Mobile service management in the age of agile working
Agile working is nothing new to facilities management (FM). Even in the most traditional office-based organization, where many employees work at their desks all day, the facility manager, supervisors and service operatives do not spend their working day sitting at their desks. They are mobile, around a site or building, and travelling between locations. Whilst the help desk or control room will provide a base, and use software on desktop PCs and large screens, most facility management employees need to take advantage of mobile service management tools and software which works effectively on handheld devices. They need to be able to go from one service request, or fault, to another, without the need to go back to their base.
Service providers have always been ‘agile’. Whether they are the FM management company or one of many specialist suppliers, they need to have mobile equipment and applications to enable them to do field work efficiently. Putting in place mobile service management software which can be used by all parties in the supply chain is one of the challenges for contemporary solution developers.
Agile working needs agile FM software, in support of people (not just assets)
FM is also on the cusp of changes in the way that client organizations work. Activity-based working (ABW), or ‘agile’ working, is now becoming commonplace. Some people still work at one desk most of the time, but others are using a range of work settings. And some are working across different buildings and locations. To be a true people-centric service provider, FM is beginning to need to support customers wherever they are.
Let’s take an example: an HR manager, holding a meeting in a different building. She gets to the meeting room an hour before to get prepared, and she sees it is not set up the way she needs for running a workshop. She picks up the phone in the room and dials the help desk number on the poster next to the phone. The help desk sends a facilities supervisor to help the HR manager.
All basic FM so far – but with a good mobile service management app, the facilities supervisor has an opportunity to impress the HR manager. He knows who she is, and greets her by name as he enters the meeting room. He says, “It’s OK, you are usually in building 10, so you probably don’t use this room often. I can reset it for you – how do you want the layout?” The HR manager is impressed. The facilities supervisor knows her name, and where she is from. She asks, “This meeting may run on past lunch – can I order some sandwiches, water, and juice? Make it a range of meat, fish, and vegetarian, is that OK?” The facilities supervisor says, “No problem – 12.30?”
The facilities supervisor can log this into the mobile service management software, for the catering supervisor to pick up. The HR manager asks, “Great, thank you. Do you need my cost centre?” The facilities supervisor says, “1025 – HR Training budget?” The HR Manager is impressed again. He continues, “I see reception has booked in some of your guests. Shall I get them escorted up to the room for you?” The HR Manager replies, “Thank you. Can you give me 10 minutes, then send them up”. She is relaxed, and ready to start the meeting. Fresh coffee and water arrives. The AV technician pops in to make sure the laptop and screens are working fine, and she is ready to go.
Flexible, easy-to-use apps for mobile service management
Flexibility is also absolutely critical when looking at mobile applications. Mobile service management software needs to be able to run on any commonly used device. It also must take into account the range of competencies found in a typical facilities service team and supply chain. This will range from the very ‘tech-savvy’ to the other end of the spectrum – the person who trained in an era of paper filing systems, and would probably prefer not to even have a mobile phone if they were not told that they must do so. This is just human nature – you will find all types of people in a facilities management operation.
Look at the example above. The HR manager has booked a room, probably from her laptop a few days earlier. The help desk has that information, which it can then point the FM supervisor onto as he is walking the meeting room floor. He then knows the HR manager’s name, department and cost centre code. Catering has the information on a mobile app, and reception also has the information on their desktop system. It must be easy to use – for example, the receptionist may be a temp covering for illness. He or she needs to be able to log into the app and use it with ease.
Flexibility to work off-line is also important in mobile service management. Facilities staff can often be in areas where either GPS or wifi signals do not get through, such as basements and cavities. But the mobile apps are set up to be able to work on and offline. The operative can continue entering data and working on the app, which will update when next connected to a signal.
More specialist apps
Mobile service management software typically includes specialist apps for a number of purposes. Here are some typical uses:
If you want to use the CAFM system to optimize processes, before you can start there needs to be a portfolio, or asset register, with locations, details of the installations and equipment, before anyone can raise requests (or tickets).
- Inventory app: basically anyone can use this app – for example, students working for the service provider, can do a walk-around of the building and enter on the mobile app each location and installation, as well as additional information
- Uses Barcoding: the customer can create QR barcodes, so anyone can then feed the correct information into the handheld device app.
- Easy to add new locations and objects, creating an inventory instantly
- Inspection apps – service provider technicians or specialists can use these apps to capture information on the move when inspecting assets or equipment. Using QR codes scanned into the app, the operative can see all maintenance information and documentation for that specific equipment. The app takes the operative through the best practice process for a specific inspection type. Whenever they get to a point where there is an issue or fault, they see whether a service request (ticket) has been raised. If not, they can then raise this through the service request app (below).
- Mobile service requests app – Creating requests (tickets) against the assets set up above. The customers (end users) can do this, or they can be raised by FM staff. For example, by scanning a QR code at a coffee machine, the user can register a problem directly. This may be to ask for a coffee machine refill perhaps, or a cleaning request.
- Easy for any person to scan in QR codes, and register a service request
You may wonder how extensively this QR coding gets used by customers. Are they reticent to do this? It is mostly FM employees who raise these orders, but anyone can. As people now use their phones all the time, so they also start doing this.
Email conversion to structured tickets (service requests)
People also like to send emails. The software converts email into a service request ‘ticket’ (a ‘structured ticket’). This can vary by market sector. For example, in the technology market, one can expect users to be more familiar with the technology. With an email address set up specifically for sending requests, when receiving the email the software converts the email text into a structured ticket.
People tend to be mobile, away from their desktop or laptop, when they see something which needs rectifying. They can send an email, which raises a ticket, while they are mobile. Whereas often they may have forgotten about it by the time they return to their desk.
Next-generation mobile apps – benefit from development over time
All the discussion above has resulted from many hundreds of hours of development time, from software specialists, facilities service experts, and service provider partners. Plus, we have received useful feedback from many customers over the years. If you would like to experience the flexibility and ease of use of contemporary FM software solutions, do please get in touch today…