More and more plumbing and HVAC contractors who do service work communicate with field service crews primarily or entirely through “bring your own” mobile devices every workday, whether those devices (iPhones, iPads, Andriod phones and tablets, and other mobile handhelds) are company owned or employee owned.
Many enterprise or service management/work order solutions used in the company office come with integrated or optional mobile modules that enable field tech access to customer data and other company information, such as work orders, customer service history, including call history, parts tracking and inventory, time-tracking, pricing, invoices, and equipment warranties. However, with all that information out there, management often has to balance optimizing functionality and productivity in the field with retaining control and security of the data.
A new category of software focused on mobile device management has emerged that companies with BYOD (bring your own device) cultures can deploy to minimize business risks related to mobile device security and management, regardless of carrier or device ownership.
There are many full featured solutions on the market designed to safeguard data and applications without imposing overly rigid or stringent restrictions that would unnecessarily infringe on employee productivity and use satisfaction and without monitoring or modifying any personal data on the tech’s device. Examples are below.
Mobile Device Management by Amtel, www.amtelnet.com, for managing mobile phones and tablets is a software-as-a-service solution that provides a host of capabilities for monitoring mobile devices out in the field. These include geofencing and location based control along with options for emergency response communications, telecom monitoring, lost device and GPS tracking, and selective wipe and reset password.
Working from a cloud-based central console, HVAC and plumbing company administrators configure security policy and access control settings and push them over the air to the enrolled remote mobile devices in the hands of employees in the field.
Geofencing restrictions enable management to automatically activate or deactivate features and access to apps and company data based on GPS location of the enrolled mobile device relative to the geofence boundaries management has set up.
Administrators can also disable camera and other device settings to protect sensitive areas and restrict social apps and game apps in the geofence area.
Emergency notification service built into the software solution enables instant notification of text messages to mobile devices of select recipients, groups, or all enrolled devices, eliminating the need for field personnel to carry a pager.
Management can also set thresholds for voice, data and text usage by profile and take advantage of real time alerts upon thresholds, enabling the change of the current mobile service plan (i.e. upping the data allowance if near the limit) on short notice before over-run charges kick in.
For larger companies and/or even more extensive enterprise-class monitoring, a mobile app management module enables control over enterprise customers, giving administrators the ability to set up and manage public and private apps, put into place blacklist and whitelist policies, and flexible time and location based access restrictions, including which apps can and cannot be run within the boundaries.
Blacklist capabilities include blocking unwanted apps and enabling the sending of alerts to administrators. Whitelist capabilities enable blocking other apps than those allowed. Lifecycle management capabilities include alerts and reporting for app changes, additions, removals on the mobile handheld devices.
Other full featured solutions that support iOS and Android platforms, along with BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 include:
AirWatch Enterprise Mobility Management, www.air-watch.com; BoxTone, www.boxtone.com; Mobilelron, www.mobileiron.com; Soti MobiControl, www.sotinet.com; and Symantec Mobile Management Suite, www.symantec.com/mobile-device-suite.com.
Work order management
Here is a field service management solution that includes capabilities for work order management in the field, which technicians would access through their handhelds.
Service Pro for HVAC Field Service Management and Mobile Field Service, www.msidata.com, is a complete application suite for HVAC contractors that encompasses capabilities for call taking and dispatching; scheduling; service contracts; inventory; asset tracking; and work order management with mobile service technician apps for iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows.
The dispatching features include the ability to auto-dispatch to preferred technician, one-click dispatch to a service tech’s mobile device, visual call board tracking of all service call activity and instant customer site and equipment asset visibility, automatic scheduling of preventive maintenance, and access to customer and equipment asset service history. Also supported are the user-definable service call status codes.
The work order management suite streamlines managing the entire lifecycle of a work order, from initial customer call and quote to invoicing and reporting. For end-to-end HVAC service process automation, Service Pro also has pre-built integrations with several ERP providers, including Sage and Viewport Construction Software.
The Service Pro Mobile module integrates with the Service Pro software in the office, enabling communication with the entire service team throughout the workday. In addition to supporting the ability to receive work orders, the mobile module allows users to set statuses, access customer service history and warranty coverage, and capture photos and signatures in the field.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].