For a company with employees in the field, mobile workforce management touches every part of the business. Whether it’s sales, customer relations, back office management, or brand reputation, everything relies on how effectively you manage your mobile workforce.
What is mobile workforce management?
“Mobile workforce management” is a broad term for software, applications, tools, and related services used to manage employees outside of the office.
Mobile workforce management is broader than field service, which is a type of mobile work. Traditionally, field service refers to industries like utilities, telecommunications and large-scale manufacturing, where complex machinery or specialty equipment used in the field is purchased with long-term service contracts. Field service management software is designed with these types of use cases in mind.
Mobile work, in contrast, can be any type of work that takes place outside the office. Home and office services, installations and repairs, trades work, on-site training, and on-site support are all examples of mobile work. Industries that often have mobile workforces include health care, not-for-profit, home repairs and construction, training and consulting, among others.
What tools are included in mobile workforce management solutions?
A comprehensive mobile workforce management solution includes tools for availability management, scheduling, dispatching, location tracking, mobile notifications, field documentation, data collection, and other ways to connect the back office to employees in the field.
Mobile workforce management often uses a mix of technologies, including software, mobile apps, desktop apps, and secure wireless networks, depending on business needs. With an entire workforce depending on it, mobile workforce management systems must account for:
- Real-time communication needs
- Data accessibility in the field
- Data security requirements
- Ongoing technical support
- Syncing data with customer relationship management (CRM) software or other systems of record
- Compliance requirements (e.g. HIPAA compliance for mobile healthcare workers)
- Hardware needs (whether the company provides devices or has a BYOD model)
Why is mobile workforce management important?
Simply put, businesses cannot stay competitive today without using technology well. Customer expectations continue to rise, anchored by fast-moving companies whose success hinges on using technology to create exceptional experiences. As a result, every company that wants to stay competitive must consider new approaches and systems to adapt.
"What’s happening is the best companies are setting the bar and creating a new, higher expectation. There is a new benchmark, and other companies, even with their efforts to improve, aren’t able to keep up with customers’ newfound expectations. The good news is that companies are making the effort, they are improving, and they can catch up to those new expectations."
Meeting these new customer expectations means examining internal processes with a critical eye—and being prepared to make changes. The tools that you used in the past may not be suited for the workforce (and customer expectations) of the present and future.
The right mobile workforce management system will give you the tools to tackle three major challenges in today’s marketplace:
1. Schedules and office hours are no longer predictable
Traditional work hours, and the traditional field service tools that managed them, are becoming a thing of the past. Many companies use a blend of full-time employees, part-time employees, and 1099 contractors to serve their customers, and schedules are much more fluid than they used to be.
This flexibility often leads to better worker availability—and in turn, better customer service—but it cannot be managed with a traditional calendaring tool. With a dynamic, shifting workforce, you need a workforce management system that can keep up.
2. Real-time scheduling and dispatching requires sophisticated tools
Today’s field service landscape is more complex than it used to be. The tools of the past, like spreadsheets and paper calendars, are no longer enough to meet the needs of the mobile workforce. In addition, customers expect mobile workers to arrive sooner, be better prepared, and work more efficiently than ever before.
“There is an extensive use of cloud services and a number of other technologies, such as smartphones, personalization, and algorithm-based decision making, which, combined, will transform different industry verticals.”
Companies who rely on mobile employees are shifting toward cloud-based tools that can reach mobile workers anytime, anywhere. With these tools, back office administrators can send new work assignments, up-to-date schedules, and important customer information right to the employee’s mobile device. This real-time data sharing gives the mobile employee everything they need to serve the customer, which leads to satisfied customers and happy mobile workers.
3. Increasing efficiency and profitability requires accurate data
Without the right data, your company could be making key decisions based on faulty assumptions. Inaccurate or incomplete data can lead to all sorts of challenges, including inaccurate predictions of demand, inability to meet service-level targets, and escalating service costs.
A key advantage of a mobile workforce management system is its ability to centralize data. An intelligent mobile workforce platform collects data from the field and instantly shares it with your CRM or other system of record. Your mobile workers can record key metrics like time of arrival and time of job completion, giving you the data to estimate daily capacity and set accurate appointment times. With a wealth of data at your disposal, you can make decisions that increase efficiency and ultimately profitability.
What does your mobile workforce management system need to be successful?
Not all mobile workforce management systems are created equal. Depending on the nature of your mobile operation, you may need specific features, like offline functionality or recurring appointments, or support for specific devices. The best workforce management systems are flexible, scalable, and user-friendly enough to be easily adopted by your workforce.
“In 2017: Expect to see continued focus on using field service technologies outside of traditional industries. These technologies will increasingly leverage analytics to manage scheduling and dispatching, taking into account skills, tasks, work orders, assets, time sheets, and service policies.”
Using the checklist below, thoroughly evaluate each mobile workforce management system to find the ideal fit for your business.
A successful workforce management system:
- Is mobile-first, and works seamlessly with all your devices.
- Can match the right worker to the right job based on skills, certifications, availability, location, customer preferences, and other important qualifiers.
- Can notify mobile workers of new jobs and appointments.
- Offers various notification options, including push notifications, email, and SMS text notifications.
- Gives mobile workers access to important information, including job logistics and customer history.
- Has real-time tracking capabilities to see when workers accept, travel to, check-in, start, and finish each job.
- Lets mobile workers capture data like signatures, photographs, surveys, and other details in the field.
- Can set precise appointment times (rather than estimated windows) based on location and availability.
- Offers integrations with other tools for extra functionality
- Offers integrations with CRM platforms like Salesforce and ServiceNow
Looking for more guidance?
Download our eBook: Best Practices for Choosing a Mobile Workforce Management Solution