Options for Mobile Field Service Solutions

By Michael Barbella — December 20, 2007

There's no question that successful mobile field service solutions boost business performance and productivity. But coming up with the right solution can be tricky.

"There are a number of different options out there," said Mark Vigoroso, chief research officer and senior VP of service chain management with Aberdeen Group. "But the [solution] should coincide with the type of field service organization that you have and really what the DNA of the organization is."

Vigoroso was one of three panelists who participated in a complimentary Mobile Enterprise webinar last week on the ways that companies can deploy mobile field service solutions to streamline operations, connect workers in the field and with the home office, and create standardized, best-practice processes. The one-hour webinar, "Mobilizing Your Field Workforce: Real Benefits of a Real-Time Service Area Network," also featured advice from Jim Archer, VP of solutions at Astea International, and Carol Dostal, Astea product manager.

Vigoroso said companies that deployed successful mobile field service solutions took an integrated approach--the wireless solution was just one component of an overall service chain strategy. Successful deployments also do not depend solely on a technology choice.

"Looking at technology itself is not an answer," Vigoroso noted. "There are a number of building blocks involved."

One of these building blocks is knowing the difference between dispatch-centric and asset-centric organizations. Dispatch-centric companies are those with field service technicians that perform spontaneous "single-visit" work such as appliance repairs. Asset-centric companies have field service technicians performing complex work such as retooling or reinstallation--work that often takes days or weeks.

Understanding where your field service organization is along this spectrum is an important requirement to define before you embark on trying to select a solution," Vigoroso said.

Once a solution is chosen, Archer said to make sure field service workers have the right kind of device to do their jobs. "The ability to stay connected, for the office to know what is going on, to stay connected to the people, and for the people to know what is going on is an important element," Archer said. "It's about making people comfortable, and willing and active participants in the solution."

Astea's Alliance Mobile solution enables field service technicians to complete and record service calls on their handheld devices. "We created an application for the field worker to work independently if he needs to or to be always connected to the office, so that he has all the information he needs on his device," Dostal said. "He doesn't need to take the time to call somebody, he doesn't need to take the time to find out who the last service agent was out there for history."

The application Dostal demonstrated during the webinar allows field service workers to accept or reject a service call, review and order inventory, change the priority of a service call, leave customer notes for the next service visit, review the history of a call and record the work he completes while on the job and more. "He doesn't have to call anybody and wait for that information to come back," Dostal noted.


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