In recent years, exponential growth in mobile usage and its applications has allowed employees to access their messages, tasks, calendars, files and more from anywhere and with less items to carry. Maintenance employees want similar access to service requests and work orders requiring their attention. What tasks are open, where to go, who to contact and more vital information at their fingertips is the primary objective.

With so many mobile-friendly webpages and applications available for general employees’ work, why is it different for maintenance and operational staff? How different is it?

Traditional Facilities Work Assignment

Paper forms, post-it notes, calls and hallway conversations were the foundation of communicating that work was needed or a problem was identified. Hard copies were provided to technicians before leaving the office or available for picking up from a box at a location. Walkie-talkies became commonly used technologies prior to email and text messages to communicate with field personnel.

IWMS, CMMS and other operational systems began to be in use, yet not every technician had access to technology. Not every system had a mobile interface. Not every technician wanted technology.

So, what’s changed?

For some organizations, not much as they would like. Some maintenance teams still use hard copies, try to coordinate where to go before they “hit the field” and stay informed while onsite. The desire for mobile work management is growing due to the percentage of technicians having a comfort level with mobile devices has evolved and as more leaders recognize the inefficiencies of how daily routines are managed.

What to Look for in Maintenance-Focused Apps

taking a photo - Why the Mobile Maintenance Workforce is DifferentMobile apps over the years tried to balance providing any information at one’s fingertips while balancing ease of use. When one brainstorms about how much they want accessible on a mobile device, it is easy to end up with an interface that can become difficult to use or bloated with features that can slow down performance. The result? Frustration, abandonment and a return to the old processes.

What service personnel prefer is an app that is straightforward, fast, and easy to update regarding both their assigned work items as well as the app itself. If an application is too bulky or slow, you risk a learning curve issue along with lags in your personnel’s adoption rate. Speed and simplicity are key along with these questions to consider:

  • If I simply gave the app to a service provider or technician, how fast can they learn to use it?
  • How fast does a dispatched job get to them? How fast can they create a new work request or document an issue while standing in front of the problem?
  • What essential information can it provide the technicians and what data will it provide leadership?
  • Have teams that need to stay focused on specific sites? How does an app reduce the clutter by hiding those sites and work not within their realm of responsibility?
  • If I have a long list of work in my queue, how quickly can I find specific items by building, priority, etc. to cut the list down for easier review?
  • Not everyone is comfortable with entering extended amounts of information on a mobile device, so can it leverage the device’s camera and voice-to-text capabilities for faster and insightful documentation?
  • Can it work offline? You likely have mechanical rooms, roofs and other areas with minimal-to-no internet connectivity.
  • How does the app address getting version updates to leverage new features? How do you ensure all personnel are on the same version?
  • In Summary

    You may notice a consistent series of themes in the questions above: speed and ease of use. One must consider what the field personnel will need to be nimble, be informed, stay on task and continue in the use of a mobile app. If you have buy-in from the people helping close out work, you will see increases in productivity, reductions in complaints and improvements in the data needed to generate reports and dashboards to leadership.

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