Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Facilities Management taking the plunge

Currently, the majority of the facilities management field worker community uses some form of wireless voice communication to maintain contact with either their company or their customers. The most favoured device for this is the ever-popular GSM mobile telephone. However, voice communication comes at what most businesses feel is a prohibitive on-going cost. Most company accountants consider the issuing of this technology as an uncontrolled expense, as voice calls tend to be randomly made and always take too long. Whilst all the current GSM network providers charge according to talk-time, this will always be a problem. Despite this reluctance, most individuals have either a company sponsored GSM telephone or their own GSM phone, which invariably ends up as indirectly company sponsored, through creative expense claims.

However, this could provide an opportunity to maximise the investment in mobile phone technology by expanding its use by using the wireless data services (GPRS) coupled with some sort of portable computing device. This technology coupled with some suitable field mobility software application will eradicate the need for paper and its associated process in what is considered a paper-centric industry, thus facilitating the reduction of operating costs whilst improving customer satisfaction.

Most businesses, up until quite recently, have been either sceptical or unaware of what the wireless technology of today is capable of. More importantly they are still unaware of how to harness this technology to their best advantage and improve their businesses efficiency.
So what are the first steps we need to take to mobilise our workforce?

The first thing to remember when planning your move into mobility, is that it won’t
happen overnight!

The challenge today, given that the facilities management industry is a very mobile centric industry is how to use the wide range of opportunities now available in mobile technology, to keep in touch and provide the important information to our fieldworkers to enable them to complete their work efficiently in the most cost-effective manner.

These are three phases you need to go through, to get there successfully.

1. Understand the technologies

Anyone who has used a mobile phone will know that they do not always have signal to make a call, and certainly some buildings will bock signal making calls from inside them difficult, this compounded with that in certain places the use of mobile phones is not allowed makes the use of mobile phones sometimes a challenge. The same applies to mobile data; therefore when choosing a mobile solution it is imperative that it works equally well without signal as with signal, also ensure that the solution can manage all communication sessions without any intervention from the field worker.

There are several choices to be made. You’ll need good information and advice to consider the technological choices,

· Which voice handsets or portable computing devices you need,
· Which wireless connectivity is the most appropriate (GSM, WiFi),
· Which application software you need.

Once you have deployed your solution, change will be inevitable, as a result of this you need to choose a suitable solution that will easily allow future changes to be made. Your chosen solution should be sophisticated enough to allow you to make changes and these changes should be over the air updated to the field workers , this will allow your business to be in control of your field mobility solution and minimise ongoing costs and allow for you to react quickly to your customers changing requirements on your business

Its a well know fact that when businesses deploy field mobility solutions its only the beginning of the experience, initially you may only need the field mobility solution to interface with a single element of your enterprise, such as your CRM system, however there will probably be future requirement for your field mobility solution to integrate into a ERP, Payroll, Intranet, GPS Tracking etc. Therefore it’s important to ensure that you pick a field mobility solution with the flexibility to work with all your enterprise systems and the flexibility to grow and change as your business grows and changes.

The key is, you shouldn’t try to become the technology expert. Get a partner who is, and who can provide upfront advice and continuing support you can trust.

2. Develop a business plan

Look closely at your business and identify the areas you think would benefit from mobilisation. Then, create model workflows to identify which parts of these processes can be mobilised, use a ‘before and after scenario to calculate the impact upon the workflows. This difference can then be utilised to calculate the return on investment (ROI) you’re likely to achieve. When evaluating the ROI, start with the paperwork being completed by your fieldworkers. In almost all cases, removing the cost of processing paper-based forms should give you a tangible ROI to prove your business case. It’s easier to do that, than to try and measure the return on intangible benefits such as productivity. Make sure in your business case you include the total cost of ownership, this should include costs for the support of your field workers as they come to terms with the technology and on going help should they have any problems with the technology, device management and support will also be a consideration.

3. Take the plunge

This is a good time to get your mobility strategy underway, because;

The necessary mobile technologies exist, and have been proven to work and are relatively low cost.

The wireless networks now offer stable, corporate data services with tariffs that are affordable and attractive

There are an increasing number of proven mobility applications that can be rapidly deployed and easily implemented

Those businesses that have deployed mobility solutions already have seen a significant return on investment


Katharsis said...

You state:
"There are an increasing number of proven mobility applications that can be rapidly deployed and easily implemented"

Can you say what they are?

You also state:
"Those businesses that have deployed mobility solutions already have seen a significant return on investment"

Do you have hard data you can share about these cases?

Steve Reynolds said...

Hi Katharsis

Yes I can answer all your questions andd will do this in an more detailed artical when I return from holiday

Steve Reynolds said...

As promised here is a link to a success case study in FM, I hope this helps