IFS-Becoming a Serious Field Service Management Contender

In just a few short months after the acquisition of Metrix, IFS has fully integrated the new products and released full-fledged mobile solutions for field service and maintenance management. Read TEC principal analyst P.J. Jakovljevic’s TEC Report for a close-up look at how the vendor’s recent product releases provide the mobile workforce management capabilities that make IFS a serious contender in the field service and management space.
Mobile workforce management is a high-priority area for IFS that has received much investment from the vendor. Indeed, during the past few years, IFS has delivered a number of solutions that target the rapidly growing mobile workforce. Among these is the mobile-friendly and touch-screen optimized IFS Enterprise Explorer (IEE) user interface (UI), whereby the entire IFS Applications 8 suite can be accessed via a tablet (and have the same look and feel as the desktop version, of course without the touch-based navigation at the desktop screen). The IEE interface (formerly code named Project Aurora) is based on Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio tools, and incorporates icons, "breadcrumbs" navigation maps, enterprise search, “sticky notes” for annotations, and other visually appealing approaches to user navigation that successfully mimic a modern consumer-looking enterprise application. IEE can be customized according to different roles and includes personalized tools for filtering, searching, and browsing data (see blog post). IFS has jumped on the mobility bandwagon, offering IFS Touch Apps, a series of cloud-based smartphone apps for mobile users (see blog post).

Fourth-gen Field Service Mobility

At the recently held IFS World Conference 2012 in Gothenburg, Sweden, IFS launched its fourth-generation mobile client for service and maintenance (first three generations of more rudimentary “non-smart” mobile devices are still going strong), running on Google Android smartphones and tablets. The solution offers field service management (FSM) functionality, supporting offline mode, through an intuitive and user-friendly interface (see figure 1). The new solution leverages the best-of-breed field mobile technology of Metrix Mobile for Android, which IFS gained through the acquisition of Metrix earlier in 2012. The product name of the new solution is IFS Mobile Work Order.


Figure 1

It is impressive to see how quickly IFS has been able to marry Metrix Mobile with IFS Applications, presenting a beta release of the combined solutions only 5 months after the acquisition (see blog post). The solution is built into IFS Applications, offering a full-fledged mobile solution for field service and maintenance management. Being designed and optimized for the Android platform, the new version complements IFS’ existing mobile solution for the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform. IFS customers can plug and play with the solution as standard functionality, ensuring quicker time to value and easy product upgrades. IFS mobile client applications and the client side of the vendor’s mobility framework run inside the J2ME container for device-type independence (i.e., a native user experience without using HTML5, which has shown performance and user experience issues).

IFS Mobile Work Order handles the complete process—from the moment a work order is received by a technician, until it is reported and sent back to the server from the mobile device. Work status updates are logged on the work order and instantly sent back to the dispatch center. The field technician can capture photos, retrieve map-supported driving instructions, and complete the job by filling in time, material, and expenses. The solution offers a user experience with a look and feel that is straightforward and easy to use. Through flexible query functionality, any data captured in the field—from work safety instructions to customer care data—can be configured per customer and type of work process (to reflect the user’s work process).

Metrix Service Management 5.5

Prior to becoming part of IFS, Metrix had been a relatively small company in the FSM business for more than 25 years. Its Microsoft .NET architecture and knowledge of the repair and dispatch capabilities for capital equipment manufacturers, high-tech companies, and other industries in the parts servicing arena had attracted many clients with midsize organizations of field technicians. In addition to mobility, Metrix covers a wide gamut of FSM capabilities, including billing, contract management, workforce scheduling, alerts, dispatching, technician portal, reporting, repair depot, and warranty management. The company had been offering its FSM functionality both on premise and in the cloud.

At the aforementioned world conference, IFS also formally released IFS Metrix Service Management Version 5.5. The new version includes enhanced features for intuitive usability by technicians in the field and managers in the office. Standard functionality covers the entire field service life cycle, from customer relationship management (CRM), scheduling, and mobile service to contract pricing, warranty repair, and parts and returns management. Available extensions include schedule optimization for large field service workforces. This complements enterprise functionality from IFS Applications such as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO). Important new capabilities of IFS Metrix Service Management 5.5 include the following:

  • Advanced Repair and Service Functionality—Technicians performing component repair can now use IFS Metrix Service Management to automatically identify parts that are frequently serviced or replaced for a given piece of equipment— or for a given symptom or problem. This capability should increase the likelihood that the technician has the right parts to complete a repair the first time.
  • Visualization Enhancement—For technicians completing reverse logistics (handling product returns, etc.) and repair, the solution offers a media carousel to illustrate repair procedures and processes for each item. This capability can also be useful in a receiving environment to allow visual confirmation that the correct item has been received.
  • Schedule Board Visualization—New scheduling features make the dispatching function more efficient and intuitive. Dispatchers can now, for example, visually differentiate jobs that need to be completed by two people or have been assigned to a technician under a different team. As same-day emergency calls are scheduled via a drag-and-drop feature, the dispatcher also gets a visual alert if any open preventive maintenance (PM) or engineering change order (ECO) visits exist at the site. This visibility may allow the same technician to do the work while onsite and avoid multiple trips.
  • Instant Customer Intelligence—Business intelligence (BI) charts are now built into the summary page on each customer. Someone interacting with that customer is immediately informed of open urgent requests the customer has, existing sales opportunities, and open escalations.
  • Part Availability Mapping—If a technician in the field doesn’t have a particular part, he/she can use a new feature in IFS Metrix Mobile for Android to determine where he/she can get it. He/she can easily select a part number and use the new “Find Nearby” feature to show where the part is in-stock and on hand in Google Maps. Parts may be located in a mobile truck, field office, warehouse, repair center, drop-box location, or even at a customer site with consigned inventory—all based on the user’s current global positioning system (GPS) location.

Featured Software Research:

Understanding Reverse Logistics in Field Service Management

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This white paper defines reverse logistics as it relates to aftermarket service, describes how it differs from forward logistics, and then discusses the difficulties inherent in selecting and using enterprise software to facilitate reverse logistics and repair processes including warranty repair, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repair and handling return material authorizations (RMAs) from distributors. Download the paper. Read More

4 Steps to Choosing the Right Device for Field Service Mobility

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Choosing the right device for field service management needs is not easy. This white paper will guide you through the different factors, including your organization’s technology outlook, how a customer’s perceptions of you might be affected by the device, and how the hardware features make your employees more efficient. Know the four steps to consider for choosing the right device for your field service mobility needs. Read More

You may also be interested in these related documents:

Understanding Reverse Logistics in Field Service Management

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This white paper defines reverse logistics as it relates to aftermarket service, describes how it differs from forward logistics, and then discusses the difficulties inherent in selecting and using enterprise software to facilitate reverse logistics and repair processes including warranty repair, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repair and handling return material authorizations (RMAs) from distributors. Download the paper. Read More

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Choosing the right device for field service management needs is not easy. This white paper will guide you through the different factors, including your organization’s technology outlook, how a customer’s perceptions of you might be affected by the device, and how the hardware features make your employees more efficient. Know the four steps to consider for choosing the right device for your field service mobility needs. Read More

3 Tips for Integrating Field Service Management Software with ERP

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Field service management software often needs to be integrated with other enterprise software. Learn the three essential tips for integrating your service management system with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other operational systems, data warehouses, or data sources. Read More
 
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