Mobility Isn’t the Future — It’s Now
This may come as no surprise (at least we hope not), but all manner of industries are going mobile — in terms of both their teams and the tools those teams use. Field service is nothing new, but organizations that use to lack these kinds of teams are taking steps to change that. And they’re not small steps, either.
In fact, according to last year’s State of Field Services report from the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), the number of companies moving to a service-based model increased by 155 percent. And that’s already a year old! Clearly, industries around the world have discovered and are continuing to discover the value of field service and are adopting it into their business processes — and revenue streams.
But what about the tools those field service teams use? An organization can’t send a service technician or other field service employee to a customer location with inadequate equipment. There are a variety of mobile devices available based on the industry, type of working being performed and recorded, and after-service functions needed like payment.
(And keep in mind that the term field services isn’t strictly limited to service — field sales is a huge aspect of this model as well. Sales teams need to have access to data on-the-fly, too, just as field service teams do.)
With both your teams and the equipment they use, it’s likely they’re using data housed in an ERP system, perhaps a CRM as well. But how is that data being accessed and modified in the field? A significant number of ERPs are on-premise, meaning their data isn’t stored in the cloud or accessible remotely. Even ERPs with cloud-based data may not have a solution for providing that data to remote field workers. And if they do, workers likely have to use a company laptop or remote desktop application. Neither of these are particularly secure, mobile in the sense that they’re meant to be hauled from place to place, or easy to use for field teams who may be working out of vehicles or in customer facilities.
So, what’s the solution? The answer is not only simple, but it’s also a simple one to implement (more on that later). It’s a mobile field service app.
If you thought I was about to drop some crazy, earth-shattering new concept…sorry! Apps themselves are nothing new. But as you’ll soon discover, the concept and functionality behind the app can be. And it can make a significant difference in how your organization accesses and uses its ERP system.
By the way, this isn’t a loose or unfounded recommendation. By 2020, Gartner estimates that 75 percent of field service organizations with more than 50 users will have mobile apps with capabilities beyond simple data collection. Do you see the competitive and strategic need for a mobile field service app in your technology toolkit? No one wants their field teams pushing paper around while the competition scores double the service calls or sales closings thanks to a more efficient mobile solution. “But Adam! I don’t even have 50 users yet!” Doesn’t matter. You have competitors of equal or similar size. Want them doing a better job than you?
So, what should an effective mobile field service app do? What should it allow you to do to it? What features and functions should it include? Let’s take a look.
Five Mobile Field Service App Must-Haves
1. 24/7 Read and Write Access
Giving field teams access to view data through a mobile field service app is great, but it’s only part of the solution. Imagine an account representative visiting a client who happens to need an immediate restock of some material. If the rep can’t place that order on the customer’s behalf via the app, what happens next? Either they’re forced to call another party back at HQ, reducing the service experience and adding another step in a time-sensitive situation.
Had the rep been equipped with an app that could read and write, he or she would have placed the order right then and there. Moreover, they could’ve generated an invoice, purchase order, any number of confirmation emails, and other documentation needed for the order. And all that information would’ve carried over to the company’s ERP and CRM, safely storing it in the customer’s contact record. The rep can instantly see the order on the app because it had write access, allowing for information to be updated in real time.
2. All the Data, All the Time
The efficient use of data is why ERPs exist. The same could be said for CRMs, though the emphasis rests more on sales and marketing rather than on overall business process. When your field teams have a mobile field service app, they have all the data they need, right when they need it. As I just illustrated, having and not having access to this data — and the ability to update it — can have a significant impact on your business.
That impact doesn’t exist on the customer side alone. It’s also a necessity internally. Executives and other business leaders need access to information in real-time to be able to make data-driven decisions. This is where dashboarding and analytics come into play. An effective mobile field service app will provide the templates and interfaces executives and field teams alike need to get a high-level overview of or granular deep-dive into an account or internal department (at Bezlio, we call these bezls — check them out here).
3. Security That Puts Data First
Needless to say, ERP data is valuable. Precious, perhaps? Priceless, even. That’s why security is paramount. The past few years have set records in terms of breaches and other data security incidents, and not on a small scale. Major organizations — many of them household names — have experienced severe breaches exposing customer financials and other information to both the public and more malicious parties that would seek to do damage with that data.
It’s been a rough one for information security professionals. That’s why a mobile field service app should emphasize security. Now, this is a bit tricky, because different app providers, development platforms, etc. have different approaches and philosophies when it comes to security. At Bezlio, we have a three-tiered approach that keeps data secure at each step along the transfer process. It all starts with trust.
Only authenticated users and their devices are able to access information. Users receive a secure data token that is stored behind your firewall in our proprietary remote data broker. As requests come in, the user is verified, and the data requested is retrieved and transferred (not stored) via our cloud API to the front-end application (which also authenticates users). All along the way, Bezlio performs self-checks and answers them based on administrator settings. All data is AES 256 encrypted during transfer.
4. Familiarity and Usefulness
Most device users are quite familiar with what their device is able to do, how it should be used, and what the apps on it can and should do. If you gave someone an iPhone that was running Android OS, they’d know (and probably be annoyed). That’s why developing to suit a variety of devices is something worth considering, especially if your organization employs a BYOD model for employees to use their own phones.
Your mobile field service app should make use of the features and functions your users already know. Things such as haptics (vibrations and other touch-based interactions) and any sounds might sound insignificant, but they ensure your users get familiar with the app as quickly as possible, which helps to increase adoption. The same goes for UI — when developing the app, consider the framework of other common apps. Use similar symbols (as permitted) for certain actions and use logical steps and processes for doing things like sharing or saving that follow suit with the OS.
5. Low Code or No Code
Our final consideration is one of the most advantageous and helpful. A low- or no-code development platform not only makes it easier for your technology team to develop the application, but it also ensures your users have something in-hand right away.
Most low- and no-code platforms come with the scripts, elements, tools, and framework you need to quickly develop a solution while adding integrations to make it truly your own. If some customization is needed, a low-code development platform allows you to make adjustments beyond simple drag-and-drop functionality.
Get Up to Speed with a Mobile Field Service App
Bezlio was built to help you build a better mobile field service app. ERPs and CRMs are powerful tools — they shouldn’t be kept within the four walls of your organization, and your field teams shouldn’t be left in the dark. If a mobile field service app is something your organization needs, let us know. We’d love to show you how it works.
Adam Ellis, Co-Founder & CEO
Adam Ellis is the Chief Executive Officer of Bezlio and one of four co-founders. Adam is a lifelong entrepreneur and has extensive ERP and mobile software knowledge through his consulting and management experience. He has a passion for exploring innovative ideas and how they can change the status quo. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn to learn more about his involvement in the ERP space.