If this isn’t obvious now, it will be soon: the business of field service is undergoing a game-changing transformation. First, with capital budget cuts in place for so many customers, it’s essential to get more productivity from current equipment and resources. That means operations managers are looking to their service providers for creativity and leadership. Second, aside from certain regional exceptions, the wireless infrastructure in place today will support digital communications at reasonable rates, lowering the barrier for small and mid-sized firms. And the chances are very good that the usual rules will apply to the transition from paper-based work orders to paper-free.
To paraphrase Geoffrey Moore from “Crossing the Chasm,” in speaking of technology adoption there will be visionaries, innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. I would argue that with regard to the paperless field service call, we are at that difficult “chasm” between early adopters and early majority. Early adopters are already using electronic forms, data extraction tools and financial systems integration to maintain real-time business intelligence. Field workers are carrying smart phones, receiving updates on the fly, using integrated signature capture technology and, in some cases, executing the financial transaction at the client site.
Technologies are propelled into “industry standard” status when the (majority) customer will not accept anything less. Is paperless field service destined to be the Standard? You bet. So the question becomes: How do I know that the time is right for me as a service provider? What are my options with regard to platform — web-based, client-server, free-ware, etc.? What about my staff: Will they transition gracefully?
A service provider should consider the growing appetite for a reduced carbon footprint and digitalized transactionsin their customer base. When contract renewal can be discussed in the context of local or global objectives, a service provider can place themselves in a enviable position. And service providers that weave their value proposition into the fabric of a client’s organizational objectives, such as sustainability, elevate themselves to a partnership role. However, even if there is no “environmental” initiative at play, the fact that the hardware to support the transaction is present — a great majority of field service personnel carry smartphones with browser and e-mail support — the ROI may be in-house. Review your current infrastructure with your systems integrator. You may find that your move to paperless is overdue.