What’s the Difference Between Mobile Workforce Management and Field Service Management?


Is mobile workforce management the same as field service management? Mobile work is a broad category, while field service is the specific subset.

Most people incorrectly use “field worker” and “mobile worker” interchangeably. More importantly, though, is the distinction in what your business is trying to achieve that separates mobile workforce management from field service management.

What is a Mobile Worker?

A mobile worker is anyone whose core job function does NOT take place in the office. Their jobs are executed on-site with customers, in homes, in the field where equipment or worksites are, or on the go in general, as opposed to at your company office. Examples include home health care providers, on-site trainers or service providers, home contractors, and trade workers. By 2022, there are expected to be 1.87 billion mobile workers worldwide.

Remote employees are different than mobile workers. A remote employee has a job that could or normally would take place in the company’s office, but does this job from another location.

What is a Field Worker?

A field worker is a specific type of mobile worker who is delivering field service. It is estimated that there are 20 million field technicians worldwide. Field service workers often go on-site to install, repair, or maintain equipment or systems.

Field workers are usually technicians delivering skilled services to commercial or industrial clients. This often involves specialized or even proprietary equipment, a bill of materials, and service level agreements (SLAs). Traditional field service is associated with industries like telecommunications, utilities, logistics, and manufacturing.

What Are You Optimizing For?

First, figure out what you’re trying to optimize in your business. Is it factors of your business related to people or physical products?

If your goal is to optimize the customer journey, the scheduling process, or the daily experience of your mobile workforce, then you need a mobile workforce management solution.

In contrast, if your goal is to optimize the installation, maintenance and repair of physical products you own or have sold, then a field service management solution should work for your business.

The Many Use Cases of Mobile Workforce Management

Mobile workforce management systems are built for businesses whose primary business drivers are human inputs, whether those are your customers, your team at HQ, or your workers in the field. It’s a solution category for the service economy with a mobile-first approach.

Mobile workforce management systems can support many types of use cases or workflows, but they all have some common factors.

1. Customer Centricity

First, they are customer-centric, especially when it comes to appointment times and requirements. Mobile workforce management software can support use cases where the customer OR the business defines the time of service.

One example is a corporate cleaning service that is restricted by the client’s business day and office hours. In this case, it’s the client’s scheduling needs, not the workforce availability or an equipment failure, that primarily determines time of service.

2. Scheduling Optimization

Second, mobile workforce management systems are designed to solve challenges around the variability of the people in your workforce beyond basic availability for a specific time slot. This variability could include specialty skills, tenure with the company, or even existing relationships with the customer or co-workers. A more technical way to think about it is that mobile workforce management takes into account complex qualitative attributes, as well as quantitative constraints, when managing mobile work and the people who provide it.

3. Empowering Your Mobile Workforce

Lastly, mobile workforce management software must make the work of your field employees easier—from traveling to and from jobs to the execution of work itself. It’s not enough to just tell them where and when to be somewhere; a mobile workforce management solution must enable and optimize the work done in the field through the use of mobile technology. If it doesn’t have this element, it’s just a scheduling tool.

Ultimately, a mobile workforce management tool is designed to optimize your business—whether that is your customers, your team at HQ, or your workers in the field—to reach your broader business goals, such as revenue generation, costs savings, and customer retention.

Learn more about the ROI of mobile workforce management or field service management. Or request a free demo today.

The Standard Field Service Use Case

In contrast to mobile workforce management, field service management systems are designed to optimize the upkeep of goods or equipment that a business sells or owns. Field service management software are purpose-built for businesses whose primary business drivers are their physical products, like manufacturing, utilities, telecommunications, and infrastructure.

The standard field service management workflow is that a request is made for installation, maintenance, or repair from a customer who has already signed a contract with the business. The scheduler chooses among available and qualified workers to dispatch from a field service management system that prioritizes reducing the cost of the service and increasing the utilization of the field resources. The customer is given a service window, an available technician is dispatched, paperwork is filled out on site, and it is then returned back to HQ and processed.

On the back end, the system connects with an ERP or other asset management system to take inventory of spare parts, bill of materials, and the lifecycle of the product being serviced. The requirements of the physical good, the urgency of the repair, and reducing the cost of servicing a customer on contract drive the system and ultimately the scheduling decision.

Field service management systems often assume a certain amount of standardization or limited variability in your workforce as the types of services rendered—and therefore skills needed—are generally well-defined within an SLA.

The “Bigger” Category is Mobile Workforce Management

Field service management is a more mature solution category that includes extensive integrations to ERP and other systems to manage the requirements around complex physical products. With that in mind, it’s easy to think field service management is “bigger” than mobile workforce management (I’m looking at you, analysts). But that’s just plain backwards.

Mobile workforce management is the solution category that applies to the widest variety of business models, workforce types, job types, and workflows. Field service management solutions are designed to support traditional field service only (and we think some of them do a great job at it!). Mobile workforce management is bigger because it works for businesses and use cases that do not fit the well-defined mold of traditional field service.

Getting Started

Whether your business is a mobile or field service workforce, you need a mobile workforce management platform to help streamline processes, optimize scheduling, and empower your workers so that clients receive excellent customer service. 

Ready to learn more? Check out Skedulo’s mobile workforce management platform to see how our solution can make managing your deskless workers a breeze.

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