I remember the first time that I saw an iPhone. Having never owned any sort of palm or blackberry, it was like I was encountering an advanced alien technology. The power of its two-megapixel camera, its ability to provide wi-fi enabled geotagging (though no GPS), and its incredible ability to show more than one text message on a single screen was almost beyond comprehension. Staring into the inky blackness of that tiny monolithic square, I felt like I was getting a small window into the Rodenberry-inspired future that awaited us all.

Thirteen years later, smartphones are now boring. They’ve reached a design plateau (in spite of some attempts to mix things up), a steady annual stream of iterative improvements, and the market has been heavily consolidated into two operating systems, and a handful of hardware manufacturers gobbling up the market share. There is no mystique, no awe; we now have internet-enabled shoes and water bottles.

That boring-ness has derived itself from the relative ubiquity of smart devices. Mobility is cheap, accessible, and heavily-proliferated in both the developed and developing world. An obvious effect of that is that businesses have spent over a decade empowering their employees through this new channel.

If you benchmark service firms—even down to small businesses—on the maturity of their mobility solutions, you’ll see that more than half are already at a point where their solutions could be defined as an highly mature mobile field service solution.

Mobility is the norm, and that doesn’t just mean GPS and appointment starting and stopping. There’s a wealth of criteria that goes into mobility today, and not everyone is taking full advantage of what’s available. Do you know how you stack up?

When thinking about how you’re leveraging mobile, there are a few standouts that will help you along the path to maturity. Below are some things to keep in mind.

(One quick note—we’re focusing here on consumer-grade mobile utilities, rather than rugged devices, AR headsets, and so on. Expect more on those other device categories in the future.)

Use every part of the animal. Mobile devices are optimized from toe to tip for their form factor. From their dual cameras to the neural chips embedded in them to process augmented reality, every piece of a mobile device. A web app isn’t going to cut it when it comes to taking advantage of all of these pieces, either. You need something that’s calibrated to tap into the hardware potential of devices in the field. To that end, though, you also need to maintain some degree of consistency in the make and models of devices leveraged by technicians. In a BYOD-powered world that can be tricky, but good mobile device management will help you see what you have, and where the holes are.

Pave the way for a 1:1 solution. For a variety of reasons, the cloud might not be your FSM endgame, and that’s absolutely fine. But—you need to ensure that technicians don’t have to wait until they’re sitting in front of a workstation to get a job done. The service firm of the future is already on a path to dramatically minimize the footprint of the backoffice. Your technicians need to be able to manage parts, make schedule changes, and put down notes wherever they are.

Oversight, oversight oversight. You can’t just give your technicians an app to download. You need oversight into the historical data of a technicians’ device. This means not just mobile device management, but also tying the device data into your central systems to evaluate in aggregate job performance, metrics, location data, time on task and so on.  The best systems aggregate that data and use it as the tool to power predictive activities, planning and scheduling, and route management. You need to have any device you work with managed remotely, and you need that remote information to exist centrally. This can be done whether or not you’re a BYOD house.

These are a few small tips. But will put you on the road to mobile excellence, and prepare you with the right foundations for the next disruptive technology.

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service