Posted tagged ‘ServiceMax’

Providing Mobile Devices for Service Employees: Mixing Business and Pleasure

September 26, 2013

I have a dear friend who is a retired teacher, a former “Teacher of the Year” in Santa Clara County. One of his pet peeves is hearing business people talk about how easy it would be to overhaul public schools if only they would “run their schools like a business.” From this I’ve learned not to offer much advice in the area of education, since I have no expertise in this area. However, after reading today about how Los Angeles schools are having a crisis because it took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the web and access social media sites, I had to weigh in.

With apologies to my friend Matt, I have to say: schools should really take a lesson from business on this issue.

One of the biggest trends over the last 2 years has been the adoption of smartphones and tablet devices by technology firms, providing their field service employees with mobile devices and applications. Armed with these tools, field techs have real-time access to corporate info, entitlement data, trouble shooting videos, knowledgebases, and collaboration tools so employees can easily interact with team members when stuck on a problem.

I’ve had conversations with dozens of companies wondering if they should “lock” the devices to limit personal use of the web, email, social channels, etc. I think this is a terrible idea, and let me tell you why.

One of the greatest examples I’ve seen about this came from ServiceMax, a cloud based field service automation provider, who I’ve frequently written about because they have the sexiest iPad application for service I’ve seen to date. Making a decision to roll out iPads to your field techs is not that different from making a decision to roll them out to high schoolers: the devices are very expensive, and these users are hard on devices. A major hurdle companies must overcome is how do we get the users to treat the devices with care, using them as needed for work while making sure they aren’t cracking screens and demanding replacements every week?

For one ServiceMax customer, this was an easy problem to solve, and the model they used is one I recommend frequently to companies starting this journey. In the initial rollout, this tech firm bought 500 iPads for their field team. With the cheapest iPad with wifi/cellular connection costing $629, this was a $30,000 expense even before you add on extended warranties and sales tax. How did they make sure the employees would take care of the devices so they would last in the rough-and-tumble world of field workers?  Here’s what they did:

Instead of trying to block access to capabilities of the iPad not required for their job, they got all the field techs together, gave them all a brand new iPad, and said, “These are your babies. If you want to check your personal email or browse a website, knock yourself out. If you want to use the device at home for games or social media, knock yourself out. But you are responsible for these devices. Take care of them as you would a personal device. As long as you use the tool to do your job, we’ll let you use it for your personal use as well.”

As a result, the workers felt like they were getting a bonus. Not only were they quick to adopt and use the ServiceMax iPad application for receiving their appointments and logging work performed, they bent over backwards to take care of the devices and protect them from damage.

If you think blocking iPad capabilities is keeping employees (or students) focused on work, don’t be ridiculous. They have their personal smartphones they can use to access the web or social media any time they want. What you are actually doing is giving them a $629 device which they will resent, and not treat well. As a result, you will see lower adoption of the device and applications, you will have a much higher rate of lost and damaged devices, and a much more expensive and less effective mobile program in the long term. In other words, get ready to hear, “My dog ate my iPad.”

My advice to the LA schools is this: if you want to tightly control how students use mobile devices, buy them calculators. They only cost 99 cents at Walgreens. If you want to mobile-enable your students, establish rules about the use of internet and social during school hours–on any device–and stick to it. But don’t give them this amazing tool and then say, “You can’t use it to do what it was designed for.”

I also think Apple and Google should be talking to these students. Sounds like you have some great future engineers ready for internships.

BTW, I’ll be speaking at the ServiceMax Maximize conference next week in San Francisco at the Westin St. Francis, hope to see you there! And as always, thanks for reading!


Six Key Decisions Driving Your Field Service Mobile Device Strategy

June 29, 2012

I had a great inquiry from a TSIA member today who is working on a mobile device strategy for their field service operation. They asked me what the key elements were to include in a mobile device strategy, and I came up with these six key decision points:

#1: Do you own your field service staff, or are they outsourced?

If you own all your resources, then I would encourage getting creative with devices and applications that offer high usability and enable the best user experience. If a big portion of field agents are contracted, however, then you must have a mobile strategy that focuses more on web applications running on a smartphone browser. With outsourced workers, you can’t control what device they have, so you have to plan for the lowest common denominator–a browser-based thin client that can run on a mobile device (i.e., no Flash, few graphics, fast loading pages).

#2: What should we mobilize first?

The biggest ROI improvements from field service mobility come from increased productivity due to more accurate schedule/dispatch, and improved first visit fix due to better access to corporate knowledge, training videos, collaboration, etc. With this in mind, think through what corporate systems (knowledge bases, content management systems, online libraries of product and repair manuals, how to videos, etc.) should be available via mobile device at a customer site, and prioritize developing mobile clients for these systems. On the scheduling/dispatch side, be sure you have the GPS aspect of your mobile strategy figured out up front, so you can make location-specific scheduling and routing decisions from Day 1 of go live.

#3: What device should we use?

I’m seeing a move away from laptops for field service techs and toward more sophisticated mobile devices that can do everything a laptop can. The two best examples are the iPad and Intermec rugged devices. If your field service software provider has embraced the iPad, that can influence your choice. (Check out a demo of the sexiest iPad field service app available today, from ServiceMax.) I’ve talked to multiple companies buying 500 iPads for their field service techs, and if your field service vendor offers a specialized iPad app, it is definitely tempting to go in that direction. My alternate recommendation is to look at the Intermec CS40, a mobile device specifically designed for rugged environments. It is a very sophisticated hand held computer, running Windows, and it even has a built-in scanner. You can’t kill it—you can drop it, slam it, or kick it across the parking lot, it just keeps going. Intermec says their customers love the devices so much that when the company upgrades to newer devices after 3 years, the field techs refuse to part with their old Intermec.

#4: Do we need online/offline capability?

In some field service environments, connectivity cannot be assumed. In the medical device industry, field techs make a lot of visits to medical centers, and connectivity is forbidden in many hospitals and medical equipment areas.  Other heavy machinery environments may be inside steel walls, or deep underground, making any connectivity impossible. If  this is a frequent issue for your field teams, I would also include a requirement in your mobile device strategy that your devices and mobile applications offer offline/online synching, so the techs can record what they need to record in offline mode as necessary, then synch the records when they step outside and reconnect. This feature is not yet available in all mobile field service applications or devices, so this requirement can help prune a long list to a short list pretty fast.

#5: How do we ensure security?

Another key decision is about security. If a field tech looses a mobile device, you don’t want someone using the device to access corporate information, customer data, etc. Be sure whatever device you select has the option to do remote “wipes” of data, or you can buy software to enable this. Purpose-built devices like the Intermec CS40 have very strong security options. For consumer devices, you should work with your IT Security team to identify the right applications and procedures.

#6: How do we support our mobile field techs?

As mobile devices and applications grow more sophisticated and complex, we have to figure out creative ways to support employees when they have problems with the devices. The remote control vendors, who allow support techs to remotely access a customer’s computer to check settings and fix problems, are now moving toward supporting mobile devices.  Bomgar allows full remote control of BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices, and limited remote access for  iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android smartphone, and Android tablet devices. Another innovative vendor, LogMeIn, provides remote control for Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices as if they were holding them in their own hands. Your IT help desk should be involved in the mobile device strategy, so they can have a plan in place to keep your field employees online and productive.

The other thing I usually recommend including in any strategy for new technology is employee adoption, i.e., getting employees involved in the selection process as early as possible so they will be more likely to embrace the new technology and processes when they go live. But so far, I haven’t heard of a single company rolling out mobile devices for field service that faced any adoption problems—the field techs fight to get into the pilot group.

What other factors should companies consider when architecting a mobile device strategy? Please chime in with comments. And as always, thanks for reading!

Countdown to TSW: Partner Advisory Board Meeting

October 24, 2011

Tomorrow TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas at the Mirage kicks off with my Innovation Tour of the Recognized Innovator Finalists at 12:45.  Today we are heads down in final preparation, and we also held our very first in-person meeting of the newly formed Partner Advisory Board (PAB). Lydia Zaffini, our senior director of partner programs, and I chair the PAB, which consists of senior executives from Astea International, Compuware Corporation, Pretium Partners, Consona CRM, RTM Consulting, Convergys, ServiceMax, Coveo, ServiceSource, DG Associates, Sykes Enterprises, IGLOO Software Inc., Verint Systems Inc., and ISOdx Solutions LLC.

I opened the meeting with a discussion of major trends for 2012, including the impacts of Consumption Economics on technology buyers, pending 2012 budget cuts and of course, my favorite topic of the moment, mobile and video (more on that in my blog tomorrow!). We also had a presentation from Julia Stegman, our new research vice president for the brand new discipline being launched at this conference, Service Revenue Generation (SRG), on service revenue trends.  Diane Brundage, our senior vice president of sales, and the executive sponsor of the PAB, led the group in a very interaction session on building better relationships between TSIA members and partners.

Cindy McCombe, TSIA’s director of marketing, gave a very informative session on marketing plans, including the new world of marketing via social media. It was great to hear input from the partners on which social media channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) each of them is using, some with great success, some not so much. Webcasts and white papers continue to be effective ways to reach people, but both are changing. Some partners are having good results with shorter webcasts (bite size chunks packed with content as opposed to a one hour presentation) and ebooks (electronic content perfect for smartphone and table consumption as opposed to traditional PDFs of reports).

I’d like to give a personal Thank You to all the partner advisory board members for giving up part of their weekend to attend the meeting, as well as a big Thank You to the TSIA team members who made time to attend the meeting and make presentations.

I’ll be back tomorrow with updates from Day 1 of TSW! Hope to see you there!

Leveraging Social Media Tools to Drive Collaboration and Tribal Knowledge in Field Service

June 21, 2011

I”m getting ready for Thursday’s webcast with ServiceMax, What’s all the Chatter about? Leveraging Social Media Tools to Drive Collaboration and Tribal Knowledge in Field Service, and I’m very excited about seeing field service get more involved in social media.

According to my 2011 Member Technology Survey, I’m seeing strong planned spending by field service organizations for all types of field service automation.

This chart shows the percent of members with approved budget for new or additional technology in 2010 and 2011, and spending on workforce optimization, parts logistics and FS mobile tools are all strong, up from last year.

But a bigger surprise for me was how quickly field service teams have been adoption social media tools. According to my survey, support services are up to 82% adoption of online communities, and field service is not far behind with 69%.  40% of field service members say they are using some sort of social media like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn for communicating with customers or internally.

We’ve seen some great early examples of field service being creative with communities, primarily to share information with global field service resources on how to fix equipment or how to troubleshoot products that may be out of date or just uncommon. But what I’m learning from ServiceMax is that Salesforce Chatter, a CRM-centric version of Twitter or Facebook updates, is an easy way to send quick updates on customer issues within a team, keeping everyone up to speed and offering an easy way to ask for help if needed.

Please take a moment to register for this webcast; even if you are unable to attend the live event on Thursday at 10am PT, you’ll receive a link to view the OnDemand version afterwards. We’ll talk more about spending dollars and how field service is using social media, and we’ll see a live demo of Salesforce Chatter and ServiceMax in action.

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you on the webcast Thursday!