Creating Value With Context-Aware Collaboration

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Context-aware services with collaboration tools

Integrating context-aware services with collaboration tools can improve the way companies share ideas, resolve issues and provide excellent customer service.

By Nisha Sharma and Masoud Loghmani

Context-aware services—which use data from mobile, social, Web and physical environments—are changing the way consumers interact with businesses. However, many enterprises have yet to take advantage of these services to improve critical functions such as field service.

Integrating context-aware services with collaboration tools can help organizations improve the way they share ideas, resolve issues and provide excellent customer service, bridging internal and external operations through contextual, data-driven actions.

The ability to aggregate historical and real-time data from multiple sources and integrate that information into enterprise collaboration tools can help businesses make better decisions at the point of action, effectively turning field service workers into knowledge workers. This lets enterprises find new and improved ways to optimize sales calls, equipment repair jobs and other in-the-field interactions with customers.

While some organizations already equip field personnel with mobile devices and apps to help them stay connected with the home office while out on sales or service calls, many face significant cultural and technical challenges when optimizing mobile and social platforms to deploy context-aware collaboration across the enterprise. Many companies have implemented internal social and collaboration tools, but find that unless these tools are integrated into daily business workflows, their value for knowledge sharing is limited.

Integrating context-aware and social collaboration tools into a workforce management solution can generate both near- and long-term benefits. Some potential benefits include the following:

Making the most of each working minute: The objective of a field service organization should be to spend more time actually doing work and to minimize the amount of time spent preparing for it. By using the right tools, field workers can be armed with recommendations specific to the task at hand, using, for example, the job’s parameters to find the best way to load equipment onto a truck to save time unloading it.

Another example: If a customer site has a security desk that needs to be cleared before entry is permitted, the system can automatically send the technician’s picture in advance to help streamline check-in upon arrival. In addition, by knowing in advance what equipment is to be serviced during a job, downloads of relevant documents, such as technical manuals or call histories, can be sent to the assigned worker automatically.

Better incident resolution: If an issue arises in the field, context-aware collaboration systems can automatically identify the best resources to address it. Activity feeds on internal social platforms or ones that have been integrated into mobile workforce solutions can adapt recommendations for resolving incidents based on context, switching from one step of a job to the next automatically—and at the pace of the technician on-site.

This can help technicians quickly find all the information they need, including answers to questions in real time, without being overwhelmed by information. Problems can then be resolved more quickly on site, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction since the issues were dealt with as efficiently as possible.

Continuous improvement: By integrating field services into the enterprise knowledge center through context-aware collaboration, organizations can lay the groundwork for a continuous feedback loop. Continuous improvement can be applied to both individual workers and their teams.

For example, if the system recognizes that certain colleagues are collaborating frequently, that strong working relationship can be maximized by pairing them on future projects. The more data that’s collected on interactions from field workers, the better the insights that can be developed about the most effective processes, including any that should be adapted.

The benefits of the continuous improvement enabled by context-aware collaboration mean that companies can constantly squeeze more revenue from projects—all while creating happier customers and employees. This can be done without increasing costs, and it creates ever-growing pressure on the competition. 

How to Get Started

The key to a more successful context-aware collaboration initiative, as with most other enterprise IT projects, is to avoid big-bang approaches that maximize disruption based on the assumed needs of the target users. Instead, begin with a small pilot project that can help you understand what will provide the most value and that can be championed as a success story for broader deployment.

This article was originally published on 2015-01-23
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