Features: February 6th, 2015

Field service providers across the private and public sectors will see substantial change in 2015.

With so many advanced tools now available to fine-tune operations, field service organisations have reached an unprecedented transformative stage. By leveraging technology trends such as the Internet of Things, advanced analytics and smartphone and tablet integration, leading field service organisations are reinventing themselves as predictive, rather than reactive, operations. This may mean better-equipping technicians with intelligent apps that deliver real-time data and deploy analytics capabilities to make strategic decisions, or enhancing security and IT infrastructure.

Here are eight trends that may impact how you make those changes:

1. Robust and Flexible Platforms

Organisations are looking to solution providers to deliver platforms globally as the foundation for innovation. Providers have to be ready to add, extend and integrate technologies as needed, giving them the agility to adapt and innovate. These platforms need to be cloud-based and flexible, allowing them to configure and manipulate modules and functionality as they see fit. Customers want a single provider to deliver all the functionality and modularity they require. They want to focus on empowering field workers and driving service excellence. To achieve that, they need robust, flexible platforms backed by a reliable provider.

2. Increased Focus on Security

The increase in cybercrime, such as the recent breach against Sony Pictures, is a critical reminder of how important it is to secure organisational data. As more organisations add everything from switches to entire power grids to the Internet of Things, we’ll see a greater demand for advanced security applications and a corresponding increase in financial commitment to protect against future attacks. Security involves not only protecting and safeguarding network entry but also ensuring that every mobile device is fortified. That means equipping every tablet, smartphone and laptop with the pertinent, updated tools and protocols, and educating users on the importance of adhering to security policies.

3. Embedded Analytics

The ability to analyse and act on the vast amount of data collected from the field continues to trend in the evolution of field services technology. Deploying workforce management solutions with sophisticated analytics tools will enable managers to improve operations with real-time visibility into their operations. Data gathered from smarter mobile apps and equipment sensors will provide insights on performance, tasks, service quality, and new products that will enable field service managers to not only keep up with the competition but to step ahead.

4. Greater Integration

As telematics and workforce management solutions become more integrated with mobile devices, the opportunities to increase efficiency and productivity are growing exponentially. Field service managers can make real-time decisions remotely by accessing vehicle tracking, scheduling and routing on their mobile devices, allowing them to mitigate reckless driving incidents, control vehicle wear and tear and decrease maintenance costs, all from a handheld. Mobile apps will continue to provide critical information such as daily tasks, customer histories, billing, and the locations of nearby teammates on demand for field service technicians. This access to real-time information empowers the technician to make strategic decisions, recruit help from teammates, and complete jobs on-time the first time, resulting in lower operational costs and higher customer satisfaction.

5. The Internet of Everything

By 2020, Gartner, Inc. predicts 26-billion devices other than smartphones, tablets and computers to be connected via the Internet of Things. For field service organisations, connecting equipment with technicians’ mobile devices and the back office in real time is a necessity. Information captured in the field provides diagnostics and performance metrics that mitigate certain issues as well as tracks patterns and trends for long-range planning. The goal is to ensure an intelligent and preventive—not reactive—approach.

6. Enhanced Network Reliability ?

The daily accumulation of data from internal files, mobile solutions, cloud-based apps and email can strain networks and storage systems. As organisations invest in mobile and management solutions to optimise operations, they no longer can ignore the underlying infrastructure. Hybrid clouds, virtualised servers and scalable, high-capacity storage give e networks the agility they need to stay flexible, efficient and productive. Neglecting these areas can impact performance, impede productivity and escalate IT costs.

7. An Evolving Workforce

As the field service industry evolves a major trend has been the emergence of young, tech-savvy and collaborative workers. According to Aberdeen Group, approximately one-fifth of the current workforce is under 30. This new pool of workers has grown up fully connected and will enable service organisations to continue their evolution in mobility and help them transform service and the relationship with customers. 62 per cent of top performing field service organisations have incorporated a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy as a result of a more tech-savvy workforce and 43 per cent are more likely to give technicians access to social media and collaborative tools to facilitate knowledge transfer.

8. Mobility as a Game-changer

Mobility will continue as a key enabler in addressing the competitive issues faced by field service organisations today. The right mobile architecture can solve many of the tactical challenges of these organisations: latent customer needs, increased competition, unmitigated churn and worker productivity. However, simply investing in mobile technology does not ensure improvement in key performance. To be successful with any deployment, organisations must choose the best field service solution and adopt the implementation best suited for their operation.