Digitizing the deskless workforce: What the future holds for field employees
Rami Darwish is an entrepreneur with over 16 years of experience in the technology sector. Prior to founding Arrow Labs in 2011, Rami played instrumental roles in several technical and business functions in leading global technology corporations such as EMC, Hewlett Packard, and Daon. Rami has designed and architected city-wide surveillance solutions, biometric border management, airport safety solutions, maritime security management, police, and first responder management. His experience has contributed to securing several leading cities and organizations in the Middle East region.
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Digitization feels like an integral part of our daily lives: how we socialise, how we consume, and you would surely think – how we work.
For white-collar workers who, pre-pandemic, worked in offices - digital technology has undoubtedly enhanced their productivity. Tools such as video conferencing, ERP, CRM, and document management systems have helped them collaborate, communicate, and process tasks. The contribution of these tools is both obvious and measurable, and modern workers would struggle to be as productive without them.
Surprisingly, this contribution of technology and digitization to another workforce segment is far less developed: workers in the field aka deskless workers. Remarkably, this segment contributes 80% (2.5B people) of the global workforce yet has only received 1% of enterprise software funding to date (funding to satisfy an organization’s software needs, rather than individual users).
A deskless disconnect
The vast majority of the global contemporary workforce has not yet enjoyed the full benefits of digitization. Deskless has meant disconnected.
Most deskless workers do not fully benefit from technology, or tools, helping with the execution of workloads. This has created a vast digital gulf between the office and the field. Deskless workers still use primitive management systems and manual reporting practices. These offer little capacity for real-time information sharing or collaboration, no assistance with productivity management, and no connected mobility solutions.
For most companies, the pandemic has created the challenge of how to continue seamless operations, whilst managers and workers are located at home. Successfully adapting to this challenge relies largely on the technology at a company’s disposal. This has shone a light on the desk/field worker disconnect and highlighted the importance of digital solutions for field staff. A company able to successfully overcome this disconnect was Essential Repairs, a property maintenance firm in London. Through the use of technology, management was able to stay connected with their field services teams and continue their operations providing critical repair and maintenance to customers.
Advantages of digitizing the deskless workforce
Companies are now realizing the benefits of fully digitizing deskless workers. A survey by Gartner, revealed that 80% of service organizations say mobile field service is required to improve staff efficiency and speed. Fully digitizing field workers yields significant benefits, not only for companies’ efficiency and bottom lines, but also deskless staff themselves.
The advantages for companies are clear. Efficient digital reporting of information means greater accuracy; and a digitized, real-time allocation and execution system makes service delivery in industries such as telecommunications, utility, and maritime field services far more efficient and reliable. Optimized digital scheduling and dispatching of field staff lead to much faster job turnaround times, and with direct access to improved asset data – field workers can only be more efficient.
The large number of global deskless workers means the positive financial and operational impact for companies is considerable. Such technology has been proven to deliver up to 30% in efficiency savings for businesses. California-based Source Refrigeration & HVAC replaced its manual dispatch processes with an automated Field Service Management system to create more efficient routes. In one region, service technician travel times were reduced by 35% whilst maintaining service level compliance. By little surprise, it is becoming widely adopted by large forward-looking corporations, such as General Electric, and Linde Gmbh.
A survey by WBR Digital of 100 industry leaders, at its Field Service conference, revealed “automation is the greatest driver of revenue growth” and field service agents “need not spend over a quarter of their time trying to locate information critical to their work any longer.”
For workers, it enables higher productivity, greater collaboration, and an exponential increase in their value via their new digital contribution. A Gallup poll reported manufacturing organizations with engaged employees outperform those with unengaged employees by 202%. A greater sense of employee commitment is also created due to the digital investment by the employer. Health and safety standards improvements shouldn't be forgotten too.
The MENA region has always been synonymous with the latest trends in technology and innovation, and corporations, such as Dubai Ports World and Bahrain’s Bnet – the national provider of telco broadband services are now realizing the benefits from investing in deskless workers.
A truly digital company covers those in the office, and in the field - and more investment is needed before the majority of MENA businesses have adopted these tools and fully transformed their operating models. But, with the demonstrable gains to date - it is only a matter of time before the region’s digitized deskless workforce becomes the global role model.
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