Rugged Results

By  Jack McAvoy — July 31, 2008

In Aberdeen's May 2008 benchmark report, Complex Service Work: Scheduling Technicians, Crews, and Physical Resources, it was found that 47% of leading service organizations use rugged computing devices in the field.

As one of the top four technology solutions employed by these service companies, rugged devices serve as a platform to bring together an entire suite of software applications on-site and at technicians' and managers' fingertips.

For the organizations that employ these devices, this sort of power translates into operational and financial success.

Complex work has three characteristics:

> long duration
> multiplicity of resources, including staff, equipment, tools, and vehicles
> a hierarchy of dependencies.

Rugged computers operate in harsh environments and under caustic conditions. They are resistant to vibration, dirt, fluid, and extreme temperatures. These devices come in a variety of underlying technologies, form factors, sizes, and functionality, and they have a wide range of features, including magnesium casings, waterproof keyboards, sunlight-readable displays, and shock-mounted disk drives.

Aberdeen research indicates that 68% of companies that use rugged computing devices are looking to increase technician and crew utilization. Half seek to control escalating costs, and 45% are responding to a customer-driven demand for on-time project completion.

The service organizations that use rugged notebooks often do so in conjunction with scheduling optimization and dispatch solutions, business intelligence and analytics, service parts planning systems, GIS systems and GPS-enabled tracking systems. Rugged computing devices for these organizations serve as an integral part of a full technology suite, enabling technicians and field managers to access real-time data, communicate with the home office and peers, perform analysis, and make decisions on-site, in the field.

Benefits of using rugged computing devices include reduced travel, faster response times, and cost savings. Companies engaged in complex work that use these rugged devices have seen overall costs increase only 2.9% over the past 12 months, while technician and crew utilization rose 3.6% in the same period. Overtime pay as a percentage of payroll has gone down 3.7%. In addition, service-level agreement (SLA) compliance has gone up 10.7%.

Recommendations for companies that dispatch technicians in the field include:

> Measure your processes. Before buying any technology, understand your business processes and market pressures. Adopt technology for specific functional use and particular operational pain.
> Consider total cost of ownership. Commercial devices can be less expensive than rugged devices. But the cost of frequently replacing or repairing your non-rugged devices can quickly add up -- and may surpass what you would have spent for buying a rugged device.
> Don't overlook cultural adoption issues. It takes leadership to initiate change and more leadership to guide new endeavors through execution. Be patient and communicative with staff. Ensure that deployment consists of hands-on training.

Jack McAvoy
Research Director, Strategic Services Practice
Aberdeen Group


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