Top trends that will impact field service in 2016

With the expansion of the Internet of Things, advanced analytics tools to tackle Big Data and the need for greater integration being continuing trends, 2016 will see field service businesses increase their focus on security whilst entrusting one provider to deliver all the functionality and modularity they require to manage their work, workers and assets out in the field.

1. The Internet of Everything – Although the IoT isn’t new heading into 2016, more businesses are investing in connected technology and it is quickly becoming established as industry best practice. For field service organisations, connecting equipment with technicians’ mobile devices and the back office in real time is a necessity. Information captured in the field provides diagnostics and performance metrics that mitigate certain issues as well as tracks patterns and trends for long-range planning. The goal is to ensure an intelligent and preventive—not reactive—approach.

2. Increased focus on security - Industry-wide, companies are connecting things to the IoT, whether it is something as simple as a switch or as complex as entire power grids. With this ease of connectivity comes an increase in cybercrime. We’ll see a greater demand for advanced security applications and a corresponding increase in financial commitment to protect against future attacks. Security involves not only protecting and safeguarding network entry but also ensuring that every mobile device is fortified. That means equipping every tablet, smartphone and laptop with the pertinent, updated tools and protocols, and educating users on the importance of adhering to security policies.

3. Predictive maintenance and automation - With the predictive power of connected devices, the field service industry will not only take a more predictive/ proactive approach to service, they’ll begin to automate the field service process. For example, sensors in a piece of equipment could automatically trigger a service call when it needs something repaired or it’s due for regular maintenance.

4. Knowledge management shapes strategy - Information gathered from the array of technology tools and systems used by field service organisations is often used separately for specific tasks, and in some cases forgotten in databases and unused files. But if aggregated in a digestible form, the information can drive innovation and stimulate change. Advanced analytics capabilities will allow organisations to execute on information generated from the field to become more efficient and productive. Data gathered from smarter mobile apps and equipment sensors will provide insights on performance, tasks, service quality, and new products that will enable field service managers to not only keep up with the competition but to step ahead. Analytics will be embedded and pervasive. After all, the value of analytics is in the answers, not the data.

5. Mobility will be a game-changer - Mobility will continue as a key enabler in addressing the competitive issues faced by field service organisations today: latent customer needs, increased competition, unmitigated churn and worker productivity. Mobile apps will continue to provide critical information such as daily tasks, customer histories, billing, and the locations of nearby teammates on demand for field service technicians. This access to real-time information empowers the technician to make strategic decisions, recruit help from teammates, and complete jobs on-time the first time, resulting in lower operational costs and higher customer satisfaction.

However, simply investing in mobile technology does not ensure improvement in key performance. To be successful with any deployment, organisations must choose the best field service solution and adopt the implementation best suited for their operation.

6. Integration, integration, integration! - As back office, telematics and workforce management solutions become more integrated with mobile devices, the opportunities to increase efficiency and productivity are growing exponentially. Field service managers can make real-time decisions remotely by accessing vehicle tracking, scheduling and routing on their mobile devices. This allows organisations to mitigate reckless driving incidents, control wear and tear on their fleet and decrease maintenance costs, all from a handheld.

7. Enhanced network reliability - The daily accumulation of data from internal files, mobile solutions, cloud-based apps and email can strain networks and storage systems. As organisations invest in mobile and management solutions to optimise operations, they no longer can ignore the underlying infrastructure. Hybrid clouds, virtualised servers and scalable, high-capacity storage give networks the agility they need to stay flexible, efficient and productive. Neglecting these areas can impact performance, impede productivity and escalate IT costs.

8. One solution, one provider - With technology development moving so quickly and companies continually having to modernise their solutions to keep up with the competition, 2016 will see an increase in businesses entrusting one provider to deliver all the functionality and modularity they require to manage their work, workers and assets. To achieve that, they need robust and flexible end-to-end platforms backed by a reliable provider.

John Cameron, general manager, Trimble Field Service Management

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