In our latest research project we’ve teamed up with rugged tablet manufacturer Xplore Technologies to find out what are the tools field service companies are investing in to ensure that they are giving their field service engineers every chance to ensure they are delivering service excellence.
In part one of this series we looked at the merging lines between rugged and consumer manufacturers and the rising trend for field service engineers to use more than one digital device when out in the field.
Now in this the second part of this series we look at the reasons companies select either consumer or rugged devices and the importance of Operating Systems upon device selection...
There is also an exclusive research report available for download that contains even further insight and analysis of these research findings. Download your copy of the findings here
Consumer versus Rugged
This of course leads us on to perhaps the biggest question within the discussion around which tools are best suited for field service deployment - rugged or consumer.
In last years findings we saw that the market was largely dominated by consumer grade products with over two thirds (67%) of companies opting for consumer products over their ruggedized cousins.
Whilst this year’s survey does show a slightly greater leaning towards the rugged sector the shift is generally minimal with 59% of this years respondents still identifying that they are deploying consumer grade devices. This is in comparison to 16% who are deploying rugged devices and 20% who provide their field service engineers with a mix of both rugged and consumer devices.
59% of this years respondents identified that they are deploying consumer grade devices. This is in comparison to 16% who are deploying rugged devices and 20% who provide their field service engineers with a mix of both rugged and consumer devices"
Well in terms of consumer devices being selected, the key over-riding factor as touched on a little earlier is simply the cost per unit.
In total well over two thirds (70%) of those companies who opted for consumer devices had done so because of the lower cost per unit.
The second most common reason cited was the faster potential user adoption via user familiarity, which was cited by just under a quarter (24%) of those respondents providing consumer devices.
Interestingly this figure rises to two thirds (33%) when we look at those companies that provide their field service engineers with mobile phones.
What is really interesting, however, is when we compare these findings with those who provide their engineers with rugged devices.
Essentially, we see the primary drivers for device selection completely reversed.
"In total well over two thirds (70%) of those companies who opted for consumer devices had done so because of the lower cost per unit"
Also important to this group was the durability and longevity of the device which was identified by around a fifth of respondents (22%).
This set of results is particularly interesting when viewed in the context of the common TCO (total cost of ownership) argument put forward by rugged OEMs and their distributors.
The argument being that across the general accepted lifespan of an asset a rugged device will generally end up costing a lot less than its consumer counterpart (when factoring in breakages, downtime, lower reliability rates, etc etc).
Given the majority of companies still opt for consumer devices because the lower cost per unit there could be considerable savings made if companies began to adopt a more pragmatic and longer term approach to device selection perhaps?
"Given the majority of companies still opt for consumer devices because the lower cost per unit there could be considerable savings made if companies began to adopt a more pragmatic and longer term approach to device selection perhaps?"
When we consider the mission-critical nature of field service, the need for reliability is of course likely to be anticipated.
However, given the TCO argument as well, it is perhaps surprising that in both this year’s and last year’s research, consumer products have remained so dominant.
Perhaps there is a need for further education amongst the industry on this topic?
The importance of OS
Of course one other factor that could play a part on the selection of devices is the operating system (OS) requirements of a field service management application that a company may have already in place.
Indeed: one respondent stated that his reason for selecting a consumer device was for ‘compliance with the field service management solution’.
Whilst many if not most dedicated field service management apps will be either device agnostic or available in a variety of native formats, this may not be the case if a company has developed their own system perhaps.
Certainly in the wider world of enterprise mobility, where the iPhone remains king having wrestled the crown from Research in Motion’s Blackberry some years ago, iOS is the de-facto choice for native designed apps.
However, whilst this is certainly a plausible theory the reality is that within the niche world of field service the Apple brand is far less powerful with in fact just 7% of our respondents stating their engineers use iOS.
Of course given the inclusion of laptops and tablets as key tools for field service engineers Windows operating systems fare well within our industry with 35% of companies stating this is their OS of choice, whilst Android’s dominance in the consumer markets is almost echoed amongst our respondents also with an impressive 42% of field service engineers using the Google owned OS.
"Nearly nine out of ten (86%) of companies saying that the availability of an OS on a device is at least one consideration for them"
In fact, it is a fundamental part of the decision making process for almost all companies, it seems, with nearly nine out of ten (86%) of companies saying that the availability of an OS on a device is at least one consideration for them.
However, further to that, over half (52%) of field service companies in our survey group stated that it was very important and they ‘decided our choice of device based on the OS it supports.’
Want to know more? Download the exclusive research report for further analysis and insight from these research findings
Look out for the next part of this series where we look at the importance of connectivity in device selection...
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