Managed Mobility Services: The Key to a Smooth Field Service Technology Launch

Donald B. Stephens is an author and freelance writer who has 32 years of experience in the field service industry working for the Xerox Corporation.  His years of personal, hands-on experience in field service make him uniquely qualified to write on the requirements and unique challenges field service IT organizations and techs face daily in deploying new technology solutions to better serve customers and improve business operations.  Panasonic welcomes him as a guest blogger! 

We’ve all been there. A new device, software program or online application system is rolled out, a meeting or demo is scheduled and there might even be a bit of hands-on training. Then the time comes to download or access the application or system that will make the new app or device work, but it fails — it can’t be found. For a field service technician, improper or ineffective training or support of new technology and tools is frustrating, costly and affects downtime for production equipment.

There needs to be more to a field services technology launch than the“Here it is. See how it works? It’s pretty easy and you can always access the online training..” If there isn’t proper predeployment configuration, comprehensive user training, follow-up care and a knowledgeable help desk, not only will the investment in the technology go unrealized, but the acceptance level of the new workflow process will wane.

Benefits of Managed Mobility Services

In-house IT deployment services are designed for just that — in-house, traditional or legacy IT infrastructure deployment. Unless your business has no operations other than field service, your IT department is likely not equipped or resourced to meet the unique mobile tech requirements of field service workers. According to an Aberdeen study on business process management, “In some cases, IT does not have the resources to quickly and adequately provide business solutions that the organization needs.”

Here are just a few ways field service workers’ computer habits and usage differ from those who sit behind a desk: 

  • Office workers have many in-house resources to turn to when in doubt. Service reps need to call externally for support. Often, those they talk to on the phone are often unfamiliar with the mobile technology or the field service applications they are using.
  • In office environments, updates, patches, and anti-virus definitions are closely monitored on the corporate network. In the field, updates arenot as easily managed and sometimes even neglected..
  • Field service mobile devices are constantly subject to rugged conditions that include extreme temperatures, remote or poor connectivity locations, dirty/dusty conditions, spills from various industrial fluids — as well as the careless mishandling of food and drink that can easily render an office computer useless.

Because of these types of unique field service technology needs and the increasing demand on internal IT, a significant gap often exists.

The Aberdeen study reported the top five pressures IT department respondents listed as having a negative impact on their performance:

  1. Too many disperse systems used to support the business (53%)
  2. Lack of internal resources (37%)
  3. Inability to design and deploy applications in an effective manner (32%)
  4. Increased scale of operations (23%)
  5. Difficulty in maintaining stability and security of business processes (22%)

As this study points out, even if the IT department is equipped to meet the unique technology needs of field service, it’s probably too busy to handle it effectively. There are three options to any company looking to address an IT manpower shortage, should it be identified during launch planning:

  • Option 1: Hire more IT personnel.
  • Option 2: Have IT realign personnel to absorb the added workload.
  • Option 3: Utilize the support services of a third-party mobile tech partner that specializes in field services deployment and support.

If the third option makes the most sense for your company, what else should you consider?

Ask the Right Questions

There are a few questions to consider when searching for a third-party service partner that will alleviate your IT department’s mobile technology burden:

  • Does the partner work with field service personnel and your IT department before, during and after the launch to ensure everything is working as it should?
  • Are they intimately familiar with field service environments, the hardware, and software you’re purchasing?
  • How quickly can the service get a replacement device into the hands of your technicians?  Do they have a track record for delivering?
  • Will replacements be field-ready, or will there be hours of setup time?

Whether you’re planning the purchase of an entire fleet of new field service mobile devices, or replacing out-of-date, underused technology your technicians have stored somewhere in their work trucks, working with an experienced provider of field service mobility solutions that has the resources to deliver a range of support services from pre-deployment assessment to hot-swap replacement devices to even end of life recycling services, will help you get the most from your field service mobile technology solution. Not to mention the respect and nod from the techs in the field. 

If you’re in the business of providing IT solutions for field services you know it is a demanding profession. It’s often just a field technician and their mobile computer on the front lines, wherever the job takes them. Thousands of organizations choose Panasonic Toughbook® computers and tablets for their employees who work in unforgiving environments. Make sure your workers can always depend on their mobile solutions with Toughbook mobile devices and Panasonic ProServices—planning, deployment, security, repair, and replacement services that support your IT and field staffs.

 For more information, please refer to our ProServices brochure.