Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Visibility & Accountability in Field Services with Handheld PDAs

I must confess that I am much more of a people person than a numbers person. However, in my role as CEO of MobileDataforce I am accountable for understanding and using a large amount of numerical data. My responsibilities include:
  • Collecting the important business data

  • Analyzing the meaning of the data

  • Reporting the data to my managers, my board and financial institutions

  • Forecasting future growth and business performance based upon the data

  • Improving my business processes to enable better performance in the future

  • Investing in future products and services that will reap rewards in the future

My responsibilities are very similar to many officers and managers of small to medium sized businesses. The key to effective management is having accurate and timely data, understanding the data and making effective business decisions based upon the data.

Let's take a moment to ponder the process of collecting data in the world of field services (mobile service technicians). The field service manager often finds it difficult to collect the data from the point of work in a timely manner. Often the paper forms stay in the truck or van for hours, days or weeks before the data is entered into a computer system. This means the data is unusable for that period of time. The manager has no way of analyzing it. If the entire system is paper based and filed, then the information that is contained on the paper forms is not available for analysis, reporting or quick business decisions.

Mobilizing and automating the field services operations with handheld PDAs enables managers to have near real-time access to business data from work done remotely in the field. 75 service technicians can be synchronzing data throughout the day from a large geographic area and the data can be instantly viewed and analyzed. Decisions can be quickly made about issues such as:

  • Equipment location
  • Service Technician location
  • Job status, job delays
  • Equipment break downs
  • Problem issues
  • Change in schedules
  • Personnel changes
  • Customer issues
  • Payment issues
  • Unforseen technical challenges
  • Unexpected costs
  • Changes in inventory
  • Much more

This is the kind of near real-time data/information that allows a manager to make good decisions that benefit the business TODAY. If managers are always working from data that is days old, they are too late to impact the quality of business today.