By: Edward Wahl
- You can purchase or license a generic application from a vendor.
- You can develop a custom application, building the app to purpose with either your in-house software development team or an outside partner.
Which road should you choose? Different circumstances call for different approaches, but the nature of field service software – and the work it supports – means that custom app development provides some key advantages.
Specialized software for specialized processes
Some types of business apps can afford to be generic. Take point-of-sale (or POS) software, for example. A POS system generally supports a business process that works similarly for any business. Customers bring an item or items to a scanner, then the customer pays and receives a receipt. When companies need software to support a highly commonplace, standardized process such as this, using one-size-fits-all generic software often makes sense.
But not every business process is so straightforward. Field service processes are often among a company’s most highly specialized – and for this reason, field service software needs to be specialized, too.
Consider the complex dance of field service operations: from the various stages of inventory management to performance monitoring, reporting and communication for field service representatives, and processes for managing sales, specials, and personnel. Often, these myriad functions are orchestrated across many locations throughout a region or around the country. Each process may be highly unique to a given company, and the way these processes work together to drive the company day in and day out is similarly singular.
In order to capture, facilitate, and optimize specialized business processes most effectively, field service software must also be specialized. At one time, custom software was too expensive for smaller companies – so only large companies like national retailers were able to benefit from it. But today, a much wider variety of companies are able to develop custom software.
So what do the benefits of custom field service software look like in practice?
Collecting and leveraging data
Mobile devices like phones and tablets have become highly commonplace – and that presents an opportunity for businesses. These devices mean that powerful technological capabilities are already present in the pockets of your team members: cameras, Bluetooth, WiFi, accelerometers, GPS functionality, barcode scanners, and much more.
With these tools, it’s possible for a custom app to become a “custom sense” for your company: a new way of collecting data that might not have been easily accessible or discernible before. For large-scale farmers, this could mean they have a new software tool to capture and analyze data on the chemistry of their soil and health of their crops. For a field rep at a retailer, it might mean they could scan a product’s barcode with their phone’s camera and call up the week’s promotional strategy around that item.
Across industries, companies are looking for ways to leverage “Big Data.” A custom app – a custom sense – helps to actually collect the data you need in a way tailored to your business and your needs. This is one of the key opportunities of custom apps: by collecting data about your business processes, you can eventually analyze, iterate, and optimize your processes to make your business more effective.
Custom field service software can deliver more than data collection and analytics, however. Let’s consider another example: sales. Mid-sized manufacturers of products like clothing typically send out reps to stores, where the representatives show samples and discuss the year’s styles and offerings. This is another process that can benefit from specialized software.
By giving reps a tablet with a custom app, you might give them the ability to walk buyers through an interactive catalog with videos or 3D models that buyers can spin around and examine from any angle. Because the app is tailored to your business processes, it could also allow buyers to view the store displays that correspond to a given offering.
Finally, you could streamline the purchasing process by enabling buyers to place orders straight from the app. A custom app would then be able to generate an invoice and send it to the customer, along with a delivery estimate. Because the app is built specifically to connect your various business processes, it can make them run much more smoothly.
The examples we’ve discussed above are highly distinct – and that’s the point. Field services take many disparate forms, and to truly drive and optimize the processes behind those functions, software should be built to purpose. By leveraging custom field service software, companies can give themselves the tools to not only streamline the processes at the heart of their businesses, but also optimize those processes for greater success in the future.
Edward is a Lead Engineer at Art & Logic where he manages and develops custom software for a wide variety of clients and platforms. He has over two decades of professional development experience managing and developing software projects for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to angel financed startups. His core expertise includes architecting and developing complex web/mobile software systems which are efficient, scalable, testable and in line with client business needs. To learn more about custom field services apps, check out Art & Logic’s Complete Guide to Custom Field Service Management Applications.
Featured Photo Credit: Johan Larsson