For any operations manager, dispatcher or supervisor of a large, highly distributed mobile field workforce that have not adopted digital tools, the reality is the days are long and full of error. Even those that have implemented some form of mobile field service management software may still experience significant challenges, because the software they’re using isn’t flexible enough to adapt as business needs evolve. This is more common than you think.
From the many conversations and customer implementations I’ve had the tremendous opportunity to be a part of over the years at Field Squared, there are a few common themes that separate the average from the truly effective field service companies. With that experience in mind, I’m sharing with you how to build and manage a powerhouse mobile field workforce.
Utilize Logic and Rules on Digital Forms to Pre-Populate 80% of the Fields
A common misconception about field service and mobile workforce management software is it serves the sole purpose of providing a means to take a once paper-based work order form and digitize it. That is patently false, and I feel sorry for any mid-size to enterprise company that conducts field work or maintains assets that stumbles upon a digital form building software thinking it’s the answer to their problem.
The highly effective field service companies I know leverage rules, logic, calculations and automation in their once paper-based, now digital forms. Why spend time manually calculating invoices, parts or inventory? There should be a function that processes the necessary calculations for the technician in the field—directly within the field service mobile app—or available to the office personnel, if they are the responsible party for invoicing.
Further, not all forms are created equal. It’s sometimes necessary to have slightly different versions of the same work order form. Highly effective field service companies employ logic in their digital forms, allowing field technicians to easily input only the relevant information into a work order. Answering yes or no questions is one way to accomplish this on a form, as the built-in logic will automatically skip unnecessary form fields. The form won’t even display the fields to the technician, it all happens on the back-end of the form in the background.
There is also the case of pre-populating fields for a known customer – no need to make the technician manually fill out the same customer information on a form when the fields can be pre-filled in, saving valuable time and reducing data entry errors.
It is possible with the right field service software to essentially automate the completion of 70%-80%, or more, of a work order form through these methods. With the concept of a universal form related to one asset type, for example, you can include multiple assets within one form across multiple locations. The universal form rolls-up the field captured data into one form for ease of disseminating information.
Availability of Better Decision-Making Solutions in the Field
While it may be true field technicians can be highly specialized, it’s also true they may be highly generalized, working on many different types of jobs. Jumping into a new work order or taking on a new customer can mean little to no time getting up to speed on what exactly needs to be done. Unfamiliarity with equipment can also be a challenge.
Learning on the job is common for field workers, but it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Some of the most highly efficient field service companies don’t just rely on the field technician to pick up a new skill or learn about a new piece of equipment immediately; they know that’s not realistic. Instead, they ensure availability of better decision-making solutions in the field, when and where the work is actually happening.
Effective field service software enables operations managers to attach key context-sensitive operating procedures, manuals, how-to guides or embedded steps, directly within the digital work order the technician accesses from the field service mobile app on their device. By making such solutions available in the same application, the technician is empowered to complete the task on time.
Today, there are still many field service companies that are still using gigantic paper manuals. In some cases, there is no alternative. The majority of cases we’ve come across it’s possible to digitize the material.
Ultimately, providing your mobile field workforce with these types of solutions can make them more effective as well as save you time and money.
Automated Orchestration of Field Updates Across Back-Office Systems
It’s not unusual for field service companies to employ many different types of software, solutions and tools within their IT stack. From ERP, CRM and GIS software to accounting, HR and analytics tools, we’ve seen and heard it all.
What sets apart some of the most successful service companies that have built a powerhouse mobile field workforce, is integrating their disparate back-office systems with their field service software. Instead of manually updating multiple systems of record, they trust in the software that holds it all together to make the updates automatically via API calls, SFTP or web services. In a matter of seconds, multiple systems can be updated and reflect the same information. Every department that touches any of the company’s corporate data has the same information at the same time.
Automated orchestration of field updates to back-office systems is useful in scenarios where the criticality, as well as accuracy, of data is exceptionally important, such as instances that levy heavy fines for compliance failures. The bottom line is companies that have built a powerhouse mobile field workforce employ automation to ensure their systems of record remain up-to-date at all times, because they know the connection between accurate data and efficiency go hand-in-hand.
Supply Mobile Field Service Software that is Simple, Powerful and Easy to Use
Not everyone enjoys learning something new if they don’t want to. Can you recall a time when you were told you had to learn a new system to do your job? How did you accept that?
Adopting new software can be like that, especially when it comes to field service. Between part-time contractors, temporary technicians and employee attrition, maintaining a stable field workforce isn’t always easy. Add a layer of technology a technician must learn to do their job and you may get a difficult sell to potential candidates.
Field service companies that have built a highly effective, powerhouse mobile field workforce supply them with mobile software that is simple and easy to use, but powerful enough to cover the aforementioned criteria. It’s imperative to empower field crews with resources that allow them to complete their work with speed as well as accuracy.
What makes the best field service software simple, yet powerful?
- Intuitive mobile interface to make learning a new system easier
- As few clicks as possible to complete work orders
- Schedule views to quickly see daily, weekly, monthly planned jobs
- Maps to visually display customers, assets, jobs and other team members
- Real-time messaging and collaboration tools
- Continuous software updates via a cloud-based software delivery model
Bringing it all Together
The promise of digital solutions to analog problems is real. There are ways to build a powerhouse mobile field workforce, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Thoughtfulness goes into what is the most effective, non-disruptive way to begin a digital transformation journey.
It should also be said that not all field service software has the capabilities to enable field service companies to build a powerhouse mobile field workforce. Field Squared is one of the rare, full-featured software solutions on the market that covers field service, assets and mobile workforce management in a single, unified platform. We’ve helped field service companies automate complex processes in order to build a significantly more effective mobile workforce. We’ve done it, we know it’s possible and we’d love to help others at whatever stage they are in their digital transformation journey.
Learn more about how Field Squared works in our 2-minute explainer video.