From The Editor | May 24, 2013

What Does Big Data Mean In Field Service?

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
Follow Us

You’ve probably heard the term “Big Data” as it has become one of those overused industry buzzwords. But do you know what it really means or how it applies to field service? I was asked this question at a conference recently, and I thought, since the term is somewhat vague, some of you out there are probably wondering the very same thing.

Gartner defines Big Data as “high-volume, -velocity and -variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.” My translation of this as it relates to field service is simple — organizations have more data coming in than ever before, and that, if you can determine how to process that data in a way that makes it consumable, you can leverage it to make more informed business decisions. This relates directly to the use of mobile technologies in that, as organizations expand upon and perfect their use of these technologies by front-line mobile workers, the amount of data coming in from the field increases and becomes more complex. And the data isn’t typically coming in as a steady, digestible flow of information, but rather in big bursts of activity and information. Because of this, much of the valuable information collected in the field remains unused. And that’s where the lesson comes in — if you can figure out how to better consume and leverage all of the Big Data coming in to your organization, you have the opportunity to improve your business.

How To Leverage Data From Your Mobile Technologies
Here are some suggestions for how to determine if there’s more you could be doing with your company’s Big Data. First, assess what data you have coming in from the field. What information do your techs collect from the field via a mobile solution? What data does your fleet management or telematics solution provide? Do you gather any data via an M2M (machineto- machine) or remote monitoring solution? Once you have an outline of all of the data you’re collecting and receiving, think about who all could benefit from having access to that data. For instance, the service department needs the notes techs take on a job site to complete a service call record, but could the sales department also use that information to determine upsell opportunities? Look for opportunities for information sharing across groups to get the most of the data you’re obtaining. The next step is to determine the best way to process the data. Is there data you’re gathering but not using because it isn’t available in a consumable format? Work with your current solutions providers to see if there are opportunities to create custom reports that could help you get more from your data. If you can get your data to a point that it is consumable, you’re ready for the overall goal — identifying all of the opportunities you have to leverage this data to assess trends, evaluate performance, and make more informed decisions.