Hot takes on field operations from telecom leaders.

Field service software has been decoupled from deployment operations for far too long. Times are changing, especially in 2020, where having field crews siloed from other departments is no longer an option for companies striving for success. 

This week, Sitetracker hosted a webinar tackling this very topic and spoke with market leaders about how they are connecting the field to the rest of their business. Called, “Spotlight: Connect the field to your business,” and featuring panelists Stacey Aughe, CIAO at Union Wireless; Kim Martin, Vice President of TEP; and Alice Le, Vice President of Sales Operations at Federated Wireless, this all-female panel revealed: A healthy combination of accurate data visibility and empowered people with the right tools is crucial for connecting field operations to your business. 

Visibility in the field results in fewer delays.

Union Wireless sends field crews out across the west, specifically in Wyoming. Stacey Aughe, CIAO, said, “Our biggest challenge is how spread out our service area is. Wyoming alone is 97,000 square miles. We need to be able to reduce windshield time.” If someone gets to a site a few hours away and doesn’t have the right tool, a five-dollar part starts to cost a lot regarding delays’ downstream effects.

While Union Wireless sends a handful of field teams across massive geography, Kim Martin from TEP explained they face similar challenges but on a different scale. “We have 40-50 crews, and we have 10-12 project managers who are scheduling those crews. So we want to make sure we aren’t sending the same crews to the same vicinity, and we want to make sure we are utilizing resources as efficiently as possible,” said Martin. 

She continued, “We used to manage everything in a spreadsheet, and… it didn’t work. We use Sitetracker’s Job Scheduler to solve our scheduling needs. It is color-coded for different departments and field crews so that you can see a map overlay. When you are scheduling, it jumps off the page if you see any overlap.” 

Visibility is key. But, what is at risk when you don’t have visibility into what is happening? All three panelists agreed: delays. 

“The fieldwork component is the first step in a longer process, and understanding where they are in that process is crucial for scheduling all downstream activities, ” said Martin. 

If you don’t have visibility into projects, unnoticed issues can delay more than one project. 

“Installations we manage in Sitetracker are just one component of our customer experience. Delays on installations affect a lot of downstream processes,” said Alice Le. She continued, “A cohesive system where I can have automated alerts when something is delayed and can share the message is crucial.”

Another aspect to consider is the more extreme location of the site; the more extreme the delays are. “Delays can sometimes shut us out. We have one site that is over 11,000 feet above sea level. So if they don’t finish on time,  because the construction window is so short, there is a possibility that we might be snowed out for the rest of the year if we aren’t on time.” Visibility into work in the field makes it easy to pinpoint issues quickly, set expectations with customers, and avoid downstream effects of delays. 

Accurate data from the field makes your customers happy.

Capturing accurate data in the field is critical for everyone, from internal stakeholders to customers.  “We want to keep our customers in the loop, and they want to know how their project is going. We take milestones directly from Sitetracker and put them into a dashboard for the customer,” said Le. Being able to capture accurate data, report on it, and tease out insights has a direct, positive impact on customer’s experience. 

“Our customers require us to report on our metrics. How long did it take us to get to the site, how long did it take to get the punch list back to the contractor, how long does a re-visit take?  We’re grading ourselves by presenting our data to them,” said Martin.

While TEP previously tracked this information in a spreadsheet, Sitetracker provides them with a way to show live data from a dashboard to report to a Tracker. “Before Sitetracker, we would spend two to three hours on a conference call gathering the information for our customers,” said Martin. Now, at TEP, everyone has their own Trackers, and they can pull them at a moment’s notice for customer calls. Accurate, live data at your fingertips makes it easy to pull out insights at any time for any stakeholder, internal or customer-facing. 

Empower your people with the right tools.

At the end of the day, work in the field gets done by dedicated teams of people. People who travel long and far, in any weather condition, hot and cold, to get work done that helps connect the rest of us. 

“The people are the most important thing,” said Martin. “Our employees are our company. We are nothing without our employees, and giving them the tools they need to do their job efficiently is important. We don’t want to make their jobs more difficult. I mean, these men and women are out climbing towers in 10-degree weather. We don’t want to make their jobs harder. The most important thing is getting the tools in their hands and making their jobs as seamless and easy as possible,” said Martin.

Aughe followed up, saying, “The key thing is making sure our users are able to do things as seamlessly, easily, and quickly as possible. That makes the whole business more efficient and more effective.” 

Innovators like TEP, Union Wireless, and Federated Wireless have taken the steps to connect their field operations to the rest of their business. If you are interested in connecting the field to your business by empowering your field teams with the right tools, gaining visibility, and having access to accurate data, let’s talk