Just a couple of years ago, it seemed like technology innovation was occurring at a record pace. Then the pandemic started, and we finally understood what it meant to move fast. And though some may say we’ll see a slowdown or stabilization this year, the reality is that our customers are continuing to accelerate and scale technology investments. There are a myriad of challenges cropping up each day, some of them stemming from decades of lagging modernization.
For example, a lot of attention is currently being focused on the supply chain. Yet service providers – especially utilities, government entities, construction companies and first responders – are struggling just as much, if not more. Supply chain issues and labor shortages are compounding their ability to deliver reliable and quality services as demand grows. So, we must stay tuned into customers’ evolving needs and properly balance our development priorities.
These are the top three trends I believe will be most defining in 2022:
Trend #1: Maintenance and/or replacement of aging, overtaxed infrastructure will be a top priority. We’ll see a race to build, repair and replace infrastructure and expand services in nearly every geographic region, though the race will likely be more like a multi-year marathon. Construction rates will increase in both the residential and commercial sectors, with road, utility and other critical infrastructure projects picking up to enable – or perhaps catch up to – the growth. We’ll also see more efforts made to extend the reach of services outside typical geographic parameters.
This will require the digitalization of systems and strengthening of telecommunications networks – again driving more infrastructure-related investment. More jobs will be created to scale field-based workforces accordingly, with both professional (engineer, architect, planner) and skilled trade (installers, inspectors, maintainers) labor remaining in strong demand. Companies that decide to train workers on the job will still expect a certain level of productivity on day one. So, expect to see more investment in technology tools that facilitate learning on-demand, personalized task guidance, and remote expert support.
Trend #2: There will be fewer off-season periods. Field service technicians will see work orders stay at a stable, yet elevated, level all year. To keep up without burning out, organizations will need to ensure workers have access to the information and experts they need to get tasks completed rapidly and right the first time. That will drive up spending on mobility solutions that can keep workers connected to business information systems and colleagues, even when working in remote areas or around heavy industrial equipment.
Trend #3: Materials management will become a major focus point. Like every other organization, utilities, construction companies, oil and gas producers and miners need to shore up their supply chains. They also need to know what they have on hand or inbound/outbound at all times. They will assess their storage and distribution models, digitalize and automate where they can, and try to increase accountability for all materials on their books. With raw material shortages lingering, they can’t afford to lose even a single piece of wood.
A Greenfield for Software
Given these challenges and priorities, anyone with a field-based workforce will have to start looking at the effects of labor costs and performance. This will become even more of a necessity as they look to move beyond break/fix and become proactive in their maintenance of all equipment in the field.
They’ll come to technology providers for insight on how workers and processes can become more effective using software solutions. They’ll want to maximize the rugged tablets and mobile computers workers are already using in the field. So, the big question will be: “What will it take to get the right person the information they need to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right tools and skillset?”
Independent software vendors (ISVs) that are pushing mobility into the field for work order management and even workflow automation will likely be the first to receive recommendations from mobile hardware vendors – and calls from customers. ISVs that can easily transform their SAP transactions to Android will also be valued highly by customers in the coming months.
The name of the game is speed and simplicity, at least from the customer’s perspective. They need their employees to work faster than ever, and they need to make complex tasks as easy as possible for both field workers and the IT teams managing their technology tools.
So, I encourage you to sit down with decision-makers and field service technicians to understand their current operational limitations. What’s holding them back from getting more done in a day? Once you have the answer to that question, it will be easier to develop and recommend software as a solution.
To learn more about the types of mobility solutions field service teams are asking for right now, click here.