For many industries, from transportation to utilities, manufacturing and more, field workers are pivotal to the success of business operations, the satisfaction of customers, and the growth of the bottom line. Field workers are now at the forefront of digital transformation where artificial intelligence, smart mobile devices, the Internet of Things and business process management technologies have created new opportunities to better streamline and transform traditional workflows and workforce management practices.
To better understand how these technologies are being applied and the impact they are having in the enterprise, Red Hat commissioned research firm Vanson Bourne to survey 300 IT decision makers from organisations in the US, Europe and Asia that employ a significant field workforce. The survey examined investment trends, current and future adoption patterns, use cases and implementation challenges.
According to the results, strong technology investment is expected by respondents with an average increase of 25% through November 2018, reflecting the importance of technology in transforming field service operations. Top business factors identified as influencing this investment include increasing field worker productivity 46%, streamlining or optimising field operations and processes 40%, and improving customer service 37%.
When we consider the current trends that are broadly driving conversations in the technology industry, artificial intelligence is one of the leading topics. While still an emerging category—currently implemented by only 24% of respondents—we believe the technology has great potential across a variety of industries and use cases. It comes as little surprise that an additional 30% of respondents plan to implement artificial intelligence in 2018, aligning with an average anticipated increase in investment of 26% for certain respondents over the same period.
The artificial intelligence umbrella encompasses a number of specific technologies for those respondents that have either implemented already or plan to implement to address more specialised uses cases, including:
- Predictive analytics 55%
- Machine learning 46%
- Chatbots or virtual digital assistance 45%
- Robotic Process Automation 44%
Despite being more established technologies, mobile, business process management and IoT seem to defy their relative maturity in the market with respondents indicating double-digit growth across the board in both investment and implementations through November 2018.
While 67% of respondents have already implemented mobile applications for field service operations, an additional 19% plan to implement new mobile applications, supported by a 20% average expected increase in investment by certain respondents.
The outlook for business process management and IoT is similar. Respondents expect implementations to grow from 61 to 81% for business process management and from 53 to 73% for IoT, fueled by 20 and 24% average expected increase in investment by certain respondents, respectively.
However, along with the appetite for technology investment and implementation growth, respondents are keenly aware of the technical challenges their organisations face in developing and implementing applications for field workforce management.
Access to timely and relevant data is critical for field workers in remote locations, harsh environments, or areas of low network connectivity, as is the ability to protect that data as it flows between the field and back-end systems. As a result, securing data access was the top challenge identified in the survey at 34%, followed by:
- Pace of technological change 29%
- Integrating solutions with legacy back-end systems 28%
- Lack of standardisation 27%
The good news here is that the technology industry continues to make progress in these areas. Independent foundations continue to focus on the need for greater standardisation and interoperability among IoT devices; integration technologies are becoming more agile, distributed, and lightweight; and the industry continues to focus on its approach to data security.
The survey highlights the breadth of opportunities facing organisations as they take advantage of artificial intelligence, mobile, business process management and IoT to redefine and re-imagine their field operations.
Red Hat, commissioned Vanson Bourne to poll the views of 300 IT decision makers from enterprise organisations with at least 100 employees in the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia-New Zealand. The survey was completed in November 2017, and was carried out online.Click below to share this article