Next up in our blog series exploring the 2022 Gartner® Market Guide for Mobile Workforce Management Software for Utilities (released in May 2022), we focus on the intelligent utility and the use of system and data integration to help drive a single view of the truth.
Gartner addresses this as one of their key findings in the 2022 MWM software report, how utilities leverage data across asset management, customer systems, and spatial and outage use cases to help empower workers in the field. With accurate and timely information, field technicians are safer, more productive and satisfied with their work.
The data challenge
Most businesses regard mobile applications as a critical component in collecting and validating data from across the operation, supported by system integration and data orchestration.
The same model applies to utilities, with some additional requirements. For example, utilities are more constrained with regulatory and security considerations. They also depend upon backend systems atypical to most businesses, such as outage management systems (OMS), geographical information systems (GIS), and other technologies. Utilities must also collect, store, and report on compliance inspections such as cathodic protection; surveys (leaks, lines, etc.); and other workflows that no other industries do, for example meter exchanges.
While there are some plug-and-play connectors available to help integrate these systems and workflows—at IFS we provide prebuilt connectors with Esri, SAP, and other technology platforms—most utilities must work with a system integrator and/or invest in costly customizations that require frequent maintenance cycles, often impacting efficiencies and profitability.
Other options include open architecture platforms that are composable and extensible, easing the burden of integrating with systems where a connector isn’t available. Or a bus provider such as Boomi, for a standards-based approach.
Centralized integration model
Many utilities are switching from traditional niche mobile app integrations to connectivity delivered from their mobile workforce management (MWM) system. MWM technology is purpose-built to integrate seamlessly into the unique backend systems used by utilities, consolidating actions, information, and work requests from disparate systems into a single platform.
Unlike large, monolithic technology stacks, MWM provides utilities with a level of composability for a more agile and responsive business. MWM systems understand how to integrate utility-specific applications with standard enterprise solutions, providing utilities with the means to plug in and deploy a range of new technologies, precluding traditional rip and replace scenarios.
With such a bespoke integration model, it’s no surprise that vendors offering services and solutions in this space must provide an open and flexible platform with a clear understanding of integration standards. For example, ISO 55000 for coordination of asset management activities and Common Information Model (CIM) for data exchange, including its subset CIM MultiSpeak.
Data and workflow optimization
With MWM, the flow of data is bidirectional. Along with pulling data from relevant enterprise systems to help inform planners, operations teams, and field technicians, information from work in the field is transferred to backend systems, updating asset and customer records, informing inventory levels, and supplying information to payroll and other administrative systems.
With real-time capabilities, MWM optimizes the work management experience. The utility benefits from accurate analytics to help inform critical business decisions. Field workers leverage fresh data for greater productivity and an elevated employee experience. It’s a win-win.
Real-time data for immediate returns
A real-time data model supports predictive analytics for workforce and planning efficiencies. For example, a part is unavailable due to a supply chain backlog. This inventory data flows into the MWM system, which identifies all related dependencies. The system’s scheduling and optimization engine immediately adjusts work orders and schedules, delaying or canceling those calls that rely on the part.
When planners schedule projects, they can look to the future and quickly determine the availability of people, resources, parts, and other materials, factoring these details into the timing of the project. This higher-level view of the entire operation supports precision planning and certainty, especially when scheduling multiple projects.
Flexibility in the field
Field technicians are empowered with up-to-date information about the customer, past repairs, the outcome of previous calls, and other activities. They can access knowledge bases for guides and manuals, CIS, GIS, and other systems. If the utility provides remote support, the technician can connect directly with a specialist to help guide them through the repair.
If necessary (and permitted), technicians can raise a new ticket while in the field. For example, a technician discovers an additional repair unrelated to the original order. If they have the time, the necessary parts, and approval to proceed, the technician can not only create a new ticket but assign it to themselves to be actioned immediately, versus scheduled to another technician at a future date/time.
This MWM workflow ensures the customer is billed accordingly, the parts used are noted in inventory, and the technician’s time is correctly logged within the HR and invoicing systems. Even better than a first-time fix, the worker can do two jobs in one visit.
Leading with intelligence
In the 2022 Gartner Market Guide for MWM Software, utility CIO’s are advised to work with IT and business leaders to create a roadmap of how MWM will interact with and be a system of engagement for the utility, driving efficiency gains while feeding data to the system-of-record and other back-office systems.
Gartner provides additional insights for utility CIOs on MWM market directions and vendor offerings. Read the full report now.