Sunday, October 25, 2009

Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation, Part 1

There are a lot of times when the supervisor or owner/operator of a SMB (small to medium sized business) is not at his or her desk staring at the computer screen. They are often in the field working with customers and their service teams. The problem with this is that it prevents visibility to other projects that may benefit from the supervisor's real time advice and oversight. Let's now talk about some possible solutions to this issue.

In many field service automation or work order management software applications, the design and architecture of the software is in a client server model. Information and electronic service tickets are wirelessly dispatched to mobile handheld computers and Smart phones, and the service technician completes the electronic service ticket and the information is synchronized back to the server in the office. The problem with this design again is that the supervisor who is most interested in viewing this real-time work order information is not in the office looking at the application on the server.

One possible solution would be to create a special managers view or summary of all operational data. A summary of all inbound and outbound work orders, business process or rule exceptions, identify issues or customer relationship problems and then synchronize this subset of information out to the supervisor's mobile handheld computer or Smart phone. This would provide a management summary in a dashboard view of all operations.

A second option would be to provide a complete duplication of all information to the supervisor. You would duplicate and synchronize all inbound and outbound work orders to the supervisor's mobile device. There would be no summary, rather all information would be synchronized out from the server to the supervisor's mobile handheld.

A third option would be to have the mobile device of all the service technicians synchronize in a peer-to-peer model directly with the supervisor's mobile device and the office server. This would require the supervisor's mobile handheld computer or netbook to have full server synchronization capabilities that would enable all of his or her mobile service technicians to constantly synchronize with it. This would be data intensive and may cause synchronization performance issues, but would enable the supervisor to see all operations in real-time.

A fourth option is to have a real-time online connection between the supervisor's mobile device and the office server. This would only work when there was wireless connectivity available, but could provide efficient and real-time visibility into all the operations of the company.

In Part 2 of Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation, we will discuss some ideas for using location based services (LBS) and P2P computing with Field Service Technicians.

If you would like to discuss these options in more detail please contact me.

Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant