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Field Force Automation: Facilitating the Mobile Office

The need for mobile connectivity in the field service business is obvious. Among other benefits, SAP reports that mobile technology can help organizations achieve a 30% increase in labour productivity, a 60% increase in on-site response times, and a reduction in traffic and safety issues by up to 80%.

Due to these and other benefits, many organizations already equip their field forces with mobile communications technology, whether it’s smartphones, tablets, laptops, or all of the above. If your organization is looking into doing the same, this post is for you.

Here are some useful considerations when looking for ways to help workers connect reliably, securely, and cost effectively:

Provide gear that makes the worker feel more confident. Field workers don’t want to manipulate delicate devices with tiny buttons, especially if they’ll be wearing work gloves. They also don’t want to be worried about damaging a device due to the harsh working conditions. There are actually a number of smartphones built particularly for the field services industry, and these devices often meet rigorous industry standards for withstanding exposure to dust and debris, moisture, harsh temperatures, drops and falls, loud volumes and noise cancellation. A few examples include the Sonim XP7, the Kyocera DuraForce and the Lumia 830.

Speed is important. Field workers have to get things done, and get them done quickly. Technology that eats up their valuable time is counter-productive. That means using devices that boot up quickly, and networks that are reliable and fast. A portable hotspot like the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2 lets workers set up their own mini network that follows them wherever the job site might be. This eliminates having to waste timing finding and connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, or using up 3G/4G wireless data.

Cost effectiveness. All of the above noted considerations can also lead to cost savings. One portable hotspot can connect up to 10 workers at a time versus having them subscribe to 10 individual wireless data plans. A rugged device is less likely to be damaged, thus reducing smartphone replacement costs. And a tablet is often more affordable than a laptop, yet can be just as feature-rich for the field workers’ purposes.

Convenience equals productivity. It’s not just directly about productivity, but also about keeping the field force happy and comfortable throughout the workflow process. Giving workers quick and convenient access to user-friendly devices, the ability to get online reliably, reduce the amount of time they have to spend charging devices, and avoid lugging around heavy equipment, all contributes to that.

The bottom line

It’s important to equip your team with the technology they need to maximize productivity, which means understanding the challenges they face and determining how to properly address them.

What devices does your field service team use? Tell us in the comments below.

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