Want better service collaboration? It’s in the Cloud

Udi Keidar

There’s little doubt the move toward cloud-enabled tools for collaboration and mobile interactions are gaining momentum. The strength of the BYOD movement are especially strong throughout the field service industry, as mobile devices offer a range of benefits to users, from technicians to field-office administrators. Such communication tools provide a means for exchanging ideas, troubleshooting problems and generally interacting in ways that were inconceivable a few short years ago.

Increasingly, service companies are choosing to manage field service crews via cloud-based services. Technicians can utilise cloud-based field service applications to communicate with their hub, check inventory, place orders, and create contracts. Such mobility also makes possible a range of other service-based actions, including:

– Manage estimates, work orders, invoicing
– Perform dynamic scheduling/dispatching
– Integrate with legacy tools & applications
– Manage callbacks/follow-ups
– Work approval, signature capture, pricing controls

Recent data from ABI Research indicates that by 2015, the business use of cloud computing services via smart devices will exceed 240 million business users. The majority of this growth is based on accessing data via cloud-based mobile applications. Field service organisations represent a significant part of this trend, due to the extreme flexibility and computing power that mobile devices offer cloud customers.

Cloud computing makes such a range of tasks affordable, and there’s no longer the need to keep specialised IT staff on hand to manage application-specific servers or related equipment. The benefits for field service companies extend to cost savings, less complex implementations and having access to current applications and technologies.

One aspect of the cloud that offers field service companies an effective resource is through increased collaborative potential. Cloud-enabled mobile applications offer access to a range of communications resources. For example, unique mobile collaborative applications enable communication within context. Users can add comments, share knowledge and exchange professional information within a structured, efficient workflow. Such applications supersede the need for random emails, texts and phone calls because they enable collaborations through live discussions.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to promoting online collaboration to meet project goals and to reach targets. The collaborative process generally involves many different perspectives. Therefore, productive interaction should be a goal shared by all team members.

When a company adopts mobile collaborations, the organisation sees improvements in three key areas: communications, operational efficiency and collaborative abilities. To increase the level and quality of participation among field service workers, following these suggestions will help ease deployment:

– Create common purpose among employees. Acknowledge that it takes time to foster online collaborative relationships and to incorporate these processes into day-to-day business operations.

– Implement a top-down management approach to promoting the use of collaborative applications. Without executive backing for a certain technology within an organisation, a workforce tends not to put as much emphasis on using it. When team members understand that management is fully behind adoption, it provides them with a mandate for using that tool or platform.

– Promote a collegial, supportive atmosphere that encourages the free-flow of ideas for trouble-shooting problems or resolving field-based issues (maintenance, delivery, customer service, etc.). This results in a vibrant user community that thinks outside received opinions, leading to original, dynamic solutions that can surpass those of the competition.

– Provide frequent and specific communication that spells out exactly how regular use of collaborative applications will build the collaborative potential of all field service team members across the company.

Mobile use for business is not going away anytime soon and online collaborations represent one aspect of online communications that will continue to evolve. Such collaborative applications can be critical in the field where fast solutions and immediate results are necessary to maintain an organisation’s competitive advantage.

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