Technology is all around us and the pressure to upgrade is real. What technology is worth the ROI and what is over-hyped? Sometimes a good indicator is looking at what your peers are doing.
GetApp conducted a survey of 228 individuals in field service-related businesses that provide services out in the field to gauge where they stand on new technology adoption.
What technologies are businesses using now?
Field service is complex—it often requires coordination across teams, can be risky for technicians out in the field, or involves intricate, expensive equipment. Perhaps because of this complexity, field service has been found to be ideal for piloting new technologies. But for all the value technology has to offer these industries, what are businesses actually using?
Cloud (47%), video (44%), and knowledge management systems(44%) are the most used technologies today. That makes sense. The technologies are widely available and have real benefits for field service: Cloud is essential to capturing and sharing information out in the field, video is great for training and collaborating remotely, and knowledge management systems ensure technical expertise stays in the business.
Where is field service going?
We can speculate all day about the new applications of technology in field service, but these technologies won’t mean much if they don’t meet business needs. To better understand how technology applications may relate to field service in the future, we asked people who work in a field service-related industry where they believed their industries are headed.
Nearly half of all respondents believed that the next shift in industry operations will be the use of technology for collaboration within teams. Collaboration is crucial for any business with remote employees, but it is especially so for businesses that provide field services. Not only do you have a geographically dispersed workforce, but your technicians and representatives are often on the go, driving from site to site, and needing to receive and send information anywhere, anytime.
Cloud and video technology are important tools in your collaboration arsenal, but what’s next?
Augmented reality will make training easier
According to GetApp’s survey, 25% of respondents plan to implement augmented reality in the next three years. Augmented reality can help with many facets of field service, like training. Most relevant, however, is its use in facilitating collaboration.
You may have a limited number of experts that can take complex jobs, but with AR, they can help your less experienced techs remotely. Not only does this mean that your greatest asset’s expertise goes further, but novice workers and learn the rope without damaging expensive equipment.
Artificial Intelligence uses data to improve collaboration
Twenty two percent of respondents stated they plan to incorporate AI into their business in the next three years. AI is, maybe surprisingly, also of relevance to improving collaboration. AI-powered algorithms can use data to learn what works best—this could be in customer interactions, scheduling, or process workflows.
If your teams are to collaborate effectively, they need to operate based on best practices. AI can help your business identify what these are and assist your workers’ decision-making. Who has expertise for which jobs? Which tools or replacement parts will your representative need? This may be more of a human-technology collaborative relationship, but the effects are sure to ripple through your teams.
Implementation challenges and 5 ways to address them
To make sure your tech dreams come true, your business needs to take adequate steps to implement new processes and address challenges that may arise.
Respondents indicated that their biggest challenge when implementing new technology is adoption by the field crew, at 34%, followed by implementation time, at 30%. Change can be overwhelming, and learning how to use new tools is time-consuming—it’s no wonder businesses have a hard time getting their teams on board in a timely manner.
Here are five steps you can take that will help smooth the implementation process:
1.Explain the benefits
Buy-in from your field teams, and employees generally, is extremely important. After all, they will be the ones using the new tools on the regular. Bringing everyone into the process, and taking time to explain the economic and practical benefits of the tool, will help ease everyone in. This is also an opportunity for employees to ask questions, and for you to show commitment to making the transition as smooth as possible.
2. Provide customized training
Familiarity with technology within your organization likely varies, so adapting training to reflect these differences is a good idea. While some employees may fare well with an impersonal online training session, others may prefer one-on-one instruction. Giving your employees a chance to choose the format that works best for them improves rates of adoption.
3. Pilot the tool
It’s important to recognize that it’s impossible to know how new tech may work in your business in practice. Piloting the new tool in one area of the business will help you get on track more easily. Start with a small team and a specific task to test the new tool in a more controlled environment.
4. Make it routine
Once your business has completed a successful pilot, the next step is fully integrating the technology into the fabric of your organization. This means that the technology becomes part of your processes and workflows, and are used consistently, rather on an employee-by-employee basis. For example, if your business plans to use AR to facilitate remote collaboration, you will have to establish who should use it and when. This might involve scheduling more than one tech for the job—one remote and one on site—and adding the new equipment to the required list.
5. Request feedback
Feedback is essential to making your team part of the process as well as understanding how the new technology is or is not supporting your objectives. You may consider requesting feedback before, during, and after implementation to change course as needed. Your business could opt to speak with individuals involved with the pilot at predetermined points in time. You could also gather information via a survey, or hold group meetings. No matter how you choose to gather feedback, though, what you do with it will matter the most.
In August 2019, GetApp used Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey 228 field service business owners and employees. Survey respondents were required to have some involvement in software selection for their business and reside in the United States.