Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Business Processes and Mobile Handheld Solutions

A successful business is made up of successful business processes. In business terms, in order to be successful, the business processes in use must produce overall profits. With those assumptions in place - let's discuss the following scenario:

Company X is profitable, but wants to reduce the costs associated with their service order and dispatch processes. They want to reduce the time, paperwork and administration costs of dispatching, re-typing and processing field service orders.

Company X determines that mobilizing their service order processes by dispatching and closing service orders using mobile handheld computer solutions that synchronize remotely with a service order management system in the central office would dramatically reduce the costs and improve profitability.

The dilemma: Many off-the-shelf service order management systems don't currently have a mobile client that runs on a handheld computer, or the ones that do, don't support the "unique" business processes that Company X uses as competitive advantages. Let's discuss this in more detail by given some examples of business processes that might be competitive advantages:


  1. Company X - inventories parts inside service vehicles to reduce driving time to and from the warehouse. This saves time, fuel costs and increases the number of customers serviced by each team on a daily basis.
  2. Company X - has 1 vehicle in each region that carries special parts that are less common. This vehicle acts as a mobile warehouse for these parts. Other service teams can meet up with this mobile warehouse when they need special parts.
  3. Company X - has a 1 business day guarantee on service for their clients. No one else can support this service, so it is a significant advantage.

Let's stop here and consider Company X's needs. They need to mobilize their service order processes, but they don't want an off-the-shelf solution that can not support their competitive advantages. What is the answer?

The answer of course, is to mobilize their service order processes in a manner that supports their competitive advantages. This is unlikely going to be with an off-the-shelf software product. It is much more likely that they need to find a mobile software platform that can support their unique processes, support the handheld computers they select, and can integrate with their existing service order management solution that is used in the central office. Bottom-line, they need a custom solution.

Custom solutions often carry large price tags that make them too expensive for the small to medium size service company. How to you solve this issue? You find a mobile software platform that can meet your requirements that is not too expensive.

Let's again review the identified competitive advantages in the 3 points above:

  1. The service vehicles carry inventory to reduce driving time to and from the office. The problem - currently the paper based service order process forces the field service teams to drive back and forth to the office to pick up and deliver the paper service orders so this negates the fuel savings advantages. The solution - dispatch service orders via a wireless network providers' data services plan using GSM/GPRS (mobile phone network) to send service orders to the mobile service technician's handheld computer. In addition, completed service orders will also can be sent directly to the central office without the need to drive back to the office. This provides time saving, fuel saving and allows a field service team to complete more service orders in a day which saves on personnel costs.
  2. Company X has 1 service vehicle in each region that carries special (meaning less common parts). Any service team requiring these special parts must locate this vehicle and meet up with it to get the parts. The current process requires service team 1 to call the central office, ask which service vehicle inventories the special part, find the location of that vehicle, and coordinate a meeting point. This is very time consuming. The solution - the handheld computers support an integrated GPS system that identifies their locations at all time. Any field service team can quickly query on their handheld computer for the closest service vehicle that inventories the required parts. A meeting place can be quickly coordinated, the part acquired and the service performed.
  3. Company X has a 1 business day guarantee on their service. Mobilizing the dispatch of service orders, and optimizing the parts inventory retrieval process, plus the integrated GPS system in the handheld computers allow the central office to optimize the driving, dispatching and support of this unique business process.

There are many additional competitive advantages that clever business people can design. You do not want a mobile software platform that will limit your ability to be clever and make money. You need a mobile software platform that is powerful and flexible enough to support your unique business processes and is affordable.

Of course I have a recommendation - MobileDataforce's PointSync allows you to model and design the way you want to communicate and track your field services' business processes. It supports your mobile business processes in the manner that protects and promotes your competitive advantages.