Now more than ever, today’s field service technician is never really alone out in the field. With the push of a button, (or, as the case may be with all these new tablets, the swipe of a finger) they can connect with the home office, or tap into the collective knowledge base of their entire service organization.
And the numbers back this up: a study released this month by the Altimeter Group shows that field technicians among the most eager enterprise workers flocking toward mobile tools and collaborative-style Web apps that allow them to get work done and connect with each other, or a manager, from anywhere.
“Field workers aren’t just looking to access information on mobile devices,” Altimeter’s Chris Silva, the report’s author, told the SmartVan. “They’re making notations, editing a document, or maybe even creating information from the field. Because of that I think it’s really important to empower these folks with something more than just access to centrally stored information — but also [give them] the ability to create, mark up, and iterate on centrally stored information which can be shared among their colleagues.”
According to the report, 62 percent of field workers benefit from mobile tools, by far the highest percentage among the group of organizations surveyed that includes information, sales, technical, and executive workers.
Consumer, Enterprise Sectors Bleeding Together
Silva also noted that some popular consumer-geared applications are giving way to similar ones that are beefed up for the enterprise. He pointed to enterprise-focused collaborative apps like Accellion and ionGrid that are “purpose-built for an enterprise level of concern,” that are beginning to displace consumer apps like Box or Dropbox.
That also works the other way around. Silva said he’s also seeing a slow, but visible, adoption of consumer tablets — primarily the iPad — into enterprise service departments, especially among cities and municipalities.
“At $700, an iPad is cheaper or on-par with the purpose-built devices out there, but with far more capabilities because of its much larger application ecosystem within Android and iOS,” Silva said. “The use cases for an iPad in a rugged environment are few right now, but we see that changing.”
Many first responders and even firefighters, he said, have started bringing an iPad out into the field with them.
“Municipalities are starting to wake up to the fact that a $700 iPad with ruggedization is going to be far more useful than a $2,000 rugged device.”
With remote-based field service workers the most in need of mobile tools and dynamic, collaborative apps, any advancements in the industry will be sure to hit the service sector hard, and fast. And it’s already happening.