Field Service Automation

Evolution of requirements and options

The use of mobile technology, to help optimise field service management and operations is nothing new, but how successful have past deployments been in this space, and are there lessons to be learned for those looking to invest in either new or replacement systems?


Mobile technology is confirmed to enhance service flexibility and field resource utilisation

When 100 senior managers were interviewed on their experiences and plans in relation to field service automation, the impact of mobile technology on flexibility and resource utilisation was very clear. Those employing mobile devices in the field, whether wireless or (more commonly) unconnected, are significantly more satisfied on average with their performance in these areas.

Yet mobile investments are not always delivering adequately

The evidence suggests that a significant number of the solutions out there at the moment are not delivering as they should. In fact, a relatively small proportion of those interviewed (about 1 in 10) have a system in place that they are completely happy with. Almost twice as many say what they have today either needs replacing or is in the process of being replaced, with another large group highlighting the need for extensions and enhancements.

Some are already on the second turn of the adoption, enhancement and evolution cycle

While many still think of mobility as a relatively new area, the finding that a significant number of organisations are already looking to replace their first generation investments means the concept of legacy is already emerging in this area. This is perhaps an indication of both changing requirements as early adopters have gained experience, but is also consistent with a maturing of offerings on the supplier side of the equation, providing many more options and greater capability today than was available, say, 5 years ago.

There is question of build versus buy, and the answer depends on the nature of the operation

As we look ahead to fulfilling future requirements, there is a strong correlation between the nature of the field service operation and the style of solution and implementation approach that is considered to be most appropriate. Those with relatively simple and static requirements are more inclined to be looking at packaged or hosted solutions, while organisations with more complex or dynamic requirements favour the open platform approach as the foundation for more tailored applications.

Whatever the approach, wireless is a key requirement, as is multi-device support

Most of the technology used in the field has historically been unconnected, but the general view today is that wireless is a key requirement for future developments in order to drive flexibility and resource utilisation to the next level. Beyond this, those with past experience highlight the need for solutions to be device independent in order to deal with the rate of technology evolution in this space.

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Dale is a co-founder of Freeform Dynamics, and today runs the company. As part of this, he oversees the organisation’s industry coverage and research agenda, which tracks technology trends and developments, along with IT-related buying behaviour among mainstream enterprises, SMBs and public sector organisations.