Field service apps for the technical field service

Field service apps for smartphones and tablets that technical field workers use to receive and process their orders are becoming increasingly popular. But what can these apps do and what are their advantages over their notebook and laptop counterparts? What about security and integration with leading enterprise systems?

Contents

Field Service Apps für den technischen Außendienst

A field service app supports the technician from the start to the feedback. 

Functions
Advantages over mobile solution
Platforms and devices 
Longtexts
Service reports and forms
Synchronization
Offline capability
Safety and security
Cloud capability
Integration into backend systems
Ease of use
Use
Availability in App Stores

What can a field service app do?

A field service app or field service management app enables field service technicians in service or maintenance to process their orders quickly and easily on their smartphone or tablet. Some of the common features are:

  • Navigationto the order location
  • Access to ERP systems with information on plants, plant history and contact data
  • Recording working times
  • Creation of status reports
  • Entry of forms and checklists
  • Capture and edit photos
  • Material logistics

What are the advantages over a mobile field service solution?

An app is everywhere you go.

Compared to a mobile field service solution running on a laptop, an app for service technicians offers the advantage that it is always ready for use. In addition, the technician can carry the smartphone or tablet in his trouser pocket with him even during operations where he would not be able to carry a larger device, such as on a transmission mast or in a shaft. This means he has access to information about the systems anytime and anywhere with a service app. It can also be used to take photos to document system statuses. Most field service apps are also designed to be very user-friendly, so that the technician with just a few taps and swipes has the information he needs at hand and can record his feedback quickly and easily. If he has any queries, he can call the head office or the customer directly with his smartphone.

What platforms and devices support field service apps?

Most service apps support all popular mobile operating systems, including Android, iOS and Windows 10. This platform independence offers companies investment security when choosing their end devices. Field serviceapps for Android and iPhone, which are based on current web technologies (HTML5), are also highly future-proof for new mobile platforms and applications.

What if the technician has to enter longer texts?

Some vendors allow the parallel use of service technician apps and mobile solutions on two devices. This allows technicians to write longer texts such as on-site reports on a tablet with an external keyboard or on their laptop in the evening. Alternatively, voice input is also possible. Text modules and selection lists also facilitate the input of texts on smartphones and tablets.

Can service reports and forms also be displayed with a service app?

Service reports can also be created and signed with an app. 

With most service apps, field technicians can also create service reports, have them signed by the customer and send them as PDF files. They can record all services such as times, travel costs and material. Photos for documentation can also be attached. Forms that query the status of systems, for example, can also be used by technicians with a field service app. The recorded data and documents are transferred via the app to the head office for billing and archiving.

How does the synchronization of a field service app work?

The synchronization of a field service app runs either in pull or in push mode. This means that the data is updated either manually on request or automatically on an ongoing basis. However, many technicians prefer the pull method because they can then determine when new orders are loaded or data is sent. By using push notifications for the respective operating system, the technician can also be informed immediately of new orders.

How does a service technician app work when there is no mobile phone connection? 

Technicians can also use service apps without mobile communications. 

Service technicians often work in places without a mobile phone connection, such as the basement or lift shaft. In order to always have access to important data such as information about the systems, a field service app should also be offline capable. Data from the ERP system, such as contact data or customer history, is stored temporarily on the smartphone or tablet. The values and feedback recorded by the technician are also initially stored locally. As soon as a connection is established, the mobile device synchronizes, updates and sends the data to the back office.

What about the security of a service app?

The transfer of data between a service app and the server should be encrypted. This is usually done using the HTTPS protocol, which transmits the data in a tap-proof manner. A token-based procedure makes sense for the authentication of technicians. To make the application even more secure, companies can encrypt the database and lock the application locally to prevent misuse of the mobile device in the event of loss or theft. If a purely local protection of the application is necessary, this should ideally be done by means of the respective operating system, such as a biometric fingerprint comparison. MDM solutions can also help, as they usually bring their own security containers with them and thus offer the possibility of separating business applications and data from the user's personal data.

Are field service apps also available as cloud solutions?

Many field service apps are now also available in the cloud. Companies get the same functionality as a deployment on site, but save the operation of the solution, can start faster and grow more flexibly with the requirements. Other advantages of a cloud solution include the high availability that an external, specialized data center can offer and the precisely calculable monthly costs. In addition, the cloud model allows external service providers to be quickly and easily integrated into a company's service process.

How can field service apps be integrated into backend systems?

Most field service apps can be easily integrated into existing ERP systems. These are often SAP CS, SAP PM or SAP CRM - but also systems such as Microsoft Dynamics ERP or proprietary applications. Integration takes place via web services or via special interfaces for the respective backend system.

How easy is it to operate a field service app? Do I need training?

A service app is easy to use without training. 

Most field service apps have a modern and intuitive user interface that is geared to the needs and applications of service and maintenance technicians. They offer simple and clear operation and navigation with just a few gestures. Therefore, users can usually use such an app directly after a short introduction and without explicit training.

How quickly can companies deploy a field service app?

How quickly companies can deploy a field service app for their technical sales force depends on whether and to what extent they need to adapt to their individual processes. In contrast to apps in the consumer area, the use of apps in a professional environment almost always requires adaptation to the specific service and maintenance processes of companies.

Are service apps also available in the App Stores?

Many service apps are now also available on the App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, and Chrome Store. However, public distribution through these stores requires a certification process that can take up to two weeks. This makes it difficult for companies to quickly provide updates for bug fixes or new features.

Applications based on JavaScript/HTML5, however, allow updates "past the app store" and thus also allow individualized updates, for example for key users, in order to test new functions. This also simplifies the development and rollout of customized versions. However, this approach can lead to Apple removing this Field Service App for iPhones from the App Store.

In the case of hybrid apps, the rollout and updates of the native part (container) to the end devices in the company itself must be performed either manually or via an MDM system. The actual application in the form of JavaScript code can then be automatically updated via "hot code push".

You can read more about the benefits and applications of mobile solutions and apps in service and maintenance in our product description Mobile Solutions. You can calculate the return of investment of a service app with our ROI calculator.