Zero One: Field Service Workers on the Digital Front Lines
In digital transformation, the action is on the edge – that is, the lonely field service worker.
These front-line workers often have the biggest impact on the customer experience and thus should be armed with game-changing technology, such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, mobile apps, and business process management software.
At least that’s the key takeaway from a Vanson Bourne-Red Hat survey of 300 IT decision makers at organizations with a significant field service workforce; almost half of the survey respondents employ more than 2,500 field service workers.
“For many industries, from transportation to utilities, manufacturing and more, field workers are pivotal to the success of business operations, the satisfaction of customers, and the growth of the bottom line,” says Red Hat in a blog post.
Every survey respondent expects to grow their technology investment this year, with an average increase of 25 percent. They’re hoping an infusion of new technology can boost field service worker productivity, streamline or optimize field operations, and improve customer service.
Where are they placing their bets?
This year, companies plan to open their wallets to AI, IoT, mobile apps and BPM. Here’s a breakdown by industry, technology, and investment growth:
· Manufacturing: AI (27 percent), IoT (22 percent), BPM (21 percent), mobile apps (21 percent)
· Oil and gas: AI (24 percent), BPM (22 percent), IoT (21 percent), mobile apps (21 percent)
· Utilities: IoT (23 percent), AI (23 percent), BPM (20 percent), mobile apps (19 percent)
· Transport: AI (23 percent), IoT (23 percent), mobile apps (20 percent), BPM (16 percent)
· Construction and mining: IoT (23 percent), AI (23 percent), mobile apps (19 percent), BPM (19 percent)
· Engineering: AI (37 percent), IoT (27 percent), mobile apps (23 percent), BPM (21 percent)
· Distribution: IoT (23 percent), AI (22 percent), BPM (18 percent), mobile apps (14 percent)
· Logistics: AI (31 percent), IoT (26 percent), mobile apps (24 percent), BPM (20 percent)
With these technologies, field service workers can expect better access to data through smart mobile devices, customer service automation, better planning and scheduling, and, literally, less paperwork.
But return on investment isn’t a sure thing.
Technical and business challenges abound. Data access security, back-end systems integration, a dearth of standardization, poor IT-business collaboration, a lack of in-house technical skills, tight budgets, and cultural resistance are just a few hurdles.
There’s no question companies will need help to digitally transformi their field service workforce.
It’s a theme that shows up in the Vanson Bourne-Red Hat survey. Only 40 percent of respondents said they collaborate with a third-party to develop field service applications. But over the next two years this number will grow to 57 percent.
“Collaborative development approaches between in-house development teams and third-party vendors or partners will dominate in two years,” Red Hat says.
Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is based in Silicon Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.