As mobile phones celebrate a milestone birthday, it’s interesting how they have moved from a simple communications device to now being a key part of business processes.
It has now been 40 years since the first mobile phone call when a telephone engineer rang a technology rival from a ‘cell’ phone in New York. The device was almost 23cm tall, weighed more than one kilogram, contained 30 circuit boards, had a talk-time of 35 minutes and took 10 hours to recharge.
Today, mobile phones in many of our client’s systems are set up to handle many complex forms-based applications that talk to an array of different enterprise back-end systems, making them an integral part of the business process.
Although the mobile phone was developed in the early 1970s, it actually took a decade for it to come into widespread use. Now that smartphones have been around for a few years, the way they are being used by organisations is also starting to evolve, such as connecting multiple enterprise applications to a mobile worker and providing and collecting information that in real time.
Organisations with field workforces are increasingly turning to mobile solutions as a major opportunity to enhance their operational effectiveness. Mobile data is more than just a good communication tool, it is becoming integral to giving key work instructions to the field and capturing real-time job information for the main office.
For example, one of the areas where field workers operate is in supporting the customer service function, whether they be field engineers, mobile repair teams, couriers, insurance inspectors or data collection operatives. Improving the field workers’ ability to deliver service to the customer is having an immediate and positive effect on the operation of the business.
With effective integration into the key back office systems that drive and process the work schedule, it provides the ability to issue work in a timely manner, customers can be given specific appointment times, and workers can move swiftly and efficiently from job to job. The result is the optimisation of resource allocation of a mobile team.
Improving the quality and accuracy of information received by the field worker has been shown to increase their ability to successfully complete each job. This can improve first time completion rates and reduce time to complete a job – be it a repair, collection, inspection or other field-based activity.
In turn, this reduces recalls and the average job lead time, thereby increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the mobile workforce.
The process for implementing mobile applications is principally the same as that required for any major business investment or operational change, involving the selection of technologies and partners, planning and then implementing the solution. Understanding the impact on the business is one of the most fundamental considerations, as mobile technology will impact mobile workers in profound new ways, but in return can transform business performance.
Incorporating mobile phones into business systems has a host of benefits, such as:
- reducing the workload of administrative personnel
- reducing the costs associated with delivering service
- increasing the quality and quantity of work delivered by personnel in the field
- an enabler of major change in workforce job scheduling
With a real-time mobile data solution, an accurate view of the workforce becomes available at any given time. Real-time information gives an organisation the ability to adjust job schedules constantly. Further review of this information can be the basis for adjustments in future scheduling work, leading to continuous improvement for the organisation.
Clearly mobile data has the ability to deliver all these operational benefits, but there needs to be an understanding of how to achieve these and, in particular, how to harness the maximum potential return for your business.
This goes beyond a technical offering that meets requirements. A successful project starts with an assessment of the mobile strategy requirements and an acknowledgement that the project will impact people and processes.
Mobile data can be a catalyst for change. It can be implemented in two ways; either through mapping existing processes into the new technology or as an opportunity to make fundamental improvements to existing processes.
To successfully introduce a new process, system or technology there must be a clear focus and defined project objectives. Where possible keep it simple, consider a phased approach and concentrate on the initial business requirements.
The opportunities for cost savings are wide ranging. In terms of spending on physical items these include reducing fuel, maintenance and time costs associated with the vehicle fleet through improved travel management; reduction or elimination of unnecessary journeys to the office or depot and overtime costs associated with out-of-hours re-typing of data; and enhancements in workforce resource allocation, job information and scheduling, resulting in fewer missed jobs, less re-scheduled activity and a reduction in re-calls.
This all adds up to improvements in the way customer service is delivered and an improvement in the customer experience of the service received. Therefore, increased customer retention can be expected along with the potential to win new business, through the demonstration of enhanced service provision processes and service levels.
The result of incorporating mobile applications into your communications infrastructure is increased efficiency, higher customer satisfaction, lower costs plus a reduction in the time to invoicing and, therefore, faster revenue collection.