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 special devices come in a variety of underlying technologies, form factors, sizes, and functionality. Rugged computers have a wide range of features, including magnesium casings, waterproof keyboards, sunlight-readable displays, and shock-mounted disk drives. For field service usage, rugged computers are used mounted in a vehicle, in the field, or in a factory or environment.
Recent Aberdeen research indicates that 68% of the 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 do so often 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.
Unlike other Aberdeen research, which shows Best In Class organizations running ahead of the general market when it comes to achieving results from their mobility solutions, the subset of those who use rugged computing devices in many cases actually outperform the average Best In Class companies when it comes to technology adoption.
Chart: Solutions Used In Conjunction With Rugged Mobile Computing Devices
Source: Aberdeen Group, May 2008
Realizing Rugged Results
Benefits of employing 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 the Best-in-Class have experienced cost increases that average 3.4% over the same time period. Some of those overall cost savings have been realized in the form of technician and crew utilization, which has increased 3.6% in the last year. Meanwhile, for these firms that use rugged computers, overtime pay as a percentage of payroll has gone down 3.7%.
These results indicate that companies benefiting from rugged computing devices are addressing their top two pressures to improve financial performance. Their desire to respond to customer demand for on-time project completion is also being addressed, as service-level agreement (SLA) compliance has gone up 10.7%, outpacing the Best-in-Class by 2.2%.
Quality service means providing your technicians, the agents of your company, with the tools required to get the job done right, on time, and within budget. This is key to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
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 the environment. There exists a plethora of devices with varying levels of "rugged." Pick the one designed for your need.
- Consider total cost of ownership when selecting devices. Commercial devices are less expensive certainly than rugged devices. Don't be lured into thinking that the extra cost associated with buying a rugged device is not needed. 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 in the first place.
- 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.
- Train. Related to adoption issues mentioned above, ensure that deployment consists of hands-on training.
Jack McAvoy is Research Director, Strategic Services Practice at Aberdeen Group. Download his latest report, Complex Service Work: Scheduling Technicians, Crews, and Physical Resources.