Frontline Teams Need Better Tech — But Not the Kind You Think

July 2, 2021

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4 minutes

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The pandemic office exodus forced companies to invest significant resources into improving operations for the digital, work-from-home economy. Desk-based workers have more tools than ever before to do their jobs remotely–unlocking a whole new world of collaboration capabilities.

But what about your mobile teams? Technologies built for desk-based teams deliver only a fraction of the capabilities needed by mobile teams.

If you have frontline workers, you have to carefully consider the specific needs of mobile teams. Thinking through and re-prioritizing how your teams can use data to optimize results and what they need to collaborate effectively is a must. Retrofitting existing software systems built for desk workers for frontline use simply isn’t good enough.

So, what technology is currently available to our frontline employees? What are the pain points that still exist for mobile teams and what do they NEED? How can we solve these problems with workstream collaboration tools?

The Current State of Tech for Frontline Workers

Some large companies have the resources to build custom applications for frontline workers. For instance, Amazon built their own delivery app to track drivers’ locations and measure performance.

But for most companies, building custom applications isn’t a scalable solution. Chances are that your frontline workers use field service management tools, project management tools, or no tools at all.

Field Service Management Tools

Field service management tools are great process-driven operations tools that are relatively mature. They’re highly customized to fit unique processes and business circumstances, but at times, companies find themselves changing their processes to fit these templated solutions because these tools aren’t easily customizable. 

Project Management Tools

Project management tools like Asana, Trello and Monday.com are built to coordinate activities within office environments and are not originally designed to extend to frontline workers. They’re made for basic task execution and project workflow and are typically not tied to operational software such as ERPs and CRMs. Is your company using these tools in operational environments? If so, you’re likely experiencing inefficiencies and pain points across your organization.

Existing Tools Aren’t Solving Mobile Employee Pains

These tools simply aren’t a good fit for frontline employees who need specific features and functionality to do their work most effectively.

Mobile employees have complex business processes with minimal support

Frontline teams often have to follow complex, multi-step processes to perform services and complete work — yet they have little access to all the details they need to handle changes as they occur.

Failure to deliver status and project updates

Today’s data-driven business leaders often want to track the progress and status of complex jobs. But to deliver that information, are your field teams bearing the burden of regularly calling, texting, or emailing status updates? Or on the flip side, are they being bombarded with requests from headquarters and customers for timely information? These status updates often need to be sent to stakeholders individually, and each update pauses the progress of the actual job at hand.

The truth is, you’re probably asking too much of your frontline employees. Their focus should be on operational excellence, not on providing constant status updates. With your existing infrastructure, your frontline employees’ current flow of work is likely highly disruptive.

Haste makes waste for frontline communication

The increased pressure of getting work done quickly results in the need to communicate quickly. Your frontline workers can’t communicate without the proper resources. They’re wasting valuable time that they need to be spending on their job at hand, like completing a delivery, installing equipment, preventing security breaches, or other operations. Routing communication through HQ takes so much extra work and extra time.

The ideal state is for information to be available to whoever wants it, whenever they want to see it. This requires alignment and connectivity between your mobile workers, customers, partners, and office teams.

Lighten Mobile Worker Burden

Rethinking the Needs of the Frontline Worker with Workstream Collaboration Tools

Your frontline workers need carefully considered applications that bring communications and information together within their digital tools to create a more efficient way to work. The solution is workstream collaboration (WSC) tools, which provide another level of automation to tighten up internal awareness and embed communications inside the technology.

Integrating existing systems with IoT/data sensors to obtain geospatial data is just one example of process automation that can be added to a seamless flow of information for mobile teams to do their job.

WSC can also streamline communication and create a more efficient customer feedback loop. While extending collaboration to third parties like customers, partners, and vendors can be complex, it’s worthwhile. Proactively pushing out communication to your customers not only reduces the burden on frontline workers, but it delivers that next level of customer service that your competitors can’t offer. This is because traditional project management and field service management software doesn’t permit customers to participate in business processes. WSC tools offer these capabilities in a governed environment, which is invaluable.

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Adopting WSC Technology

Focus on removing the friction and lightening the burden on your frontline workers. Follow these four steps to ensure seamless WSC adoption:

1. Choose the right WSC software for your use case.

Consider whether implementing a WSC solution is easy to use, provides efficient data flow, and most importantly, whether it will meet everyone’s needs. Consider how you and your team need to be communicating. What questions need to be answered and what data needs to be shared between HQ and your front line.

2. Get your teams involved.

Involve all stakeholders while scoping and implementing new processes so you can make sure you’re tailoring your WSC applications to meet their needs.

3. Prove direct value to your field teams.

Frontline operations teams may not understand the purpose of WSC at first, which is why training is so important. Make sure they’re equipped with the knowledge on how to use the WSC tool to do their job effectively. Make sure that business leaders are communicating its value. Point to concrete statistics like how much time is saved. This is the best way to encourage widespread adoption.

4.Follow our best practices for deploying WSC.

These tips and tricks not only give guidance on how to best deploy your new applications to your teams, but they also can help you map your roll-out plan from your phase 1 trial and testing to full adoption.

Learn more about how you can use Coolfire Core to improve your operations by keeping your frontline workers connected to the people, processes, and information they need to work together — anytime and anywhere.

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