Survey: Field Service Companies Moving Toward Tablets

Tablets have clearly made their mark with consumers, evidenced by the truckloads of Apple iPads that keep flying off retailers’ shelves. Businesspeople, too, have started gravitating toward the app-enabled, Internet-connected devices. And according to a recent survey of service personnel, field technicians look like the next sector to really dive head-first into the fray.

The 2012 Field Service Benchmarking Report, conducted by WB Research during the 2012 Field Service USA conference in May, indicated that tablets are clearly on field service organizations’ minds. The survey asked personnel from over 400 companies at the event what technology they’d most like to invest in over the next six to 12 months, with over half — 58.2 percent, to be exact — pointing to tablet computers.

That number jibes pretty well with research we’ve seen from John Ragsdale of TSIA on field service companies’ planned spending on mobile — he said 62 percent of TSIA service organizations had approved spending budgets that included funds for mobile tools and devices.

“These last few years, spending’s really been trending up,” Ragsdale said during a webinar presenting his research back in March. “This year I’m a little surprised at how high spending is — it’s higher than I’ve ever seen. There’s a lot of pent-up spending because some of these old [field-service] products are so out-of-date and hard to upgrade.”

Many field service technicians still lug bulky laptops or rugged computers around with them. Although for technicians that aren’t working in particularly oppressive conditions, the move toward more consumer-oriented devices like the iPad has started to pick up steam.

Further, the tablet market appears to be going through some big changes: Field tech managers have more options right now to choose from than ever before. For instance, the $499 iPad is a sleek device, but other recent entries like Google’s Nexus 7 tablet offer almost the same power in a smaller package (a 7-inch screen instead of 9.7 inches) for a smaller price of only $199. Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Microsoft’s upcoming Surface, and BlackBerry’s Playbook are all credible alternatives, as well.

It’s also important to note that collaborative apps, such as ionGrid and Accellion, are favorites in the field. They allow employees to connect with one another, access computer files, or get help on a tricky job or repair.

The survey also revealed a couple of other interesting findings — particularly that service R&D doesn’t appear to be a big priority for most organizations. Almost 40 percent of companies said that service accounted for a substantial portion of overall revenues (more than 25 percent), and yet nine in ten companies don’t allocate more than 20 percent of revenues to service R&D.

More: Five Reasons Field Service Organizations Need to Get Serious About Mobility.

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ABOUT Tiffany Kaiser

Tiffany is a tech journalist turned full stack developer who's passionate about the design of a site, the code I write and the people I'm writing it for. I can OO JavaScript, style a sidebar and query a database while upholding that human element needed to communicate with team members and clients.