From The Editor | October 24, 2007

Wireless: The Enabler

Companies have leveraged wireless solutions to eliminate inside-the-four-walls manual processes. There's no reason they can't be as aggressive in automating their field forces.

Integrated Solutions, November 2007

Paper is dead. Long live paper.

When we launched Integrated Solutions more than 10 years ago, many of the technologies we covered helped companies eliminate manual, paper-based processes. Paper forms were replaced with e-forms. Paper pick tickets in warehouses were replaced with handheld computers. The talk of paperless offices and virtual mailrooms were a couple of concepts that seemed almost attainable. We were moving toward a digital world, and there would be no place for paper in that environment. It all seemed so inevitable.

All of this history leads us to today where we now cover technologies that, well, help companies eliminate manual, paper-based processes. Of course, today, we find these cumbersome, paper-based processes to be pervasive when it comes to managing field forces. I am always astonished when I learn of a large company that has not implemented automated data collection technology in its warehouses or DCs (distribution centers). The technology that will eliminate these processes is mature and extremely accurate.

We're quickly approaching a point where that same astonishment will be applied to companies that have not leveraged mobile technology to automate their workers in the field. The technology — hardware, software, and wireless connectivity — is mature and accurate. Just as with automated data collection, the cost of mobile solutions is inexpensive when weighed against the productivity gains.

In today's technology environment, it's nearly impossible to fund a project without a clear ROI case. In most cases, the days of pet projects and using fuzzy metrics to rationalize deployments have all but passed. That said, it's all the more bewildering that automating field force processes has not risen to the top of the priority list for companies that have a significant number of mobile workers. These solutions have a dramatic impact on customer service and create competitive advantages. While those results are real, you can focus on more tangible metrics to justify your investment in mobility-based field service solutions. Studies show that automation results in a 20% increase in the number of work orders closed per day by each tech. In terms of SLAs (service level agreements), companies with mobility-based field service solutions are in compliance 94% of the time (compared to a 74% compliance rate for nonautomated companies). As field workers have instant access to customer data and understand the services that are most important to them, there is one more metric to consider. More information at the point of service leads to upsell opportunities. Because of this, studies show that revenue per technician increases by as much as 30%.

There are plenty of additional benefits to support the deployment of mobility-based field service solutions. For example, route optimization solutions decrease technician windshield time. GPS (global positioning system) solutions allow you track all of your mobile workers and schedule dynamically based on specific locations and skill sets. And, processing a transaction the moment a tech completes a job allows you to shave days off your billing cycle.

The move toward automation within the four walls of an enterprise followed the typical technology adoption curve. And, today it's considered a best practice that's followed by almost all companies. We're reaching a similar point with mobility-based field service solutions. There are no more excuses for not moving forward. You must have a good reason for not investing in a mobile solution. But, it can't be as good as the reasons for moving forward with the project.