Pity the poor service technician.
Back in the good old days he could rock up to fix a boiler at any time between 9 and 6, and if he didn't have the necessary part in his van, well that meant extra pub time. Bonus. He could always pop by the next day to complete the job.
Then came the mobile phone. This was a nuisance as he was now expected to call the office in case of problems. And of course the office could contact him while he was on the road. Still, there were always reception blackspots (real or invented), and anyway it would take too long to collect the missing part and return to the job the same day.
Then things got worse still. Now jobs and directions started to be transmitted direct to his smartphone, and if he didn't have a part in his van another technician would be sent do the job and he'd be immediately redeployed elsewhere. Where's the fun in that?
Enterprise mobility: joining all the dots
To blame for this sorry state of affairs is the data-capable smartphone, and those firms that have built a business on the back of its meteoric rise, such as ClickSoftware, Syclo and Antenna. Together, they are changing the way that mobile workforces operate in a big way.
"Service companies are [using mobiles] to balance the schedule and get every ounce of productivity from the workforce," ClickSoftware CEO Moshe BenBassat told Computing.
As BenBasset sees it, the aim of enterprise mobility is now to completely replace the office desktop with mobile devices by providing secure connectivity to corporate back-office functions such as CRM and HR, and providing all the apps field staff require for their daily work – wherever they may be.
In many industries, such as oil and gas or distribution, it is not just sales people and technicians who are frequently out of the office. Many executives are too. Since the needs of these workers are very different, the solution must be device-agnostic.
"Executives go out to the field with an iPad or other tablet because they need to see more data, but for a technician a smartphone is sufficient," said BenBassat, who goes on to explain how a standards-based approach to the firm's software allows it to run on most devices in the marketplace.
"The vast majority of the mobile market is covered by either Apple or Android, with Windows 8 around the corner. All three support HTML5 and all of our apps comply with HTML5."
These apps are available via the cloud as SaaS, or downloaded onto mobile devices from a repository, which contains hundreds of integrated applications designed to keep field workers in touch with the office.