Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Changing Tide: Mobile devices for all in Utilities

Today’s mobile technology landscape is laying the groundwork for utilities companies to empower fieldworkers in ways never thought possible. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets has seen rapid innovation from OEMs seeking to secure market share, leading to the availability of high specification devices at very low cost. Now that a large proportion of us are well accustomed to using mobile technology- 70 per cent of UK adults own a smartphone (Deloitte) – conditions are ideal for a rise in adoption by utilities.  

Water resistant and increasingly ruggedised consumer mobile devices practically come as standard, almost removing the need to deploy expensive rugged devices. Set at a low price point, enterprise-ready smartphones and tablets have led to a paradigm shift in the business case for deployment making the case for deployment to any employee that spends more than 20% of their working week out of the office.  Increasingly the roll out of consumer devices is being extended beyond equipping just white collar staff for email and intranet purposes, right through to the mobile workforce to enhance field-based processes.

Not only have devices transformed the business case, but the capital outlay for systems and integration has reduced and become simpler, meaning less costly as back end software has matured. Enterprise mobility solutions can now be configured to exact requirements rather than developed, minimising time to deployment and expenditure. The latest back office systems, be they ERP, CRM or service management, offer web services and standard customer interfaces which have made integration and data transfer between disparate systems easy and scalable. 

Security is of course a key consideration when it comes to linking back office systems with fieldworker devices. If fieldworkers are solely accessing company data through an enterprise mobile app, information is safely contained therein. If the device is opened up for company emails, bit locker encryption and basic perimeter security (use of a pin passcode) are a must. Go one step further by introducing a MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution wrapper which controls exactly what the user can access and download. 

More and more utilities businesses are taking advantage of these new mobilisation opportunities and achieving a competitive edge. Holistic fieldworker visibility, increased productivity, huge efficiency savings and better customer experience are some of the benefits which have been achieved in a short timeframe by tech-savvy companies.

Amey’s Severn Trent Water division migrated to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and at the same time replaced its rugged mobile devices with Windows Lumia smartphones, creating a unified and consistent system between both back office staff and fieldworkers. UKDN Waterflow rolled out an effective scheme which incentivises staff to look after their smartphones with the offer to own it after the 18 month write down period to reduce breakages. Severn Trent Services has transformed communications through its adoption of smartphones for field technicians, fully integrated in real time with its new universal back office system, empowering control centre staff to focus on customer service.  

The smartphone and tablet revolution is starting to enable utilities companies to transform all of their processes, from fieldworker to back office, with a low upfront investment and sophisticated yet easy to integrate management systems.

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