“No matter how you look at it, field service technology is poised for dramatic change in 2017.”
In most industries now, field service departments have to keep track of mobile employees and contractors who can be almost anywhere at any given time. It can be a significant challenge to maintain dispatching, schedule service orders, track vehicles, and keep a handle on job statuses when agents are far flung and on the move.
Industries including telecommunications, utilities, and transportation have all turned to field service management software to help them stay ahead. FSM solutions run quite a gamut, but they are all generally capable of updating job status, managing and scheduling orders, deciding the best routes, tracking vehicles and agents, tracking driver time, managing parts and inventory, and processing invoices — all through mobile devices.
By now, most of the companies that stand to gain from investing in FSM technology have done so. According to RapidValue, 80 percent of field service organizations say that mobile field service technology is required to improve staff efficiency and speed. But 2017 is shaping up to be the software’s biggest year, full of growth and change.
Here are some of the ways that field service technology is changing in 2017:
1. Embracing the cloud
The cloud has gained widespread adoption in nearly every software vertical, and any solutions that aren’t already hosted there will migrate soon, or at least provide a hybrid deployment option. Surprisingly, many FSM solutions have yet to make the shift. According to a 2014 Field Service News poll, only 23 percent of field service companies were using a cloud-based solution.
In 2017, that number is poised to change. The cloud’s benefits are well-documented and many of them are tailored for field services. The technology is scalable, has lower upfront and maintenance costs, is easy to implement. Many cloud-based vendors also provide built-in disaster recovery and native mobile apps. These solutions lower the barrier to entry for smaller field service teams.
2. Internet of Things (IoT) Integration
IoT gets a lot of attention for its potential to change the way our mobile devices talk to each other and keep us connected. When it comes to FSM, that’s important. For industries that have come to rely on mobile devices for work, IoT has the potential to change a lot this year.
As more field service companies adopt mobile solutions, their technology infrastructure spreads and diversifies. Field Technologies Online found that 41 percent of field service workers use a smartphone, 37 percent use laptops, and 22 percent use tablets. The beauty of the IoT is that it can connect any of these mobile devices to the same information system, along with telematics sensors, GPS trackers, and monitoring systems in the field.
The ability to monitor activities remotely, identify and repair damage before it metastasizes, and add another layer of connectivity with agents in the field all make IoT an assured go-to for FSM in 2017.
3. Advanced Security
Of course, more mobility and connectivity also mean more security risks. While cloud and IoT connectivity aren’t inherently less secure than other digital systems, there is always the chance that information will end up in the wrong hands, so increased security measures are set to become a big FSM initiative in 2017.
“In field services in particular, where our workforce is becoming ever more reliant on mobile devices, we really need to consider the introduction of mobile safety policies to safeguard data,” says field service journalist Chris Oldland. “With new methods come new security concerns, so we must remain vigilant.”
Vital security practices include developing risk management strategies, using secure web infrastructure, and enforcing strict mobile device policies among staff. Many firms will also consider using mobile device management technology to enforce these policies across all of their operations.
No matter how you look at it, field service technology is poised for dramatic change in 2017. Only time will tell exactly how that transforms the industry, but in some areas, change is inevitable.
Peter Chawaga is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com with years of experience as a reporter and editor for publications around the country. He’s covered arts and culture in Philadelphia, business and development in Greensboro, and healthcare and technology in Nashville.
Last modified: March 1, 2017