Eight Trends That Will Impact Field Service in 2015

January 16, 2015

With so many advanced tools now available to fine-tune operations, field service organizations have reached an unprecedented transformative stage. By leveraging technology trends such as the Internet of Things, advanced analytics and smartphone and tablet integration, these organizations are reinventing themselves as predictive, rather than reactive, operations.

In the coming year these organizations will assess how much they’ve evolved in the field service model and set goals for 2015 and beyond. 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. No matter what the goal, the time is now to modernize operations that put you ahead of the competition.

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

1. Robust and Flexible Platforms

Technology is moving quickly, and organizations 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. What this means is field service companies require much more advanced platforms that they can leverage to manage and improve their operations. Organizations with global reach are looking to make the platform a key part of their worldwide strategy. 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 company data. As more utility organizations 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

While most field service organizations have already deployed GPS and fleet management technologies,  many are now challenged by the vast amount of data they’re now collecting from these tools. The ability to analyze and act on this data continues to trend in the evolution of field services technology. Advanced analytics capabilities will allow organizations to execute on information generated from the field to become more efficient and productive. 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. Analytics will be embedded and pervasive. After all, the value of analytics is in the answers, not the data.

4. More 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 and routing on their mobile devices. This allows organizations to mitigate reckless driving incidents, control wear and tear on their fleet 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 organizations, 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 field service organizations invest in mobile and management solutions to optimize operations, they no longer can ignore the underlying infrastructure. Hybrid clouds, virtualized 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

The retiring workforce has been an ongoing concern for the field service industry. As the industry evolves, however, 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 with the average age of a field service technician at 32 years old. Organizations must manage the way in which the new generation of field workers leverages, processes and engages with technology in order to keep them for the long run.

This new pool of workers will enable service organizations to continue their evolution in mobility and help them transform service and the relationship with customers. In fact, 62 percent of top performing field service organizations have incorporated a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy as a result of a more tech-savvy workforce and 43 percent 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 organizations today.  The right mobile architecture can solve many of the tactical challenges of these organizations:  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, organizations must choose the best field service solution and adopt the implementation best suited for their operation.

For more information on Trimble Field Service Management and its solutions, visit www.trimble.com/fsm.

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