Predicting the future of field service technologies
Mar 2, 2021, by Sean King
The Story so Far
In the past, managing field workers was challenging and often labor-intensive. Even the best organized managers would face a constant battle to avoid miscommunications leading to delays, often arising from inaccurate or incomplete data and misplaced forms.
Luckily, things have improved in recent years as the ubiquity of mobile devices has made communication between field and office quicker, and electronic forms have begun replacing their paper counterparts.
However, field service managers are discovering that simple but limited mobile forms cannot meet the changing business needs and client expectations after a year of significant disruption.
Here's how we predict technology will continue to shape the field service industry!
1. First, you replaced paper forms. Now? Custom workflow apps!
The case for ditching paper forms in favor of mobile apps is now overwhelming and many field service managers have already transitioned to a digital form solution.
However, field services organizations are finding that basic mobile forms lack the flexibility needed to respond to changing business needs and are looking for alternatives.
With no-code apps, responding to changing requirements is quick and easy.
Want to capture photos, audio, or GPS coordinates on a device and upload them directly into your database? Simply add a new field to your app in seconds.
Are you finding that a new process is confusing technicians and leading to errors? Quickly configure skip-logic or on-device calculations to improve their user experience and remove your pain point.
Custom apps are showing field service managers the true value of flexibility. You can capture the data you need accurately the first-time and access it instantly via a central database and reporting dashboards, knowing that if needs change your apps can too!
Ultimately, this empowers field service firms to keep up with changing business, regulatory, or client needs.
But no-code apps can also be easily tied together to create custom workflows that meet every business requirement, going well-beyond simple mobile forms solutions.
Managers can leverage two-way access to a cloud database and workflow capabilities to empower field workers to confidently check parts and schedule additional services while in the field. This not only increases customer satisfaction by reducing repeat visits but also offers an opportunity to grow revenue through on-site value adds and additional services.
This is why we expect to see firms increasingly embrace flexible, database-driven workflow applications that can be quickly updated without code over basic mobile form solutions.
2. Expanding access and workflow participation to customers and contractors
Once organizations have begun to digitize and optimize their internal workflows with no-code apps, there is an unprecedented opportunity to expand workflows to external users and achieve even greater efficiencies.
Using on-demand access tokens you can update your business processes to empower customers and contractors to securely access your systems to complete workflows and participate in your business processes without the need for permanent user licenses.
Temporary access tokens provide an economical way to allow your clients to make self-service requests, approve or amend workorders and reschedule requests directly in your application. The same applies to contractors, who can be assigned work and submit completed orders on an ad hoc basis without needing full-time licenses to access your systems. Remove the opportunity for error or omissions by granting on-demand access to submit or edit app data to external users.
On-demand access tokens also provide a way to offer 'no contact' options for sales agents to obtaining signatures and approvals from clients and contractors, without time-consuming email threads or additional phone calls.
Ultimately, field service application platforms that allow access on-demand provides an opportunity to improve productivity while improving outcomes for your clients… a win-win!
3. Renewed focus on improving data visualizations and real-time reporting
Field service application platforms that provide interactive dashboards help managers visualize operations in real-time to identify issues and take corrective action fast. They do this by presenting historic and real-time data in intuitive widgets, allowing you to review anything from past SLA performance in a chart to the current status of assets and employees on a map.
Dashboards also help tie together enterprise data and business processes to create a custom field service management hub, empowering you to make data-driven decisions and take action to reassign employees, assets, or resources in seconds.
This combination of visual data and powerful workflow capabilities is what separates fully capable no-code platforms from simple mobile forms and business intelligence displays.
For example, utilities can use this powerful combination to manage their maintenance and facility teams to augment existing asset management and SCADA systems.
Dashboards also streamline reporting, reducing both the time and effort needed to collate relevant KPIs for both internal and external stakeholders.
Field service organizations can add value for their clients with a combination of interactive dashboards with on-demand access tokens. Managers can create and share customized real-time dashboards for clients, providing an up-to-date summary of services rendered and KPI performance.
4. Future-proofing business processes with edge-enabled IoT and automation
Emerging technologies in automated asset monitoring and machine data collection offer new opportunities to future-proof your business.
The Internet of Things (IoT) offers field service organizations the ability to increase efficiency and reduce downtime by automating many data collection tasks. By tying sensors to a centralized database, firms can monitor the status of field assets in real-time.
For example, use IoT sensors and controllers to remotely monitor and manage equipment and machinery 24/7 rather than regular inspections using field techs using paper or mobile forms.
Edge controllers can monitor hardware, generating workflow alerts and powering-down machinery if pre-configured conditions indicate performance or safety concerns. This proactive approach to asset monitoring frees your techs to focus on higher-value work and preventative maintenance scheduling, resulting in less downtime.
IoT will not remove the need for field techs, but it will improve operational efficiency and allow managers to optimize their resources. Field service firms can prioritize more proactive maintenance, gain useful information from IoT devices ahead of physical inspections or face-to-face interactions.
Automating data-processing tasks, such as assigning work orders or monitoring SLAs, with software robots can complement edge computing to further transform business processes by removing process latency and streamlining workflow bottlenecks.
Forward-looking field service firms are replacing basic forms with no-code platforms that are powered by structured databases rather than basic spreadsheets. This provides the ability to create, automate and integrate custom workflow applications quickly and without complex programming and allows you to change your processes to react to shifting requirements.
When considering platforms to digitize and automate field service delivery, look for flexible billing options that allow you to economically provide access on-demand to external users. This will help you to create the most efficient processes possible and provide additional value to customers and partners.
Making informed decisions means making sense of your data. Gain insight into operations with custom reporting dashboards that track your KPI's with intuitive graphics and interactive maps that let you take corrective action and reassign resources with a click.
Lastly, look to IoT and machine data for opportunities to automate asset monitoring and implement predictive maintenance schedules. IoT deployments can be complex, ensure that your platform integrates seamlessly with your existing applications, and ties everything neatly into a truly unified and future-proof field service system.
To discover how no-code app development can boost your field service business, contact one of our experts for a complimentary consultation.