Field Goals

— April 24, 2007

A Motorola spokesperson recently described the company's new business-durable device to me as "gray collar," which sounds a little too like a holdover from the ring-around-the-collar days. But if collar colors really are any indication of the work people do--and the tools they use to do them--then I concede that this ambiguous collar middle-ground is (ahem) fitting.

The field is now an amazingly sophisticated place. All the capabilities that were once the domain of the office are now in the hands of utility workers, police officers, visiting nurses, insurance adjustors, repair people and construction workers--and that's before getting into campus environments such as hospitals and warehouses.

Field service may be the most drastically changing aspect of the enterprise. While we "white collar" folks now have more or less mobile versions of our old immoveable machines, field workers are taking on new tasks every season, as new devices offer greater functionality. For example, a delivery driver who once used to drop a package at the door can now receive GPS directions, scan a package, capture a signature, snap a photo to prove delivery conditions, email the tracking information to headquarters and call home as he calls it a day. And all on a single device.

As we describe in our cover story, scheduling and dispatch have also evolved tremendously, thanks to better business intelligence and smarter combinations of technologies (including GPS), which are enabling dispatchers to rework technicians' schedules as the day plays out. These advances couldn't be more welcome or necessary, since it's here where your business comes in direct contact with your customers, who I promise you are all quickly forming opinions. Now though, with all of the solutions that are available, how well you manage those relationships is up to you. Good luck.

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