Introduction

In today’s competitive environment, companies are under constant Bay Area process servers pressure to improve customer service while reducing costs; in field operations this drives a necessity for businesses to optimize their business process. With the passing of each competition-charged day, the corporate IT mandate grows clearer. Successful companies know that a well-trained, highly motivated and efficiently connected field force is critical to their continued growth and success.

Mobile field workers can be found in different range of industries including product service and support, management and architecture, transportation and parcel delivery and utilities. They are in general field service employees from various industries who collect data and accomplish tasks/jobs while moving from point to point within a city, district or region.

Communication can be a real challenge for organizations that have to keep contact with employees in the field. Traditional methods of recording work done or reporting faults rely on batch transfers or paperwork completed at the end of a shift, so are often slow, inefficient and prone to error. Field force workers are the lifeblood of many businesses; they can deliver enhanced services that go far beyond data collection and repair through new mobilized devices and applications. These enhanced service capabilities better serve clients’ needs and provide additional revenue opportunities for companies.

This White Paper will discuss how the benefits of mobile solutions, are empowering Enterprises and their employees to improve revenue, engage in industry best practices and offer the best practices possible with its new features, functions and capabilities.

Field Force Workers–A Largely Untouched Market

The market potential is tremendous for mobilized computing solutions. According to research from IDC, there are 99 million field and 145 million on-location workers in the world today. Currently, only a very small percentage of companies are using mobilized solutions to conduct business. There is a vast area of opportunity for companies and ISVs to transform the productivity and performance of these workers. Figure 1 depicts the size of the potential market for both field and on-location work forces.

Field Force Automation – Technology Enhancements and Innovations

New and innovative technologies can significantly improve field force efficiency. These approaches can:

  • Reduce the overload of data
  • Provide actionable information where and when needed
  • Enable field force to receive and complete automated tasks while on the road

Mobile field workers – Early adopters of wireless technology

With field force automation solution, mobile field workers would be more effective in management as well as operation by connecting to their back-end systems via a wireless device.

Mobile field workers always have a need for receiving and transmitting information. This could not be handled by normal phone services. Making trips back to the service stations to get the needed information costs time and delays work process.

Field force automation provides complete access to all the activities conducted by a mobile field force worker.

Key Functions include

  • Fleet management
  • Inventory and asset management
  • Warehouse automation
  • Asset tracking
  • Quality Control (tracking and counting articles)
  • Packaging
  • Security and access control
  • Hazardous material management
  • Advertising and promotion
  • Delivery
  • Smart-card-based payment systems

Wireless Field Force – A new paradigm

A wireless mobile field force can make use of real time synergies between the enterprise, customers and suppliers leading to significant business benefits such as cost reductions and improved customer satisfaction.

Wireless field force automation is transforming the way organizations conduct business, enabling them to be more profitable, competitive and faster to market. Wireless FFA closes the information gap between the service organization and the field force representative by augmenting every component of the field service cycle, from initiation to closure of a service request.

Examples – Mobile Field Force

  • Field service technicians go to a customer site to repair a piece of capital equipment or conduct regular scheduled maintenance on an asset or machine
  • Completing a detailing visit in a retail setting and sending a detailed report back to the database
  • Medical Representatives distributing a sample of a drug to a physician
  • Insurance claims adjusters process claims electronically at the customer location
  • Parcel or expedited delivery service drivers receive customer location pick-up instructions throughout the course of the day
  • Cable or appliance installers receive customer account instructions while on the road, and can access technical data as needed to support an installation process

Top Field Force Deployment Challenges

  • How do I get this new device to work?
  • How can I rapidly deploy 20,000 devices?
  • How do I centrally configure my networks?
  • Is my connection secure?
  • One of our devices is reported lost; can I disable it?
  • What are the connectivity holes in my network?
  • Why is my network so slow?
  • How do I apply OS patches / application updates?
  • Why is my device acting funny?
  • Why aren’t my batteries lasting long enough?
  • How can I make mobile applications work better?

Source: Managing the Mobile Edge: The Unique Challenges and Requirements for Successful Management of Mobility Solutions

Top Challenges to Mobile Field Force Success

To remain competitive and increase productivity, no matter what type of business they are running, organizations ensure that they and their employees do not exist in isolated islands. To keep pace with its competitors, organizations are investing in their technical infrastructure to offer mobile field professionals more ubiquitous, secure and rapid access to corporate information. However, this evolution is not without its challenges.

High Cost of Mobile Solutions – Despite improved price-to-performance models of today’s mobile field service solutions, the day-to-day time and costs associated with managing mobile solutions, from mobile devices to wireless infrastructure, is significant. According to a recent Gartner study, capital costs are only 25% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a mobile device. The remaining 75% is spent on deploying, managing and supporting these devices, as well as configuring the wireless network. This is particularly daunting for mid-sized firms.

Technology integration with back-office system – The top challenge for mid-sized companies is technology integration, which reflects a very different mindset from larger companies. Larger firms understand that no measure of technology can sustain long-term performance gains without sound business processes that steadily improve and evolve over time.

Insufficient IT structure and personnel to support mobile deployment – Mobile field force deployments includes integration with back-office systems, configuring software applications to run on mobile devices, and even customizing interfaces for specific business processes and mobile workers usability.

Information Security Risks – Security concerns prove to be the key challenge for field force deployments. A strong encryption system is necessary to protect proprietary enterprise and customer data. All users accessing back-end systems should authenticate themselves before accessing corporate data.

Mid-Sized companies continue to struggle due to these and other prevalent challenges over field force solutions. Field force workers in front of customers need instant support, not confusion over the source of the problem – the mobile device or the wireless infrastructure. Mid-Sized organizations often sustain expensive latencies in their field force operations from customer dissatisfaction, overcharges, glitch in performance, revenue delays and missed cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Why Field Force Deployment?

Why would companies consider expanding its field force deployments with all these difficult challenges? Mobility to field force offers very significant return on investment (ROI) to companies that do it well.

  • Field workers can read meters, report on their location and status and receive service information and updated instructions while in the field
  • Warehouse workers with scanner-equipped devices eliminate the double entry keying of previously paper-oriented systems, allowing for greater accuracy and accelerated billing
  • Route drivers carrying handhelds show an increase in sales and an ability to make more stops in a day via efficient routing

All of these instances of mobile-equipped field force workers provide ROI benefits to organizations. By taking the complexity and technological hassles out of its field workers across all lines of business will exhibit major bottom line advantages.

Future Technology Accelerators

Tablet PC

Tablet PCs combine the touch screen and handwriting features of the PDA with the computing power of a notebook computer in a compact and light weight design. End-user experiences the same look and feel in the office as in the field. Other advances in battery life and wireless capabilities are also eagerly anticipated.

Voice

Emerging technologies that allow natural text to speech dictation will allow easier data capture by both sales professionals and other members of the sales channel. Such services can run on mobile devices or via telephone services to a central server. Such solutions will tie directly into sales and marketing applications and can help increase the amount of useful data that can be captured in the field.

Extending into Field Analytics

As wireless networks improve, our ability to access information throughout the enterprise increases. Through integration of analytics into a mobile environment, we bring the sales professional in closer contact with the home office and help them to better highlight customer needs. We will be able to better measure and predict behavior and the interactions with the customer and, in turn, support changes in the business landscape, such as product launches and formulary changes.

RFID [Spell out] – Radio Frequency Identification

An RFID system comprises three main elements: electronic tags, tag readers and software to store collected data.

The tags, which consist of a silicon chip and an antenna, provide each individual object to which they are attached with a unique identifier. When scanned, the tag transmits a wireless signal to the reader, which in turn sends the data to a database. The reader can also write information to the tag if required.

RFID technology is becoming prevalent in logistics where the movement of mobile tags, for example on pallets of consumer goods, is read by static readers, say, in goods in/out bays of a warehouse. However, for Sales Force Applications, this concept is reversed: the tags are static and the readers are mobile, i.e. carried by the sales professional. Tags can be attached, say, to a fixed location for proof of attendance, or to a specific item of machinery to be checked.

Impact of RFID technology in Business Process

The adoption of RFID across industries is fast moving from trials towards plans for large-scale deployment. Tag reader when combined with a communication device, such as mobile phones, RFID technology can give field service companies a much greater degree of control over what happens in the field.

For example, warehouse engineer who has to check the overall items is now able to inspect each item with a phone or reader, and that information is immediately transmitted to the back-office system. The user, if required, using client software on the phone can enter additional relevant information. This indicates

  • There is proof that the job entitled has been completed
  • Real-time information is displayed in the back-office systems
  • The potential for error is reduced because data is entered only once and the majority of data is extracted automatically by the reader from the tag or entered using a menu-driven interface
  • A faulty item is identified instantly and so can be dealt with more quickly, increasing customer service

Phone/Reader has to be very easy to use, eliminating the potential for error and minimizing training. It also has to be robust so as to withstand the rigours of field work

Readers can also be used to read an RFID personnel badge, so a field employee can log in each day, linking a reader to a specific person. The tasks the employee carries out can then be time-stamped, and an alert raised if a task isn’t carried out at an appropriate time or in the right sequence.

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