Utility workforce transformation - Need for smarter Field Service Management (FSM)
In a typical Utility; there are multiple lines of business that require the field work force to handle the various business problems. The business problems are addressed through an effective back office work management and field force systems as illustrated in Figure 1. The field force systems or field mobility becomes the frontline for the utility on a day to day basis in resolving the issues. The line of business and nature of work will influence the application platform and hardware choices for field mobility as illustrated in Figure 2.
Majority of large utilities have implemented field mobility solution across lines of business and traditionally this has been deploying "thick client" application either from a standard product available in market or built in-house. Utilities have started to realize the short comings in the existing foot print. Some of the common challenges currently encountered are as listed below:
· Mobile applications tied to hardware and operating systems
· Unable to use smarter and cheaper mobile devices (smart tablets, smart phones etc.)
· High cost to add users - requires adding devices of certain make, installing software etc.
· Complexity in deployment of applications and patches - No centrally managed mechanism to deploy, monitor and check the mobile solution on end user devices
· Unable to leverage "best of industry" software & hardware capabilities on mobile devices & operating systems.
· Unable to leverage internet connectivity - No support to switch between connected and disconnected modes
· Unable to leverage a duplex communication capabilities that mobile devices and software offer
The industry trend is to now move towards device independence and platform independence for field mobility solutions.
Benefits of Field Services Management (FSM)
Utilities with large field workforces adopted mobile technologies and benefited by improved customer service and employee productivity.
Field service efficiency should be a top priority for utility companies; as workforce in the field need to have quick, easy and accurate access to data such as customer and asset information in order to deliver safer, reliable and speedy service to end customers. Regardless of the nature of work involved; whether it is attending an emergency response, responding to a customer request or complaint, connection turn-on / turn-off or asset inspection and maintenance, FSM technologies play a big role to improve their workforce efficiency and customer satisfaction. From a financial aspect this will help reduce operating costs and improve bottom line.
Transforming field workforce with suitable FSM solution can result in a wide range of benefits that include:
· Minimize dependencies on manual processes
· Optimize workforce and improve productivity.
· Enable field force with mapping and geo spatial information
· Enable field force with safety information
· Improve customer relations by quicker turn around
· Reduction in operational costs through fewer phone calls, lower fleet mileage and less paperwork
· Aid the Utility in becoming more competitive - by minimizing fuel and vehicle costs, meet overtime needs.
· Latest up to date technologies will enable easier integration of the solution with other systems,
· Will help utility companies use advanced analytics which will aid the management in taking better decisions and remedial measures if any gaps exist and work on continuous improvement of field operations.
· Will be able to provide features to send utility plans along with activities from the corporate source systems.
· Will enable the field personnel to capture information on the field using audio, video images, bar code scanning etc.
For example, in the UK water market, utilities get incentivized based on the (1) qualitative measurement (2) quantitative measurement of the level of service provided to the end customers. Qualitative measurements are based on consumer surveys while Quantitative measurements are based on number of complaints, or unwanted calls a utility company may receive.
An efficiently designed FSM solution can help the utility companies improve their SIM scores (both qualitative and quantitative) there by help them have an advantage over competition.
In my next blog, I will talk about the factors that one needs to keep in mind for choosing the right FSM solution.
This blog is posted on behalf of Surya Srinivas Chavali, Principal Consultant, Infosys.