How to make context-aware services work for collaboration

Context-aware services incorporate real-time information about the current location of a user to provide more relevant services to that user, for instance satnav traffic updates.

They are changing the way people interact with businesses, but according to Accenture, businesses have yet to take advantage of these services themselves.

By mixing context-aware services with collaboration tools, organisations can share ideas better and provide improved customer service for companies whose workers spend a lot of time out in the field, according to Nisha Sharma and Masoud Loghmani, respectively of Accenture Mobility and Accenture Technology Labs.

They say there’s three benefits to integrating context-aware services with collaboration tools.

1. Optimised use of each working minute: The goal of any field services organisation is to spend more time doing work, and less time preparing for it. Knowing which equipment is being serviced during a job can trigger an automatic download of relevant documents to the assigned worker, such as technical manuals and call histories for a service technician.

Recommendations can be shared on the best way to load equipment into the truck based on the job’s parameters to save time unloading it, and if the customer site has a security desk, the technician’s picture can automatically be sent in advance of arrival to help streamline check-in.

2. More frequent and effective incident resolution: Context-aware collaboration systems can automatically identify the best resources to address an issue arising in the field. Activity feeds on internal social platforms or integrated into mobile workforce solutions can then adapt this based on context: As a technician proceeds from step 1 to step 2 on a job, the recommended actions and experts shown will change accordingly, helping the technician to quickly find the answers they need in real-time, without being overwhelmed with information.

Fixing a problem properly on a first visit can lead to significant savings, not to mention a bump in customer satisfaction.

3. Continuous improvement: Context-aware collaboration can help organisations integrate field services into the enterprise knowledge center, laying the groundwork for a continuous feedback loop. The more data collected on interactions from field workers, the better insights that can be developed about effective processes and those which should be changed. Continuous improvement can also be applied to workers and teams; if the system recognizes that certain associates are collaborating frequently, they can be paired together on projects to take advantage of a strong working relationship.

And here’s four tips on getting started:

1. Gather your contexts and actions: Identify areas in the workflow in which a field worker would benefit from technology recommending or performing an action. Then identify the data you need to collect to enable that action, as well as the contexts that are relevant to this task. Don’t limit your thinking to traditional inputs – consider any context that might improve the process, and then look to source it creatively.

2. Assess existing workflows: Once you’ve identified the workflow to address, conduct an audit of the processes involved in it. This exercise should be both bottom-up and top-down. It’s critical to treat field workers as knowledge workers; they possess an intimate understanding of what happens on the job site and can provide important insights about how a process works — and how to do it better.

3. Measure and iterate: Make sure you have a clear set of metrics and methodology for measuring the pilot, within a specific timeframe. Use KPIs that the leadership team is already comfortable with, and remember that change comes with challenges that sometimes negatively impact KPIs, so identify other indicative metrics that can show progress or detect problems early.

4. Scale smartly: With one successful pilot in hand, you can begin to scale, workflow by workflow. Market your success internally, early, and often to make the project one that others are asking for instead of having pushed upon them. Within a workforce management solution, make sure that whatever you’re implementing is aligned with existing processes such as assigning tasks to the field, optimizing schedules, street-level routing, and up-sell opportunities.

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