Using technology to increase the efficiency of your mobile workforce

Feb 27, 2014 • Featureslucien wynnOneserveSoftwareSoftware and AppsManaging the Mobile Workforce

It has long been known that field service organisations can utilise technology to reduce costs, boost efficiency and improve the productivity of their mobile workforce. But knowing exactly how to make the most of the technology and opportunities out there is not so black and white. Lucien Wynn, Managing Director of Oneserve discusses...

The last couple of years have brought mobile technology on in leaps and bounds, and as such there is now a plethora of options out there for utilising mobile technologies to improve workforce management. Organisations with a mobile workforce can, for example, use software installed on mobile devices to keep their technicians updated with all the information they need while in the field. Jobs can be updated, instant feedback on the progress of jobs can be provided and the technicians’ exact location can be tracked, all in real time. But implementing the right solution can be a challenge.

The importance of keeping up with the mobile revolution has not gone unnoticed; the 2013 Workforce Management Guide produced by the Aberdeen Group showed that 57% of organisations sampled viewed investing in mobile tools as a priority. Of course, investing in new gadgets alone is not enough, so what else should be considered when thinking about a new investment in technology?

Getting the mobile workforce to buy-in

The first step in making sure you achieve what you set out to when investing in new technology is to gain buy-in from those who will be using it. Without that, it will never be utilised properly and thus wasted. According to research from the Aberdeen Group, 67% of Best-in-Class field service organisations regarded gaining buy-in from their field service technicians as the most important aspect in ensuring the timely and effective deployment of a mobile solution. If your employees are involved in the decision-making process and know what they are getting when new technology is rolled out, they’ll be ready for it and much more likely to react positively to the change.

The impact on the organisation as a whole

The second step is to take a holistic approach to new investments in technology – consider the impact on your whole organisation, not just part of it. Even if new technology is only being deployed in a certain department, at some point it is likely to have an impact elsewhere. For example, consider a new piece of accounting software being used in the finance department – you’d be forgiven for assuming that it would never affect your field service technicians. But that may well not be true – imagine if it had an impact on the way expenses had to be submitted; everyone in the company who had to make expenses claims on a regular basis, including workers in the field, would be affected.

Short-term vs long-term

Another consideration should be the long-term impact of the new technology. Could it lead to an improvement in the way your business functions for many years to come? If so, don’t let worries about its impact in the short-term prevent you from adopting the technology. Most organisations, big and small, will experience some teething problems with new technology initially, but it often just takes a little time to bed in before it yields positive results. Of course, you will need to take into account both the potential long-term and short-term impacts on your business, but if the former outweigh the latter, then by all means you should do what you can to push the adoption of the new technology.

In summary, then, if you are to effectively utilise technology to increase the efficiency of your mobile workforce you’ll need to consider various factors. Of those mentioned above, perhaps the most important is gaining buy-in to the technology from your field workers. They’ve got to want to use the technology you supply them with, and are much more likely to do so if they know how it will help them in their daily jobs (they also, of course, need to know how to use it). Without that, you could be left with both an underutilised new technology and an underproductive workforce.

Of course, it’s also very important to consider how new technology will impact on your whole business, and not just those who it affects directly. If you’re making a big investment, it is inevitable that it will have an impact on the entire business so bear this in mind. At the same time, don’t let a big change put you off – if you think the move is right, go ahead with it.

Finally, remember to take a long-term view. Sometimes the cost of making a new investment in software or technology can seem high and lead you to question whether it is worth it. But consider what benefits the investment could bring over the next 1, 3 and 5 years and then take a fresh look – you may be surprised at the long term benefits it will bring.