Following up on some of some of the interesting enterprise technology predictions for 2011 from ZDNet’s Phil Wainewright, more than a few suggest that the field service sector — as well as other “frontline workers” in the economy — will be the next beneficiaries of the sort of technological makeover that desk-bound “penpushers” and office PC users got nearly a decade ago.

Two of Wainewright’s six forecasts — “Business transformation becomes the big story” and “Mainstream means mobile” — are the most interesting ones for field service managers to start thinking about and planning for.  If 2009 and 2010 were the years of the iPhone and iPad as hit consumer playthings, in 2011 Wainewright says, “the new, new thing is not a technology at all, but a new way of doing business that’s enabled by all of the above. The new year’s most telling innovations will not be in mobile, cloud or social technologies but in how smart, entrepreneurial business people adapt to the potential that blossoms from those technologies.”

As we’ve started to track here on SmartVan, some of those blossoms have pushed up through the ground already for field service.  In a follow-up post, Wainewright lays out what this shift means in the big picture:

…Frontline workers will be among the earliest adopters of next-generation enterprise applications delivered to smartphones and tablets. This is going to be an important cultural shift for many organizations, where throughout the PC era, it’s been the penpushers, analysts and managers who’ve had all the latest and greatest technology at their fingertips. We’re entering a new era in which retail sales assistants, field service engineers and maintenance operatives are going to be first in line for the newest mobile devices, while the knowledge workers back in the office struggle on for the next few years with their superannuated Windows OSes and unresponsive flatscreens.