ERP Meets Mobile Field Service Management
By Sandi Thomas, and VP of Strategic Partnerships, & Deb Mielke, Marketing Director,
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platforms are designed to help companies streamline operations and provide comprehensive financial management across organizational boundaries. CEO’s, CFO’s, shipping managers, support managers, partners, Ecommerce managers and customers have all benefited from the ERP system’s innate ability to solidify business processes and instantly share critical business information.
And yet, one increasingly important group often finds itself unable to participate in or benefit from their company’s ERP solution–the field service organization.
Field Service–Relationships, Revenue and Repair Too!
Many companies, in a variety of vertical markets– from manufacturing to real estate management– are discovering that their field service organizations can be, and are, much more than just people who fix problems. Traditionally viewed as “overhead”, field service organizations are now emerging as a key contributor to their companies’ overall competitive market strategy. Field service organizations:
• Provide consistent recurring revenue streams: Unlike product sales that provide one time, highly variable revenue; repair and ongoing maintenance contracts provide companies with predictable recurring revenue streams. Some manufacturers have even found that service revenues (especially when competitor products are included in the service offering) can be more lucrative than those based on their traditional manufactured product lines.
• Generate additional product revenue: Who is in a better position to recommend product upgrades or system replacements than the technician who is on site, face-to-face with the customer? When provided with the “right” tools, training and incentives, companies are finding that their field personnel are often the fastest and most effective route to increased sales.
• Increase brand awareness and heighten customer satisfaction: Field personnel–and even their branded vehicles–help companies maintain and increase brand awareness. And every positive maintenance and repair engagement aids in building customer loyalty. Field service organizations can assist in turning customers into brand ambassadors. With field service’s increasing contributions to the corporate bottom line, it becomes even more important for field organizations to benefit from the access to the business information and operational efficiencies available in an ERP platform.
Cloud-based Mobile Field
The problem however, is that most ERP systems just aren’t designed with the mobile field technician in mind. They don’t provide access to the operational information that technicians need and they don’t include many of the capabilities that they require. That’s where mobile cloud-based field service management systems step in. Designed for the technicians and the people who support them–schedulers, dispatchers, managers and operations executives–mobile field service management systems, extend ERP systems to field operations and augment those systems with features designed specifically for field operations. Features like:
• Easy-to-use native mobile apps for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets (native apps are important because they can still be used–even when the technician is an area without network coverage) • Support for generation of quotes and work orders in the field as well as photo capture (with geolocation and time stamp), electronic signature capture (for sign-off on work orders or quotes), editable PDF forms (often used for compliance with local, state or federal statutes).
• Powerful work order, quote and inventory management capabilities that are integrated with the ERP platform using a robust, efficient API based on a RESTful architecture–the latest in web-based API technology.
• State of the art scheduling and dispatch systems that enable organizations to track every order and every technician in real time And because the system is cloud-based, there are no servers to purchase, no software licenses to buy and no on-going software maintenance charges to pay. And what happens when companies combine their cloudbased ERP platform with a cloud-base, made for mobile field service management platform?
ERP + Mobile Field Service Management = A Growing Business
For a U.S. based manufacturer, adding mobile field service management to their existing cloud-based ERP solution enabled them to improve the productivity of every member of the field organization–and expand their business. Integrated and running in just 90 days (using a RESTful API), the company’s field workers now use iOS and Android-based smartphones and tablets to manage every work order, generate new work orders or quoteson the spot–using pricing and inventory data provided by the ERP system in real time, capture pre and post work photos and obtain instant acceptance of work–or quotes–using electronic signature capture. Scheduling and dispatch is simple, fast and efficient and managers can quickly see the status of every work order and the location of every technician in real time. The company also allows customers to view the status of every task in real time as well as the history of work performed at any of their locations. And reports that required weeks to prepare in the past are now just a couple of mouse clicks away.
More importantly, the productivity realized by adding mobile field service management to their ERP system has enabled the company to expand their business to new geographies and add to their product line without the need to hire additional administrative personnel.
ERP systems help companies improve their operational efficiency and provide company personnel with the real time financial information they need to power their business. By integrating a mobile field service management solution (using an API based on a RESTful architecture), companies can extend–and augment– their ERP solution to their field service organizations. Field service organizations will contribute.