The stars have certainly aligned for Field Service Management (FSM) applications. The technology required to schedule, track, and communicate with even a modest fleet of service vehicles 10 years ago kept anything resembling “real-time” FSM functionality in the hands of big companies like the Halliburton and the AT&Ts of the world. With the embedding of smartphones, tablets, GPS, and cloud computing into the basic fabric of our culture, a modern FSM Application has the functionality users were only dreaming about a few years ago. Managing any mobile workforce is challenging, but a service organization needs to get the appropriately trained resource(s) to the right location with the necessary parts and equipment, within timeframe demanded by today’s consumers.
From a business aspect, the players and their roles are not drastically changing; the different components of the FSM system simply allow each player to perform their role more efficiently and effectively.
The Dispatcher/Scheduler is still responsible for determining where the service tech is assigned, but the system helps makes the process easier and improves the overall decision process. Integration with back-end order systems (ERP/CRM) pulls the orders directly to the scheduler’s task list. Assigning and scheduling a task to a specific technician and timeslot is a matter of dragging and dropping it into the correct location. The visual display provides helpful real-time information about the available resources–including their schedule and current location. The system will also alert the dispatcher if the assigned work violates any of the rules or objectives configured in the software (i.e. skills, parts and equipment availability, radius of travel, etc.) This functionality is provided through a cloud/browser-based web application avoiding the need for managing software and internal IT resources.
The Technician will have the information they need to be downloaded to his or her phone or tablet. The native GPS and mapping functionality helps get them to the location, while voice, text, and alerts provide real-time communication. The internal camera allows image capture directly into the work order vs. selecting and importing or copying images to static forms. Location services can provide evidence that they are on site avoiding time-consuming (IVR) calls or searching for the appropriate person to “sign in”. Because Android, iPhone, Tablets, and others are all so mainstream, you no longer need to purchase dedicated hardware. This greatly reduces training times. Cost sharing and BYOD (Bring your own device) can be a win-win for both the company and the service technicians.
The business has the ability to make certain steps or procedures required in the field. For example, “change a filter” or “check a voltage” are required on the work order, which ensures they are completed at the time of the visit. The technician can capture the customer’s approval directly on the device and in many cases, collect the payment directly from the customer via a credit card. Having the data can help clear up misunderstandings with the customer and reduce days outstanding for collection.
FSM successfully leverages the capabilities of our current technology environment to a greater extent than any other mainstream business application on the market today. Anyone who is currently managing a Field Service organization using spreadsheets and whiteboards should take a fresh look at the modern FSM applications available today.