Magazine Article | May 21, 2009

Field Mobility Solutions Maturity Model

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Enhancing your position as a service organization requires tighter integration between your field mobility technology and back end enterprise applications.

Integrated Solutions, FS&M Advisor 2009
Field mobility solutions can significantly enhance an organization's profitability while providing a defensible source of competitive differentiation. However, the majority of solutions deployed to date remain narrow in terms of scope and functionality, limiting their impact on an organization's operations. For instance, many field mobility solutions today are limited in their application capabilities — simple workforce management or dispatching solutions — and frequently do not take full advantage of the technologies currently available. Moreover, the architecture of many existing solutions is stovepiped with few, if any, hooks to back end enterprise systems.

One of the primary barriers to achieving greater operational impact of field mobility solutions has been the relative maturity — or immaturity — of the technologies and solutions available to potential users. However, many of these issues have been or are being overcome as field mobility solutions — and the core enabling technologies that make them up — are entering their next phase of development or maturity.

With first-generation field mobility solutions widely deployed, VDC's research sees a next phase of growth among target organizations. These companies are equipping their mobile workers with increasingly sophisticated solutions that leverage a broad collection of wireless communications and input/output capabilities. VDC Research maps field automation market maturity using a number of guideposts. One of the most powerful, and perhaps the most appropriate, might be the core applications supported by the field.

1. Field Asset Management And Transaction Automation
Core applications: Work order management, automated dispatch
System overview: Stand-alone mobile applications with limited integration
Primary value proposition: Cost reduction through faster, more accurate, real-time transaction data entry
Current status: Widely deployed

2. Field Asset Empowerment And Relationship Expansion
Core applications: Elements of SFA (sales force automation), CRM (customer relationship management)
System overview: "Simple" application integration from back end systems
Primary value proposition: Revenue enhancement by delivering more data, enabling more decisions
Current status: Deployed mostly in tier-one organizations, gaining ground in tier-two

3. Opening, Extending, Integrating The Enterprise
Core applications: Integration of virtually any enterprise application, migration of more data
System overview: Requires adherence to larger enterprise IT rules — with mobile policies clearly defined, resourced, and managed
Primary value proposition: Enabling the enterprise to bring all of its potential to the point of decision for customers, suppliers, and other partners
Current status: Only the most sophisticated, and well-resourced, tier-one enterprises — or the most visionary others

An essential element of all successful field mobility solutions is to support real-time decision making in the field in a scalable fashion. In the wake of increasingly discontinuous change faced by organizations, those equipping their workers with best-in-class business and customer intelligence are going to be best positioned to adapt, survive, and excel.

A leading example of field mobility solution developments is the integration of GPS (global positioning system) and location information in existing applications. Driven by their strong ROI, demand for mobile devices with integrated GPS functionality continues to grow substantially, according to VDC's most recent research.

For example, delivery companies are reducing delivery windows up to 50% through improved tracking and management of their fleets. Moreover, reducing driving miles is resulting in significant cost savings, as costs can exceed $2 per mile. On another note, there is evidence that GPS solutions will shift from capturing and reporting key data related to the truck's diagnostics (e.g. idling, drive time, and fuel economy) to playing a larger role in maximizing cargo space for increased delivery capacity by supporting onboard asset management (such as spare parts logistics in the field service industry).

Organizations with substantial field-based workers are finding themselves at a crossroads in terms of the tools required to support a best-in-class organization. The most forward-thinking organizations have equipped their field forces with the appropriate mobile communication tools to provide best-in-class service and support. Care to join them?