Key Strategy Elements to Consider when Choosing a Mobility Platform

See original post at Energy Central – Mobile Utility Community.

According to their most recent research report, Gartner, Inc. predicts that the Utilities Industry will begin a “Digital Business Transformation” in 2015. In an effort to tackle this transformation, utilities are focusing on three key areas: energy provisioning transformation, digital customer engagement, and digital workforce enablement (Gartner – Agenda Overview for Energy & Utilities, January 2015).

In order for your public utility to be positioned to capitalize on this digital business transformation, you will need to consider the implications to your core processes across the full enterprise. Managing the complexities will be more effective if you prioritize one primary area as the starting point. For example, many utilities have decided to focus on “Digital Workforce Enablement” as the area where the greatest impact can be made for the enterprise. This allows you to simplify the project by including specific aspects of your processes that address mobility in the workforce. By selecting a partner that has been through the process with other utilities, you can shorten the cycle by understanding and implementing current best practices.

Field Service News references this approach by stating that you should seek out partners that have “Robust & Flexible Platforms…These platforms need to be cloud-based and flexible, allowing them toconfigure and manipulate modules and functionality as they see fitbacked by a reliable provider” (Field Service News – Eight Trends That Will Impact Field Service in 2015, January 2015).

In this article, I will lay out key strategy elements to consider when selecting a mobility platform partner.

Capabilities of a Robust & Flexible Mobility Platform

Links the Field to Existing Back-Office Systems

Utilities that leverage their back-office systems and integrate them for direct access by their field workforce will gain the advantage of agility and proactivity with the access to real-time data and information as events occur. The ability to unlock data from legacy back-end systems and connect them to the frontline in a secure cloud-based environment is critical.

Operable on any Mobile Device

A mobility platform that operates on any device, including iOS, Android and Windows, will give utilities the flexibility to quickly deploy and adapt to future technology updates and innovations. Consideration needs to be given to the advanced features that are available through these new devices. Improvements to current processes are now possible.

Easily Configurable by Non-IT People

Considering the frontline workflow early on in your mobile strategy will help you be more successful in choosing a mobility platform. Before you create your mobile strategy, map out the daily workflows of employees (including tailboard meetings, inspections, damage reports, meter exchanges and timesheets) and brainstorm what can be optimized with the advanced capabilities of mobile devices. The mobility platform you choose should be easy for any person to configure. Converting existing forms to digital on a mobile platform should be a relatively simple process. Consider the need to modify and edit forms in addition to creating new forms for daily field operations.

The Internet of Things & Asset Management

The previous Gartner report highlighted the need for asset management in a mobility platform to ensure that enterprise systems support “key processes like inspections, maintenance, and service restoration operations.” The concept of the “Internet of Things” is to convert “passive” assets into “interactive” assets, where the system allows real-time monitoring and management of assets. The goal for utilities regarding the “Internet of Things” should be to ensure intelligent and preventative – not reactive – approaches to asset management. When an asset is in trouble you can automatically dispatch a qualified crew to handle the emergency, maintenance or repair. Information captured in the field provides diagnostics and performance metrics that mitigate certain issues as well as track patterns and trends for long-range planning.

Fully-Featured & Integrable Workforce Planning

Emerging mobile platforms equip operations managers with real-time visibility of workflows and schedules in order to better plan, track and manage field crews, assets and resources. Integration with scheduling and Workforce Management (WFM) provides the ability to make informed operational decisions with real-time information and is predicted to help utilities reduce costs and improve workforce productivity.

Cloud-Based

Cloud-based Apps enable utilities to implement mobile workforce mobility projects with quick deployment and lower costs on a platform that is scalable and integratable. Additionally, they provide constant new product releases (at little or no additional cost) and are very easy to use.

According to Field Service News, the benefits of the Cloud are well documented and well suited to field service organizations. Scalable, low IT costs, quick roll out, easy mobile access, and built in disaster recovery plus an affordable pricing structure via the Cloud model. It is just a matter of time before the Cloud becomes the dominant distribution model of field service software.

Real-Time Insights & Analytics

Data Analytics is a term that is now widely used and little understood. The goal of implementing a Mobile Workforce Platform should include providing access to “relevant” data on a real-time basis to both the Field Service team and the Operations Group at corporate. Digital data capture in the field is only useful when it is combined with other related data sources to provide people closest to the issue to make informed and timely decisions.

The power of mobile is the connection to insights. According to a report by Aberdeen Group, Inc. “The goal of mobile tools should be to help technicians resolve more issues in the field. This capability does provide management and service leaders with the insight into the productivity of the field team…[which allows them to] adjust resources in real-time and identify opportunities for training to improve productivity” (Aberdeen Group – Empowering the Mobile Worker with Real-Time Insight and Data Integration, September 2014).

Highly Secure & Encrypted

Cloud-based platforms are equipped with the highest levels of security and encryption available today and are constantly monitored and upgraded. Field Service News discusses the importance of security by mentioning the importance of “…Protecting and safeguarding network entry but also ensuring that every mobile device is fortified.” In order to effectively accomplish this, partner with a platform that has secured its modules with high encryption to ensure data protection.

Are you ready for the “Digital Business Transformation”?

Begin by creating a mobility strategy and select a mobility platform provider that meets the requirements listed above as your partner. You should consider the words of Robert Bigliani, associate vice president, head of EMEA, IDC Energy Insights, in referencing the Utility of the Future: “[Uncertainties will present]…opportunities for those agile and capable enough to adapt to variable environments to quickly deploy or collaborate with others and implement solutions that may fall outside the traditional scope of a utility. Utilities that succeed in this energy transition will have innovation, speed, and flexibility in their DNA.”

Developing your own strategy and planning to execute a “Digital Business Transformation” for your public utility begins with understanding your corporate DNA. Some teams get “stuck” planning and never get to the nimble and agile implementation of a realistic Mobile Workforce Platform. Get started quickly, implement a pilot project first, then learn, adapt and go!

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