We’ve been writing a lot about Mobile Workforce Management lately, and we’ve had some requests to go back to basics. So here it is, a primer that will explain…
What is Mobile Workforce Management?
One definition that we like is “Mobile workforce management is a category of software and related services used to manage employees working outside the company premises; the term is often used in reference to field teams."
Let’s break this down a bit further and look at each of these elements in turn.
Mobile workforce management software
Mobile workforce management software can be thought of as a number of complementary applications. For workers, there is the mobile app that they access via a device such as a smartphone, tablet, or ruggedised mobile device. For managers, there is the back office software that enables them to get visibility of what the mobile workforce is doing. Finally, nowadays, mobile workforce management software often includes advanced analytics, either built in to the back office software, or as a separate module that enables field service leaders to evaluate how well the service operation is performing and explore ways to improve.
The workers’ mobile app will guide them through their working day, whether that is delivering parcels, fixing boilers, maintaining buildings or any other field-based task. As workers complete activities in the field, their timesheets are automatically filled in and sent back to base. As well as the workflow, the app is likely to include administrative elements, enabling the workers to complete vehicle checks, order equipment, log expenses and fill out holiday forms. The app serves to connect the worker to the management team back at base, to other field-based workers and also to information and training that they might need to help with their role.
The back office application is where the management takes place. Typically it consists of data presented in tables and dashboards that give vital information to schedulers, operations managers and service directors. For example, managers can check which tasks have been completed, and which are still outstanding, or see whether workers are compliant with processes such as health and safety and equipment checks. They can respond to issues in real time, and ensure that customers are being serviced effectively.
Analytics applications enable field service leaders to dig deeper into field service data and understand how the operation is performing, by team, region or down to the level of individual workers. Armed with that information, service leaders can then make informed decisions about how to improve productivity, increase customer satisfaction, and maximise the contribution of the service department to the business as a whole.
Mobile workforce management services
Some companies provide additional services that complement mobile workforce management software. For example, the procurement, deployment and management of the mobile devices used by the field-based workforce can involve considerable effort, so this can be part of a mobile workforce management solution. However, many mobile workforce management software suppliers now make the app available as BYOD (Bring your own device), which reduces the complexity of device management, gives workers much more flexibility and choice, and is particularly useful if the company employs contractors and agency workers.
Mobile workforce employee management
One of the main challenges in managing a mobile workforce is visibility. It is hard to manage people when you don’t know where they are or what they are doing. Mobile workforce management solutions help to bridge the gap between worker and back office, as not only do they transmit information to and from the worker, they can also be used to engage employees, motivate them and help them to feel part of a team, albeit one that it distributed. Mobile workforce management solutions are typically capable of sending communications to workers, whether broadcast to the entire field force, or targeted at specific individuals. Workers using smartphones often set up their own groups, by local team or specialism, using tools such as WhatsApp, to help them feel connected to their peers and the company.
Mobile workforce management field teams
Mobile workforce management solutions are usually applied to manage workers who are always out in the field, rather than office workers who sometimes work away from their desks. This typically includes engineers and technicians in industries such as HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), facilities management, IT and telecoms, and utilities. However, as Field Service News points out, there are field service workers in a wide variety of industries, fixing the escalator on your way to work, and the coffee machine where you buy your morning flat white, and we are all affected by their work, every day.