Despite the buzz that surrounds enterprise mobility, the fact remains that a large percentage of SMEs have yet to integrate mobile software and hardware solutions into their line of business (LOB) applications. A recent survey from Software Advice, a company that researches and reviews field service solutions, revealed a surprisingly high number of respondents continue to rely on manual documentation, including paper and whiteboards for their LOB operations. Those who use software frequently rely on basic software like Excel and Quickbooks to handle operations for which they are not optimized. Often, this can be due to a combination of factors that include budgetary constraints, a lack of awareness of available solutions, and a tendency to stay with familiar ways of operating. The latter factor belies a conservative streak in many organizations that can transcend company size and lead to mobile deployments that run on decade-old technology. This is evidenced in the uptick of upgrades following the retirement of Windows XP as a Microsoft-supported OS.
Software Advice’s findings are consistent with findings from VDC’s research, which shows that companies with fewer than 50 employees account for less than 20% of respondents with hardware and software deployments in field service settings. Frequently, the greatest barriers to entry are budgetary, as findings from a VDC end-user survey revealed that budget remains the top obstacle to implementing mobile solutions, particularly in smaller companies.
Organizations that do implement mobile solutions, though, are looking for operational gains from their workforce. VDC’s data shows that the single-greatest metric for measuring mobility solutions in field service applications is improved worker productivity, followed by improved worker communication and collaboration – findings that are consistent with Software Advice’s data, which shows that the top reason for purchasing software is to increase organization and efficiency. As a result, it does not come as a surprise that the top applications supported among VDC respondents include dispatch management and scheduling, asset management, maintenance & repair, and field sales, although there is a growing trend among respondents to flesh out the applications supported to improve customer loyalty and enhance their competitive differentiation.
As VDC has noted in previous reports, the key for vendors looking to continue the mobilization trend within field services will be in providing tactical rather than strategic support for potential clients. Software Advice’s findings that an overwhelming majority (97%) of respondents wants an integrate suite to manage their business needs are in tune with the belief that SAP Bill McDermott underscored at this year’s SAP SapphireNOW: “In the end, the suite always wins. Always has. Always will.” We agree and see evidence of this in the M&A activity occurring within the mobile ecosystem. However, while mobile enablement initiatives are underway in this industry vertical and others, there still is quite a way to go in terms of implementing the appropriate infrastructure and software for true mobile enablement for SMEs.