steps, based on our experience, which 4 out of 4 analyst firms now validate:
- Decide on your workflow goals – talk with your field technicians and decide how you’ll evolve them into information workers with mobile tools at their command.
- Work with a Solutions Partner, ask about their other customers with similar goals, and which software tools they liked for their workflows.
- Interview the software suppliers. This includes incumbents who you may now be able to use on rugged tablets. Make sure that the software will support your workflow (point #1), and that you won’t have to change your workflow to conform to the software tools.
- Decide on the rugged tablet accessories and features that will make the work quicker, more accurate, and safer. Consider things like outdoor viewable screens, true serial ports and integrated barcode imagers. Hazardous Location certifications, in-vehicle mounting systems and security capabilities are also critical to your selection.
- Think about the physical environment in which these mobile devices must not just survive, but thrive. Most field workers require rugged tablets that are mobile (not so big as to be only portable) and run Windows OS or Android. They also need to be resistant to drops, fluids, debris, humidity and extreme temperatures, if not fully waterproof, dustproof and drop-proof.
- Decide on devices that will future-proof your organization . You’ll be using these devices for at least 5 years, it’s not unusual to see devices used for 7 years or more.
- Finally, pilot everything. Small controlled in-the-field tests are the best way to shake out the systems without souring your field force on these new tools.
After all, mobile tech is big and getting bigger. Not just per the latest analyst reports, but per a number of field service organizations, utilities, public safety officers and manufacturers. If you want to obtain that promised positive ROI, meet customer demands for better and more responsive service, and better manage your field service personnel, these are the best practices to follow.
Not sure where to start? Watch this webinar replay for more tips on how to find and implement a mobility solution that satisfies all of your workers' "tastes," supports your numerous workflows, integrates with your legacy business systems, and aligns with your future goals.
Webinar: Goldilocks and the Three Mobile Computers
Hosts: Intel's Alan Rose and Bob Ashenbrenner, President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.
Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.