Recently, the long-suffering cable box in my living room died. When the technician who showed up to replace it came toting an iPad, I knew I was missing even more about mobile field service management than I thought. Soon after, I heard about ServiceMax, an end-to-end solution for field service management.
ServiceMax integrates with Salesforce.com on the backend, relieving buyers of many infrastructure and usability concerns that often come with deploying such apps. The ServiceMax Mobile for iPad app includes the following features:
- Scheduling and dispatch
- Route optimization to help save on fuel costs
- Online and offline modes
- Inventory logistics
- Warranty management
- Social collaboration
- Integration with the iPad camera and GPS
- Signature capture
This is an end-to-end solution for field service management, which is what got my attention in the first place. In addition, a scroll-friendly opening screen should be easy enough for even first-time tablet users to navigate.
Out in the field with ServiceMax Mobile
Prior to cutting a field services organization loose on ServiceMax Mobile, I recommend spending some time with the app's forms during a pilot phase. Two important user types to include at this phase are:
- The total non-techy service technician with limited tablet experience
- The experienced tablet user who has used tablet-based apps from previous jobs and/or is a regular tablet user at home
Available Service form field.Figure B shows how the form changes to when you tap in the field: Figure B
This is where you enter data.
I've seen my share of these forms-driven mobile apps, and the flow in ServiceMax Mobile didn't feel right to me. A key design that apps like ServiceMax can't forget is that mobile forms have to be very easy to use (and nearly replicate the familiar elements of paper and online forms), or they'll most certainly cause confusion amongst users. It's tough for me to make a final call about the forms on ServiceMax Mobile, but your organization should be prepared to really spend some extra time around the form features on the back end to create the workflow that meets your particular requirements.
ServiceMax Mobile also lets field service technicians use a map to chart out their route based on events for the day using the iPad's onboard GPS. Such routing helps save on fuel and ensures that an organization is dispatching the technician who is nearest the customer.ServiceMax Search is bound to be one of those features that becomes more necessary as a field service organization gets more product, inventory, and client data into the ServiceMax system. I wasn't in a position to fully test it while writing this post. However, I recommend any organization considering ServiceMax to drill down into this feature (benefits and limitations) when piloting the solution. Figure C shows an example of the Installed Products Search: Figure C
Installed Products Search in ServiceMax Mobile.
Productivity with ServiceMax Mobile
ServiceMax Mobile takes such a workflow approach to field service management that it even lets field service technicians create a Preventative Maintenance Plan directly from the iPad app. You should definitely explore this feature more in depth during the pilot phase.Another interesting productivity tool is the Task Template feature (Figure E), where technicians can create templates for common work order tasks. Figure D
ServiceMax Mobile Task Template.
Each feature is easy to follow and could lend itself to organizations that want to let their field services technicians create and maintain forms.
Social collaboration, institutional knowledge, and ServiceMax
ServiceMax Mobile takes into account the need for social collaboration amongst mobile field workers, which is a definite differentiator in the mobile field services management market. It can be easy to think that the cable guy or technicians who come into your home are always on their own. However, ServiceMax Mobile gives them the following collaboration tools:
- Facetime integration, which enables them to use the iPad back- or front-facing camera to show another technician a particular problem vs. talking them through the problem on the phone
- Service Pulse, based on Salesforce Chatter, which enables field services technicians to collaborate between each other or back with headquarters
These tools help build an institutional knowledge base inside a field service organization (provided the organization makes the effort to capture/track the information the tools generate), and they potentially save time and money by not having to roll another truck just so a technician can answer a question or resolve an issue.
ServiceMax Mobile takes a nice end-to-end approach to common field service tasks. When you top it off with some productivity features and integration with the iPad hardware, such as GPS and the camera, it makes this app worth a look. While I have mixed reactions about how the app handles form input, it's not enough for me to not recommend checking out ServiceMax as a potential management and collaborations solution for mobile field services organizations.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.