Consumerisation of technology could signal demise of rugged devices

New research from IRIS Field Service Solutions has found that time is running out for traditional ‘rugged’ devices with the majority of field engineers stating that, given the choice, they would prefer to use consumer tablets in their day to day role. The survey found that 47 percent would prefer a consumer-style device, 29 percent would opt for a smartphone and just 22 percent would choose to use a rugged tablet in the field, showing a clear shift from traditional devices to more ‘consumer-style’ gadgets.

The survey, which questioned 101 UK-based field service engineers and managers, identifies a real ‘blurring’ between engineers’ use of personal and professional devices. Almost two-thirds of engineers (63 percent) questioned said they could access business critical information on their personal device, with 42 percent confirming that they make use of this functionality ‘all the time’.

Interestingly, despite the rise in popularity of consumer-style gadgets, when asked which device they felt offered more functionality, business devices came out on top according to 48 percent of field service engineers compared to 34 percent who chose their personal device.

Paul Sparkes, product director for IRIS Field Service Solutions, comments: “We’re clearly seeing a strong demand for more consumer-style tablets within the field service industry. However, despite this personal preference, it’s interesting to see that many field service professionals still think that traditional business devices provide more functionality. It could well be that ‘ease of use’ in a device makes workers more productive than high levels of functionality; the key is for field service organisations to recognise the benefits of having a range of devices for their teams to choose from.”

IRIS’ survey highlights the essential role that technology and access to real-time information plays within field service and how organisations need to regularly take stock of the value that their mobile technology delivers. When questioned, 71 percent of engineers said they felt they could be more productive with newer, better mobile technology, and 87 percent felt that advances in mobile technology made their business more customer-friendly as access to real-time information means they can offer better service. In fact, 79 percent of respondents agreed that access to real-time information and reporting was either important (31 percent) or very important (48 percent) in their day to day role.

Field service professionals also agreed that technology, and integration in particular, was a main driver for efficiency in their organisation. One in three (38 percent) respondents said that closer integration of systems was the factor that was most likely to drive their business’ success in the next three years, followed by greater efficiencies in resource planning (29% percent) and increased levels of automation and technological advances (16 percent).

Sparkes concludes: “Access to real-time information is at the heart of an efficient field service operation but it’s vital that this links in with other office systems if field service businesses are to feel the full benefit, both in terms of increased productivity and cost savings. What’s more, field service organisations must recognise that different people have different preferences when it comes to devices and ensure that they use software that works across a variety of platforms to get the best possible performance.”

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