Field service software offered as an online service

Field service management software, rented over the Web on a monthly subscription, could provide complete management of a company’s service department without the need to install servers and applications, developer FleetMatics has claimed.

FleetMatics, which specialises in mobile asset software, said that its Field Service Manager system could enable all sorts of service engineering businesses to better manage their field technicians by automating service call management, job dispatch, signature capture and invoicing.

The software is designed to work on wirelessly-connected devices such as PDAs and smartphones. The company cited a forecast from market research firm Gartner, suggesting that the percentage of technicians with wireless access to packaged field service management solutions will rise from 12 per cent to 40 per cent over the next two years.

“Field service departments in many industries face a number of challenges in running an effective team of service engineers.  Not least is the problem associated with paper-based job processes, such as accurate and timely invoicing.  With Field Service Manager, we can cut the average time down from six weeks to a matter of hours,” claimed Derek Bryan, FleetMatics sales director.

He said that where other systems of this type use Web-based forms and rely on the mobile device being online, Field Service Manager allows multiple job forms to sit on the device itself. Technicians can therefore complete forms even when out of network range - perhaps because they are in a basement or a lift shaft, or simply because network coverage is poor – and send them back to the service department once they are back online.

Field Service Manager sits as a software application on any hand-held mobile device that runs on Windows Mobile 6 or Google Android.  It operates by connecting to the service department’s back-office system via a GSM mobile data connection. The back office system appears as a dashboard to the service department, and is accessed through a web portal.

From the dashboard, customer jobs are logged and issued to the technicians. Once a job is completed, the technician fills in the relevant forms via their mobile device and sends the information back to the service department for invoicing.

The software sold as an on-demand cloud computing service on a monthly subscription, a business model which is also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS). SaaS suppliers argue that this enables businesses of all sizes to use software that was previously only a practical proposition for large organisations.

One company which uses Field Service Manager to manage its service department is Cross Refrigeration. “It has changed the way we do business,” said Chris McFadden, Cross’s operations director. “It is reliable, easy to use and enables us to invoice our customers immediately.  We would not run our service department without it.”

FleetMatics normally charges a monthly fee for each service technician and back-office user using the system, but Derek Bryan added that free trials are available to businesses wishing to try the software out.

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