Energy and Utility companies’ work is distributed far and wide, between residential homes, businesses, schools, and wherever else the supporting infrastructure exists. Territories for field workers can often span a few towns wide and without a plan on prioritizing their sites, time and money can be wasted on unproductive routes. Over two thirds of utility company employees work in the field for the majority of their day. By having the field workers far away from the central shop for most of their time, communication becomes a challenge between the back office and the field workers. If a change in the day’s plan happens such as a call for an urgent repair that needs to be done on a burst water pipe, there is a plethora of important information that the field workers need in order to prioritize, schedule, equip themselves, and complete the job.
Prior to B2E mobile apps, key information was often missing, inaccurate, or misinterpreted on work orders that were delivered over the phone or via paper forms. Even where field workers have been enabled with traditional ruggedized mobile devices, often these fail to live up to their promise, leaving workers frustrated trying to access or complete work orders on site. Providing employees with a mobile application on a modern smart device can allow them to easily access all this info on their phones, such as accurate site location, the severity of the damage at each site, asset-related information and images, and other important info such as what tools they need for each job. This not only empowers the field workers to have a better understanding of how to map out their days, but it also can reduce the amount of supervision needed on site. Also, mobile apps can enable field workers to work on problems more efficiently. The ability to take photos of the damage and share it with fellow co-workers helps field workers collaborate with a better understanding of what the problem is and how it can be solved. Another beneficial feature is data synchronization. This allows workers to work in areas of poor or no network connectivity and have their work synced back to the mobile app once their phones find service.
Providing E&U enterprises with B2C applications is another way that mobile can improve their processes. The energy and utilities industry does not receive a lot of due praise from their customers, but is quick to be criticized when something goes wrong. Very rarely would you here someone complimenting how great it is that their lights turned on in the morning. On the contrary, if there were to be an unexpected shortage in power halfway through the season finale of Game of Thrones, you can bet that the power company will be fielding some complaints. How can mobile help solve energy and utility companies’ problem of always being portrayed as the bad guy? The answer is customer engagement. E&U companies are realizing they need to engage their customers even when something is not going wrong, and mobile offers an efficient and informative way to do so. These mobile applications bring usage data that previously was inaccessible, into the palm of the consumer’s hand. Customers are now able to view their usage and break it down with different filters to understand their energy consumption. This allows customers to better manage their energy budgets while simultaneously having a positive impact on the environment.
There are many different directions these Energy and Utility companies can explore when looking to develop mobile apps. They can look to create custom apps or purchase off-the shelf apps or a mix of both, depending on the use cases. When building custom apps that are tailored specifically to a use case, companies have the option to build apps from scratch or to build apps using a mobile application platform. The platform approach is attractive to organizations that plan to build multiple apps as it provides more centralized management and control as well as supporting the reuse of code, APIs and connections across different apps that are in development. It also facilitates more collaborative development methods, lifecycle management, security and scaling. Fully bespoke app development is suited to one-off app projects where economies of scale is not an issue. However, as mobile apps tend to have a continuous develop and deploy cycle, bespoke app development comes with certain risks in terms of having the same developers maintain and update the apps.
An organization’s mobile strategy should take into account which direction for app development is most appropriate, affordable and robust. By developing on a mobile application platform, a more secure and eloquent app with code and functions designed for easy replication for future application projects may be preferable to one-off bespoke app development.
The more focus energy and utility enterprises put into bettering their services, the more loyalty and stickiness they can create with their customer base. These organizations are now being tasked with responding to problems faster, improving operational efficiency, keeping customers well informed, and complying with stricter safety and environmental regulations . Mobile apps and cloud technologies can really help improve both field worker productivity and customer engagement, by arming them with better and more timely data. For more on what mobile can do in the Energy and Utilities Industry, click here to download our E-book. Mobility Fuels Productivity Gains for Energy & Utilities