In August 2018, severe flooding in the southern Indian state of Kerala displaced at least one million people and killed nearly 500. For Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a global IT services, consulting and business solutions organization based in Mumbai, the Kerala crisis hit close to home: About 300 of its Kerala-based employees suffered damage or loss to their homes or those of close family members. While many employees returned to work a few weeks after their floods, they still had to cope with loss of property and disruption of services like electricity and water.

“Everyone had different challenges,” explains Anil Pai, TCS‘s global head of field service management. “Some people had to vacate their homes because of landslides and find temporary housing. Some didn’t have structural damage, but the electrical system broke down.” Other employees whose homes escaped damage had to travel back and forth to distant villages where family homes were flooded out.

The rescue process on August 17, 2018, in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India. Image: ShutterStock

To help employees quickly recover from the disaster, TCS offered a one-time grant to help repair flood damage to a home — either the employee’s home or the home of family members supported by the employees, such as parents. The problem, Pai says, was getting grant money to eligible employees as fast as possible, so their lives could return to normal.

TCS hired WVA Consulting Engineers, an engineering and surveying firm, to visit the flood-damaged homes of about 125 employees who applied for the grants. But creating and filing paper-based surveys and keeping track of photos and maps, Pai knew, would add delays for already-stressed employees. “The last thing we wanted to do was have employees get frustrated when we were trying to help them,” Pai says.

Saving Time with Field Assessment Tools

The key, he and his colleagues realized, was to apply field service management tools to the grant approval process. “That was our eureka moment,” Pai says. He suggested to the grants committee that the assessment team use Predix ServiceMax (TCS is a ServiceMax Global System Integrator) to capture information about flood-damaged homes. “That way, we’d have a single system of record,” Pai says.

The last thing we wanted to do was have employees get frustrated when we were trying to help them. — Anil Pai, Tata Consultancy Services

When Pai showed members of the grants committee how the field service management system worked, “they were bowled over,” he says. Even though the finance and human resources people on the committee weren’t familiar with field service tools, “they understood how it worked right away.” Pai explains. “That meant the surveyors would, too.”

The Tata Consultancy Services team that led the ServiceMax app configuration. Image: Anil Pai/TCS

Surveyors began visiting flood-damaged homes of grant applicants in October 2018, following a quick training on iPads equipped with ServiceMax. Surveyors used the app to notify employees about upcoming home visits and also used the system’s maps and GPS tools to quickly locate each home and tie that location to their reports.

The surveyors take photos of damage using iPads, obtain statements and signatures from residents about the flooding and damages within the ServiceMax app, and add repair estimates to the online record. The grants committee initially hoped that the two survey teams could each complete two surveys per days — a prediction the teams have beaten thus far. Since teams don’t have to juggle paper documents and patch together photos and signed statements, they’ve been able to finish as many as five surveys daily.

The grants committee can make decisions faster since they can review assessments immediately once submitted by surveyors in the field. And when a survey team came to a committee meeting, “they just turned on the iPad, logged into the app, and everything was there for the committee to see,” Pai says. The committee was able to review 13 grant applications in just 30 minutes.

Pai expects the committee to consider about 125 applications in total, and determine grant amounts just a day or two after meetings. “We expect the grants to be paid out by the end November — much faster than expected — so employees can start moving forward,” Pai says.

ABOUT Christine Kent

Avatar photoChristine Kent brings more than 20 years of writing and journalism expertise to her work for technology, consumer and corporate organizations.