Five Mobile Workforce Management Trends to Look Out For
The market for mobile workforce management has never been stronger, as more enterprises recognise the power of these tools to help get the best from (and for) an increasingly mobile workforce. The installed base of mobile workforce management solutions is expected to increase by 9 percent this year, and by 10 percent year on year through to 2022. Here’s five industry trends that show how mobile workforce management is helping field service organisations to stay competitive.
1. Mobile workforce management for operational gains
The first mobile workforce management systems were focused on merely automating and digitising previously human paper-based tasks, in order to reduce data entry time and increase accuracy and efficiency. The current generation of mobile workforce management is considerably more sophisticated. The most forward thinking field service organisations are now collecting detailed, granular data about every element of the end-to-end field service process, and using it to drive continuous improvement initiatives in every area: scheduling, planning, inventory management, travel time, compliance, first-time-fix rate, health and safety, SLAs, customer satisfaction, engineer training, satisfaction and retention. This is the desired end-point of the data maturity journey.
2. ‘Bring Your Own Device’ mobile workforce management solutions
As an ageing workforce exits the industry, many field service companies are struggling to find trained engineers. A research study by Field Service News shows that 53 percent of field service professionals say that replacing an ageing workforce is a challenge for their organisations. One way of resolving this is by working with freelance or contract engineers. The gig economy in the UK alone accounts for more than 1.1 million workers, and is growing fast. There are a number of challenges in using external staff to fulfil service roles – not least is on-boarding them and ensuring they have the right mobile device to carry out their role. That’s where the trend towards using BYOD comes in, as it enables workers to use their own smartphones, rather than having to come into base to check out a company-owned device. Workers gain in terms of familiarity and flexibility, as they are able to manage their personal and work lives on the same device. Businesses gain in terms of increased productivity, reduced costs, and improved employee engagement.
3. Employee engagement through mobile workforce management
Another way of tackling the loss of the ageing workforce is to attract and recruit younger engineers. By 2020, millennials - the generation born between 1980 and 2000 - will comprise more than 50 percent of the UK workforce. There is some evidence that this generation of workers is particularly suited to field service: in particular, they are highly tech savvy, and they value a workplace that offers them training and opportunities to improve and grow. However there is also evidence that this generation are not well engaged at work: nearly three-quarters (71 percent) are either not engaged, or actively disengaged.
Employee engagement is critical in field service for all engineers, not just millennials. Field service workers are the face of the brand and often the only company representative that customers see, and engaged employees are more likely to give great customer service than disengaged employees. Modern mobile workforce management tools can be used to increase employee engagement by connecting the field worker to the back office in real time, for communications, support and access to information. This can help them to feel like part of a team, rather than alone in the field. Adding training modules to the workflow can help new engineers to learn on the job, and make them feel that they are at the start of a meaningful career, and not just in a job.
4. The impact of the Internet of Things on mobile workforce management
There are currently around seven billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices in the world, both on the consumer side - Smart Home devices - as well as on the enterprise side - connected machinery. The number of active IoT devices is expected to grow to 10 billion by 2020 and 22 billion by 2025. This will have a positive impact on mobile workforce management. Firstly, it will enable remote maintenance: Gartner predicts that by 2021, 10% of customer-reported issues won’t need an on-site visit by a technician, due to enhanced connectivity through IoT. This frees up engineers to work on more challenging jobs that can’t be done remotely. Secondly, it will enable predictive maintenance: appliances that proactively monitor their own metrics can alert the field service organisation when thresholds have been reached and a fault is imminent, or an annual service is due. Predictive maintenance is one of the top three drivers of growth in IoT through 2020. This is good news for the field service industry as it will save time and money, shifting the balance from reactive to proactive work. This will also increase customer satisfaction, as appliances will be fixed before customers know there is a fault.
5. Mobile workforce management is embracing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Field service companies are reaping benefits from integrating Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) tools with their mobile workforce management solutions. According to Aberdeen Group, Best in Class field service organizations are 72% more likely than their peers to utilize visual collaboration tools such as AR and VR. Typical uses cases include:
- integrated training modules that enable an engineer to look at a device using an AR headset, and see an overlay with training information
- in-field instructions to guide an engineer through a tricky repair
- virtual teams – using VR technology so an engineer on site can collaborate remotely with specialists or experts, meaning specialists can be more widely used as they don’t have to travel
- self-service – enabling customers to undertake their own repairs, guided by experts back at base
In summary, these five mobile workforce management trends show how technology is enabling field service professionals to provide a better service to customers, better employment opportunities to engineers, and better value to our organisations. We think this makes field service an exciting industry to be in, and we can’t wait to see how these trends evolve over the coming years.