From The Editor | June 25, 2013

Social Collaboration: Your Next Step With Mobility

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Sarah Howland

If your mobile workforce is leveraging mobility, you’re familiar with some of the benefits it can bring. Automating paper-based processes, getting techs on the job faster, giving techs real-time access to customer history and any necessary job aids while at the customer site, faster invoicing to shorten billing cycles, and so on. But if you’re like many companies I speak with that have a mobile solution in place, you’re wondering where the next wave of productivity gains is going to come from.

Eliminate Tech Calls And Emails To Improve Efficiency
One trend that’s producing real results for many companies is tech-to-tech social collaboration. Various software providers are introducing social collaboration into their mobile offerings, enabling technicians to interact quickly and easily with their peers. Imagine an interface like Facebook or Twitter, where you can easily exchange information, photos, and videos in real time. If a tech is at a customer site and runs into an issue he wasn’t expecting and isn’t sure how to deal with, he can send a question to his co-workers to see who can help. If there’s an image or video of what he’s dealing with, he can attach that for context. This provides instant access to a network of peer knowledge that isn’t easily accessible otherwise. Sure, the tech having the issue could call around to see who could help him diagnose the problem, or send an email to the back-office requesting help, but those methods are much more time consuming than a real-time collaboration tool like a tech-to-tech Facebook or Twitter.

This advancement is just another example of how the technologydriven consumer world is bleeding over into the mobile workforce environment. I think, though, that it’s an excellent idea — there’s no reason techs shouldn’t be able to communicate and collaborate as easily on the job as we can via social networks in our personal lives. That said, this trend is one that may not be received with as much enthusiasm by older members of the workforce who aren’t as familiar with personal social networks, as are younger members who are probably more active on networks like Facebook and Twitter. Regardless, it’s an opportunity to enable techs to exchange information more efficiently, which helps them get jobs done faster and can further improve productivity. If you’d like to take a look at some examples of tech-to-tech social collaboration tools, here are a few that I’m aware of: ClickSoftware’s SHOUT! ClickMobile app, ServicePulse by ServiceMax, SmartCollaboration by TOA Technologies, and the collaboration & social media component of ServiceVision by Astea International.