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Network outages – how to keep the mobile field force working

Twenty-four hours of network downtime is bound to be bad for business, especially a large mobile operator, with millions of consumers crying “epicfail” all over social media.

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But what about businesses with huge remote workforces that rely on this technology? Will those historically opposed to it be using this to say that mobile technology for workforce management is flawed, and therefore we should go back to traditional methods of working?

These one-off situations, whilst newsworthy and extremely unexpected for customers and businesses alike, are fortunately very rare. As such, the benefits of the new generation of smartphone and handheld-equipped workers out in the field are too great to ignore.

What it does underline is the importance of decent contingency planning. So what are the measures that can be put in place? Here are some examples:

1. The first thing is to consider having standby network access, so users can switch on a temporary basis to another network.

2. If this can’t be done, and it’s purely a data loss, with voice still accessible, then users can default to mobile calls to take job details down. It should still be possible to use the mobile system to record completion of tasks, which the device can update to the corporate systems later. But this will only work if the mobile solution has been designed for both on- and offline usage (which we would recommend anyway so the solution will still work in areas of low or no connectivity).

3. If, in the worst-case scenario, as we have witnessed over the last 24 hours, there is neither data nor voice access, then creativity in contingency planning is required.

You might want to have at hand a map of Wi-Fi points (BT, The Cloud etc. have big networks) where employees can download, as well as upload, completed details. This will still see productivity dip below normal levels, but it will at least keep the field force working.

4. If there is no Wi-Fi in the local area, then unfortunately you are going to have to fall back on traditional but trusted methods. This means finding a payphone or using customer phones to call through to confirm job completion and get next job details. Everything at this point will need paper recording - tasks done, spares, times etc.

There are different levels of catastrophe, thankfully they are generally rare events, and these are just a few suggestions. However, they do happen. At some times of the calendar you might think it obvious to increase your planning as hiccups are more likely to happen. But the last day has shown everyone, once again, that network outages can occur at any point.

Overall, with good planning, businesses should be able to work around all but the most catastrophic outages. But in all cases, it’s always best to plan for the worst.

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