budget is always an issue, and the term “budget” can mean capital expenses, operating expenses or both. Often money in one bucket cannot be used for the other, which tends to constrain IT professionals’ options when building a technology toolset for field workers. This sometimes leads to less-than-optimum decisions, such as leasing equipment (operating budget) because there aren’t sufficient funds to purchase equipment (capital budget). So, IT needs to work as partners with their finance department so that overall minimum expenditures are evaluated in total when trying to maximize technology budgets. After all, investing in the right technology tools is the key to maximizing labor resources (which are almost always far more costly than their tools), improving inventory utilization and ensuring proper equipment installation and preventative maintenance actions are being taken to extend the life of equipment and eliminate unnecessary truck rolls to fix or replace failing equipment. (More on that in a minute.)
I realize the irony in my recommendation considering that study respondents indicated that implementing and adapting to new technologies is a top issue. However, in my view, this only really becomes an issue if new tools – whether they are mobile devices, GIS apps, augmented reality (AR) apps or wearable technologies – work well. Some service organizations think their workers are resistant to all new technology. On the contrary, workers are opposed to poorly executed technology but, in fact, embrace better tools. When talking with workers who complain about a mobile device or app, what companies often realize is that field technicians actually appreciate the benefits that mobility solutions can bring to their jobs and simply need those tools to be better implemented. Their reported issues – the device fails to stay connected in remote areas, can’t be seen in the sun, knocks me off the VPN when I swap batteries, etc. – are typically fixable by deploying the right technology tools for the job. To be honest, I’ve never heard one worker say “we should go back to the old way.” Yet, for some reason, many telcos and service providers are hesitant to adopt new technologies, even if they are just better-suited versions of the same technologies already used today – such as tablets, scanners or handheld mobile computers – and even if it’s riskier not to do so. That’s interesting to me.
When I first read through the results of our “Future of Field Operations” study, I was reminded of the comments sometimes heard in field service organizations that believe that new features aren’t really needed. They claim that field-based workers are able to get their jobs done with the mobile devices and feature sets they currently use and that continuous innovation isn’t necessary to keeping customers happy and their workers productive. So, why spend the time engineering a better keyboard, optimizing the touch screen, finding a better antenna placement or perfecting the functional form