Field service software: a jargon-free explanation of essential features

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The field ser­vice softwa­re industry has under­go­ne huge chan­ges in the past years. More and more busi­nes­ses are tired of wor­king with excel and email and are loo­king for sop­his­tica­ted solu­tions to mana­ge jobs and col­la­bo­ra­te with their tech­nicians and back-office team. Cloud-based solu­tions and mobi­le capa­bi­li­ties are the futu­re of field softwa­re and the mar­ket is (final­ly) catc­hing up.

The­re’s a lot of dif­fe­rent field softwa­re that ser­ves all kinds of needs. Regard­less if you’­re a small com­pa­ny loo­king for your first job mana­ge­ment tool, or if you’­re alrea­dy a big cor­po­ra­tion that wants to upgra­de its work order sys­tems: the­re’s a huge pool of softwa­re to choo­se from.

The bad news is, it can be hard to find the right softwa­re for your needs. If you do find pro­grams that look pro­mi­sing for your busi­ness, often the fea­tu­res have con­fusing names, don’t have any expla­na­tions or wor­se, they offer complica­ted desc­rip­tions fil­led with jargons.

But wor­ry not; based on discus­sions with field ser­vice pro­fes­sio­nals, we’ve crea­ted a list with the most com­mon (and impor­tant!) features/aspects of field softwa­re. We explain what eve­ry feature/aspect means in prac­tice and how impor­tant it poten­tial­ly is for your team’s pro­duc­ti­vi­ty and well­being, as well as your busi­ness’ success.

23 field software features simply explained

1. Mobile/Tablet

A mobile/tablet mode (be it an app or a mobi­le-opti­mi­sed cloud softwa­re) is key for field ser­vice work. Your field tech­nicians need to be able to access job infor­ma­tion whi­le on site. If they need to head back to the office to upda­te reports and paperwork, it slows eve­ryt­hing down.

2. Worksite Paperwork/Forms (Photos, Signature)

This fea­tu­re allows you to digi­ti­se your paperwork. This means your field tech­nicians don’t was­te time fil­ling out paper, and your back office isn’t buried in emails and prin­touts. Some softwa­re can embed logic and ‘smarts’ to help people get it right first time and work more quickly.

3. User Interface / Usability

Softwa­re with easy usa­bi­li­ty is very impor­tant. If a sys­tem is dif­ficult to use, it won’t be used pro­per­ly or may­be not at all. With the chal­len­ges of fieldwork, the easier the sys­tem is for your team, the hap­pier they are, and the more like­ly you are to rea­li­se gains.

4. Audit history

This fea­tu­re allows you to go to any job and see a full his­to­ry of eve­ryt­hing that has hap­pe­ned: the day the cus­to­mer came in, the com­mence­ment of the fieldwork, all data cap­tu­red on-site and the final sign-off. It pro­vi­des con­fi­dence in res­pon­ding to cus­to­mers and is essen­tial in some industries with high levels of regulation/compliance.

5. Automation

Auto­ma­tion can ran­ge from data flowing from form to form, all the way to auto-gene­ra­ting docu­ments such as invoices, job checklists and reports. If saving time is impor­tant for you, auto­ma­tion is pro­bably one of the key fea­tu­res you are loo­king for. Auto­ma­tion-based events (like once ‘ins­tal­la­tion comple­ted’ - send ‘job report’) are use­ful as they remo­ve the need for your back office team to manual­ly wri­te remin­ders for key acti­vi­ties that need to hap­pen for a job.

6. Workflow

This fea­tu­re lets you embed your job workflow sta­ges in the tool, allowing you to auto­ma­te noti­fica­tions, remin­ders, and alerts. It’s also use­ful if your work invol­ves mul­tiple teams or han­doff points - the workflow sta­ges can make it simple for people to know what they need to do, e.g “It’s my job to take care of it once it hits ‘Logis­tics’ sta­ge”. At Emvi­sa­ge, we belie­ve that well-desig­ned workflows are the basis of eve­ry success­ful field ser­vice busi­ness. For more info, check out Emvi­sa­ge field workflow software.

7. Integrations/APIs

APIs allow dif­fe­rent pieces of softwa­re to talk to each other and sha­re their data. An example of this would be inte­gra­ting your field ser­vice softwa­re with your accoun­ting softwa­re, so your books are auto­ma­tical­ly updated.

8. Implementation Time

Imple­men­ta­tion time is basical­ly how quickly your softwa­re ser­vice can be deli­ve­red to you. Gene­ral­ly, the more cus­to­mi­sable it is, the lon­ger it will take.

9. Offline Mode

Offli­ne Mode allows you to ‘save’ data even when your device loses inter­net con­nec­tion. When you go onli­ne again, the save will be auto­ma­tical­ly uploaded.

10. Stage Blocking / Mandatory Fields

Sta­ge Bloc­king means that if you for­get to fill out any of the man­da­to­ry fields in your form, the softwa­re auto­ma­tical­ly blocks the abi­li­ty to proceed furt­her in the job progress. Thus a high level of data qua­li­ty is gua­ran­teed. This can also be used to ensu­re that key met­rics that are impor­tant to you are recorded.

11. Customer Support

Cus­to­mer Sup­port can ran­ge from basic fixes and sup­port, all the way to detai­led check-in ses­sions to moni­tor that the softwa­re is being cor­rect­ly used. The more compre­hen­si­ve the sup­port, the more expen­si­ve the ongoing costs are.

12. Quoting & Invoicing

Quo­ting and Invoicing basical­ly allows you to track what items are to be inclu­ded, and what are bil­lable. It can ran­ge for basic trac­king of inven­to­ry and time, all the way to auto­ma­tic gene­ra­tion of invoices.

13. Inventory System

With inven­to­ry sys­tems, you can track dif­fe­rent parts and hardwa­re. The sys­tems can ran­ge from the basic assign­ment of tools, all the way to sys­tems that can prompt for replenishment.

14. Maintenance System

Main­te­nance Sys­tems can auto­ma­tical­ly crea­te jobs, thus saving your team the effort of having to crea­te them manual­ly. Some pro­grams may also send auto­ma­tic remin­ders to return to a job site to do maintenance.

15. Customisation

Some tools offer a high level of cus­to­mi­sa­tion such as com­pa­ny or industry-speci­fic names in their forms. Other tools aren’t as flexible, or chan­geable. Having some degree of cus­to­mi­sa­tion in your forms can reduce con­fusion amongst your staff, as they can label fields in a way that makes sen­se to them.

16. Custom Built Solution

Cus­tom-made means it is unique­ly tai­lo­red to your requi­re­ments. A cus­tom-built solu­tion can take lon­ger to deli­ver, but it enables for a per­fect fit for your speci­fic needs, proces­ses, and litt­le quirks of your company.

17. Reporting

A good repor­ting sys­tem gives you a top-down view of all the jobs so you can track the progress across your teams and cont­rac­tors. Good repor­ting can help you dri­ve bet­ter per­for­mance, and help you quickly unders­tand whe­re the problems are.

18. Dashboard

Dash­boards allow you to view a sum­ma­ry of per­for­mance for key met­rics that are impor­tant to your busi­ness. Things like jobs comple­ted per month, cri­tical issues and mis­sed dates are visible. Dash­boards have the most value when they can be ‘dril­led into’, mea­ning you can click through from the high level down into the job in question.

19. Search Functionality

Searc­hing for various jobs, cus­to­mers, audits, main­te­nance or inven­to­ry, eit­her by name or other traits that they may pos­sess is a use­ful time-saving fea­tu­re for you and your enti­re team.

20. GPS tracking

GPS trac­king means that you can track your field tech­nicians and see whe­re they are at any given time. It can also help you to bet­ter mana­ge your vehicle fleet.

21. Notifications

Noti­fica­tions give you upda­tes to any chan­ges or job assign­ments that are rele­vant to you or a team mem­ber. Auto­ma­ted noti­fica­tions let your team mem­bers know what they need to focus on now and next.

22. Access Permissions/Roles

Access Per­mis­sions can restrict cer­tain users to access only cer­tain parts of the softwa­re. This means that you can block access to areas that you want to be con­fi­den­tial e.g. inter­nal users only.

23. Collaboration / Mentions

Col­la­bo­ra­tion means you can quickly bring people into the discus­sion for various jobs, allowing for easy teamwork.

We hope that this list of fea­tu­res expla­na­tions shed some light on the world of field ser­vice software. 

Tipp: If you need more help with choo­sing the right field softwa­re for your busi­ness, why not check out Emvi­sa­ge’s Field Ser­vice Softwa­re Gui­de? Here you’ll find a list with dif­fe­rent field ser­vice softwa­re pro­vi­ders for small & medium-sized busi­nes­ses, as well as a step-by-step gui­de on how to choo­se the right one for your business.

For organisations with highly complex field workflow