Agility Matters for Utilities.
Can Your Field Service
Management Adapt?

When it comes to digital transformation for utility companies, field service leads the way. Here's how field service management helps your team become more agile, no matter what comes along.

 
November 2021 | 6 minutes
 
Jill Wagner
Editorial Lead, Senior Manager, Salesforce

Utility workers in field service are in the trenches day in and day out, tackling outages, burst pipes, downed lines, and critical maintenance. They know how to be agile and adapt to address the problems of the day.

But the field service management technology they rely on to do their jobs is often disjointed. It’s inflexible, manual, and siloed — which reduces operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Utilities need a single, digital-first field service management solution that consolidates all information in one place and makes it available to those who need it. It connects:

  • Technicians
  • Contractors
  • Dispatchers
  • The front office
  • Remote experts
  • Planners
  • Regulators
  • Customers

This connection improves overall operations and every employee and customer experience, which makes them both more satisfied with the company and more likely to remain so.

With new disruptions — from extreme weather events to supply chain issues — occurring all the time, it is more important than ever that utility companies are set up to navigate change.

“When it comes to digital transformation for utility companies, field service leads the way.”

 
Steve Smith
Senior Director, Product Management, Salesforce
Here's how a digital-first field service management solution that is built for agility can help utility workers rise to every occasion and keep essential services on.

Get a field service management system that is built for change

Utility companies are constantly juggling complex logistics, high costs, and shifting priorities. They also face pressure from regulators and must balance quality, efficiency, and safety. Agility is a must. With a comprehensive field service management solution that is built for change, utilities can improve every aspect of their operations, from the front office to the field.

Here’s how the solution helps your team and customers:

Planners

Planners stay on top of regulatory mandates, new construction, and other planned work.
A digital-first field service management system gives them a complete view of all relevant details about projects, equipment, and personnel to help their planning. They see updates instantly and can respond quickly and appropriately. The system also provides a history of past projects and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate improvements. This helps planners learn and make adjustments.

Dispatchers

Dispatchers monitor schedules and use intelligent tools to make manual adjustments when disruptions occur. With a digital-first field service management system, they have a complete view of all field service activity and access to information that helps them make the best possible decisions. This makes it easy for them to focus on operational goals and consistent adherence to company policies and procedures. With instant collaboration via chat, dispatchers ensure everyone is on the same page and working toward KPIs that matter for the company, such as safety goals.

Field service utility workers

With a digital-first field service management solution, it’s easy for utility workers in the field to adapt to whatever comes their way in real time. They can access everything they need for a job on a single mobile interface. This includes schedules, travel routes, documents, pictures, work history, and information about parts and inventory. In addition, they can easily collaborate with remote experts by chat or video.

Customers

Customers also benefit from a digital-first field service management solution, which keeps them connected every step of the way. Status updates can be instantly transmitted to the customer with revised expectations and alerts. For example, if a field service mobile worker is delayed due to bad weather or traffic, customers will see the ETA with an appointment assistant.
 

Effective field service is key to a utility’s success

Discover the features that help your crews excel.
With the right digital-first field management solution, utilities stay ahead of the curve. They have the ability to address challenges with greater operational awareness, agility, and adaptiveness. Slow restoration times, delayed appointments, and multiple visits won't do.

Stay ahead of changing needs and expectations

Automation, AI, and analytics all spur evolution. For example, a field service management solution that includes machine learning can recognize that a vegetation management project scheduled to take 120 hours only took 90 hours. When a similar project comes up, it can suggest more accurate time requirements. And AI can spot patterns in data that even the most experienced field service utility workers might miss and identify brand new challenges and opportunities as they emerge.

Equip field service teams with technology that allows seamless digital experiences. A single field service management solution on a mobile device gives them access to the information and capabilities they need to get their job done as effectively, efficiently, and safely as possible. They can track equipment and parts. Online or off, they can update work reports. And if they need a customer signature, they can deliver the link to the customer’s own device.

Offering advanced digital tools — some of which take on tedious tasks so users can solve more complex problems — can also help utilities to attract and retain a digitally-savvy field service workforce. That’s critically important as many utility workers in field service are heading toward retirement or are tempted by other job opportunities that promise them easier conditions and the use of top technology.

Coordinate complex projects in one place

Many utility projects are massive. A city is replacing its water pipes. A new hospital needs electricity throughout the campus. A pipeline needs to extend to a feeder. These require careful coordination not just with your team, but with third-party contractors, developers, regulators, and customer service agents. Projects are not one-day or one-week, they last months or even years. Due to their complexity, missteps can have far-reaching consequences.

Utility companies must balance these long-cycle projects with mid- and short-cycle ones. These projects may be seasonal, local, or system-wide. Utilities need to have a consolidated view of all projects to make a decision on the best use of available resources and then adjust priorities to deliver the greatest benefit.

A digital field service management solution spans all utility departments and pulls in information from third parties into one central location for a single source of truth. It also adapts for all of the different project-type variables. That gives decision-makers an overview of progress toward all project goals and helps them identify opportunities for planning, staffing, and course correction.

For ongoing maintenance and inspection activities, utilities can better target and optimize field service operations with a complete view. They can monitor asset performance, assess vegetation growth, and incorporate detailed long-term weather forecasts from satellite data. With such precise awareness of actual conditions, the solution can apply intelligence to help decision makers address company priorities.

Manage unpredictable events and disruption

Handling unexpected issues is a part of the job. With a digital field service management solution built for agility, utilities can power through challenges or change from anywhere, whether that’s sharing new safety regulations or adjusting work orders for their teams in the field.

For example, if storms, wildfires, or toxic algae blooms make certain locations inaccessible, field service teams still have all of the information they need to do their mission-critical work safely. And dispatchers can adjust priorities and time frames to account for new constraints or objectives.

A digital service management system can also be adapted to advances in technology and society in real time. For example, as more renewable resources are connected to power grids, utility workers must follow new safety protocols, perform new kinds of diagnostics, and watch out for different problems. Predicting and supporting these needs requires more powerful and intelligent software as well as the capacity to manage vast amounts of data.

Begin your digital transformation in field service

A single, digital-first field service management solution built for change enables utilities to adjust quickly to prepare for whatever comes next. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all. It can be adapted and scaled so it meets each business unit’s unique needs, use cases, and evolving business priorities. And at its best, a field service management system works just as intelligently and nimbly as your best planners, dispatchers, and field service utility workers.

Get started with a field service management solution that has all the features you need to move confidently into the future and can adapt to whatever comes your way.

 
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About the Author

 

Jill Wagner
Editorial Lead, Senior Manager, Salesforce

Jill Wagner is an editorial lead and senior manager at Salesforce. She joined Salesforce through the ClickSoftware acquisition. Jill is an award-winning marketing communications professional, experienced in conceptualizing and creating marketing content for leaders in the SaaS and manufacturing spaces. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Bentley University and a Master of Arts in Advertising and Marketing from Emerson College. Connect with Jill on LinkedIn.

 

More resources

 
Blog
What to Look for in a Field Service Management Solution — and Why
Blog
Why Field Service Must Invest in Digital Transformation
Article
How to Recruit and Retain Field Service Talent in Utilities
 
 

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