One useful way to think about your field service software solution is to break it down into a series of workflows. Field technicians perform a particular workflow, while backoffice personnel follow different workflows. There are workflows related to the details of specific assets and inventory. There are workflows that tell you what to do when a problem crops up, and there are workflows that spell out how to maintain your equipment to prevent those problems from popping up.  

Viewed through this lens, the challenge of choosing, deploying, maintaining, and updating your field service automation software solution boils down to figuring out how to optimize a collection of workflows.

There are many reasons why that’s not an easy problem to solve, but most of them stem from two things:

  • Field service can be an extremely complex process, with many moving parts, unpredictable complications, and a wide range of stakeholders (from your customers to your CEO). And external complications – everything from COVID to supply chain chaos – can exponentially complicate the complexity of the workflows you’re trying to optimize.
  • All of those variables are constantly in flux – from your business requirements to the resources you have available to the demands of your customers to the expectations of your CEO. The overall IT stack that you have to integrate with is probably also in a constant state of change. And each new customer you bring on board might define the objectives completely differently – from entirely different new SLA requirements to unique asset repair workflows.

Most field service solutions fall into one of two categories. On the one hand, there are off-the-shelf solutions that can be quick to implement but which leave you with no flexibility to tailor them to the specific needs of your workflows. And even if you manage to find a solution that at least comes close to matching your requirements, when anything changes you’ll be stuck with the same workflows.  

The traditional alternative – custom solutions either built in-house or by a third party – can deliver something that matches your exact needs. But that tailored fit comes at the expense of time, money, and people resources. And as soon as your needs evolve – typically the day after you switch the system on – you’ll be facing another development cycle that will require more time, money, and people resources, assuming you can even get sign-off for the new project.

And because most developers don’t speak the language of field execution (and vice-versa), you’ll typically be facing weeks or months just getting clarity on the scoping document before any coding actually begins.

Getting the Best of All Worlds

Faced with a choice between the lesser of two evils, many people simply stick with a third evil – the status quo approach they’re already using. Sometimes that means managing their workflows using paper and pencil, and perhaps maybe a spreadsheet or two. This limits their options, hurts their productivity, and often makes it impossible to deliver on crucial KPIs, but at least it’s familiar.

Fortunately, Zinier has pioneered a new hybrid alternative that offers the best of all worlds – the speed and rapid payback of off-the-shelf software with the ability to get the same kind of tailored fit previously only available from a custom solution. It even offers a workflow-driven user experience that will be familiar and comfortable to those making the leap from paper-and-pencil solutions.

The Zinier approach makes it easy to make changes practically in real time, something that neither off-the-shelf or customer solutions can offer. And – even better – these changes can be made by all end-users, not just specialized developers.

The Zinier solution uses ZiniApps as the core building blocks for developing custom workflows. ZiniApps are modular web and mobile apps designed to handle the tasks that are part of common field service workflows, such as scheduling & dispatch and parts & inventory management. These ZiniApps incorporate business logic that reflects our team’s decades of field service expertise.

You can also create your own ZiniApps using our Solution Builder, which enables you to create applications for two types of end-users: web apps for those in an office environment and mobile apps for technicians in the field. These solutions can support virtually any business requirements.

Studio Z provides the no-code environment in which end-users without specialized development expertise can build applications to address highly specific workflow requirements. End-users can quickly and easily customize the workflows built using ZiniApps to serve the varying needs of different industries, use cases, and their specific organization.

Based on our implementation experience and extensive conversations with customers, it’s clear that over 50% of all change requests from field service organizations relate to mobile field execution – that is, modifying or introducing new ways to use mobile apps to help execute jobs in the field. Our no-code Task Builder was created to address this pressing need for a mobile-friendly solution.

The Zinier solution democratizes the process of customization. Instead of relying on limited IT resources or expensive system integrators, the combination of ZiniApps, Solution Builder, Task Builder, and Studio Z, operations teams can now create the custom workflows they need to optimize their performance in the field and in the backoffice. Thanks to the no-code environment, this customization can be done in a matter of minutes, rather than months – without requiring any code, training, or even programming knowledge.

Here are a couple of comparisons of how the Zinier solution works compared to the hoops you’d have to jump through with an off-the-shelf solution.

Scenario 1: Adding a new validation requirement for personal protective equipment

As your business needs change, you’ll need to make changes to both your backoffice applications and field applications to reflect those evolving requirements. This example shows the steps required to change a mobile app for field technicians to validate that they are meeting new requirements for using personal protective equipment (such as masks and gloves) to comply with new job safety laws.

The application will need to include a way to capture a picture that documents that protective gear was used while completing the task. It will also need to incorporate a mechanism for backoffice personnel to review the evidence so that it can be included in a subsequent report.

In a purpose-built off-the-shelf solution, you would expect to go through the following steps when requesting a change from the software provider:

  • Identify the specific point in the user experience where the visual evidence of compliance with the requirement would be captured
  • Submit the change request to the solution provider
  • If the change request is accepted, an end-to-end development process will entail:
  • Modifying the existing solution for use in the field
  • Modifying the solution for backoffice review of the captured data
  • Modifying the solution to generate the needed reports
  • Perform a quality assessment of the new applications
  • Deploy the new functionality

The best-case outcome for creating this relatively small new functionality is 1-2 weeks. The worst-case outcome is that it can’t be done at all, and you’ll need to find a separate approach to create this capability and cobble together a workaround that incorporates it into your workflow.

Best-Case Deployment Time:

1-2 weeks

The Zinier approach, in contrast, enables you to add this new capability in minutes. The Task Builder includes a no-code field service experience designer that can include an automatically generated backoffice review experience and corresponding report (as part of the close-out package.

To accomplish this with the Zinier solution, you would simply:

  • Identify the point in the field service user experience where the documentation will be captured
  • Add the new data point capture
  • Test the updated solution
  • Deploy the new functionality

Expected Deployment:

10 minutes

Scenario 2: Removing a Check-in Capability

Although most field service tasks are performed in remote locations, sometimes the services are provided by a dedicated on-campus technician. In these situations, a formal check-in step creates unnecessary overhead that cuts into the efficiency of your operation.

The process of simply removing a step in a workflow might seem like it should be easy – and it should! But with an off-the-shelf solution, here are the steps you’d likely need to take:

  • Submit the change request to remove the check-in step to the solution provider
  • Wait for the solution provider to estimate the effort and cost required to implement the change
  • Secure any necessary approvals (e.g., for the budget required to make this change)
  • Once approved, the solution provider will initiate an end-to-end development process that entails:
  • Modifying the existing solution for use in the field
  • Modifying the solution for backoffice review of the captured data
  • Modifying the solution to generate the needed reports
  • Perform a quality assessment of the new applications
  • Deploy the new functionality

Best-Case Deployment Time:

1-2 weeks

In the Zinier environment, the platform’s no-code field service experience designer already includes options to add or remove pre-built steps such as Start Travel, Check In, Check Out, and so forth. So making this change is a simple 10-minute process:

  • Disable the check-in step
  • Test
  • Deploy

Expected Deployment:

10 minutes

As you might infer from these examples, the difference is night and day. With an off-the-shelf solution, the time and expense required to implement seemingly trivial updates severe. So severe, in fact, that you’re likely to simply resign yourself to living without them, and create workarounds to your workflows that may get the job done – but at the price of a significant hit to your efficiency.

In contrast, Zinier’s no-code customization approach will

  • Accelerate time to value
  • By eliminating the need for approvals and the delays involved in begging for budget, you can make changes and get them up and running as quickly as you can think of them.
  • Put the field service operation in the driver’s seat
  • With a streamlined process, you’ll be in charge of your own destiny, without relying on limited resources from IT or budget approval from the C-Suite. .
  • Democratize innovation
  • Field service operations need no longer be at the mercy of IT or systems integrators. The Zinier no-code framework means that the people who use the solution can also be in control of the solution.

For a CEO-level perspective on no-code customization, click here.

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