Mobile workplaces are becoming more and more prevalent for businesses, including plumbing companies. For example, plumbing techs are using their mobile devices to keep track of calls and emails on their smartphones. As a result, they don’t have to check in with dispatchers nearly as often. While there are plumbers who resist technological encroachment on their operations, many others remain intrigued.
The Benefits of Mobility
Regardless of a plumbing company’s size, there is a very good chance it can benefit from mobile workplace technology. Owners can track the number of clients and document employee workloads on their smartphones, tablets and laptop computers — saving time and energy.
While mobile technology can make life easier for all employees, it can be especially beneficial for a company’s sales force. If room in the office is at a premium, for instance, sales professionals can use technology to conduct business at a variety of locations. This eliminates the need to reserve conference room space for the next big sales meeting and could substantially increase productivity.
Another benefit is reducing the need for cubicles and other dedicated workspaces. This, of course, can be a huge expenditure — according to an article by agilquest, it costs anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 to accommodate an office worker. Purchasing the tools needed to implement a mobile workplace program can be pricey, but that cost can be offset long term. In many instances, equipment expenses can be surprisingly minimal — since many techs and other employees already have tablets and smartphones.
It’s not uncommon to find issues with managing and distributing resources in many smaller plumbing operations. One of the main reasons is the continued reliance on logbooks, spreadsheets and other paper-based systems. Mobile technology can help replace these outmoded approaches, improving efficiency and increasing cost savings in the process.
Savvy business owners are using mobile workplace technology to engage with customers through social media platforms and even mobile point of sale applications. A wide range of sophisticated applications are much more affordable than they were just a few years ago, when they were out of reach for most small companies.
Mobile technology also helps to improve and refine workflow, allowing remote employees to provide real-time input through applications such as Skype or WebEx, which are commonly used to arrange online meetings. It also helps salespeople while on the road when meeting with present and future customers.
While the benefits of mobile workforce technology are plentiful, implementing a company-wide program isn’t without its challenges. There could be company culture issues, as some employees used to doing business a certain way may be resistant to change, at first. In addition, mobile phone plans often carry costly hidden charges.
And, of course, security of critical company and customer data will always be a concern. But no challenge is insurmountable as long as the business employs effective protocols regarding information management.
A recommended starting point to putting a strong security program in place is to make sure there is a clear understanding of what kind of data could be exposed, such as customer credit card numbers, trade secrets and possibly even patents. It is critical that a security framework is established that addresses all possible risks.
Plumbing companies should also look closely at how employees use mobile workforce technology, both on and off the job. Limit network access to a certain number of devices, and do not allow additional ones without approval. Establish not only where corporate-related data is allowed to reside, but also mechanisms to enforce standards and controls.
Partnering with a company that specializes in providing technology security solutions will help ensure that data remains as safe as possible.
It is extremely important to always keep in mind that the successful implementation of any security strategy will depend on total employee compliance. It will very likely take time to make sure employees know the best practices regarding mobile workforce technology. But while issues may arise, they can be overcome through the proper amount of training.
An Even Playing Field
Implementing mobile workforce technology may mean dragging some employees kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but it could also mean huge benefits in the long run. As the cost of technology continues to fall, many smaller plumbing companies are putting it to use — finding it helps them compete with larger businesses across select industries. There will be challenges, but by embracing mobility a company can improve processes as well as productivity, possibly increasing revenues as well.
Cheryl Bikowski is the Marketing Communications Supervisor at Gamber-Johnson. Located in Stevens Point, WI, Gamber-Johnson is one of the leading suppliers of rugged computer mounting systems and mobile workplace technology solutions, and is also a member of the Leggett & Platt Commercial Vehicle Products (CVP) Group.