By Tim Wilson
Service providers in Brazil are hoping to leverage emerging technologies to address a range of business goals. One area of opportunity is field service organizations that want more capabilities to drive operational results, with business process functionality then sometimes outsourced to add value. “We are seeing heavy demand for workforce management and mobility solutions in the telecom and utility industry within Brazil,” says Stephen Timms, Vice President of Sales, Americas, for ClickSoftware. “This trend mirrors other more mature markets in the US and Europe. The reason these industries lead in technology innovation is that they tend to be the sectors with the largest number of field service technicians and mobile workers—and therefore have the most to gain from the investment.”
Timms, who spoke at Field Service Latin America in Sao Paulo in February, says that the exciting innovations in mobile, especially around HTML5, mean that many solutions offer offline capabilities. This way a user can work without connectivity and synchronize data when back online. And when back online, the BPO opportunity for field services emerges.
“The majority of our utility and telco clients do not outsource support for field service; however, we see it in other industrieswhich are highly franchised, such as capital equipment,” says Timms. “Integration into backend systems, such as CRM or ERP through open web services, allows for feedback.”
Timms gives the example of a customer request being received through a call center (or via a web interface), which is integrated into a mobility and scheduling system. The customer service representative can then promise appointments based on real-time availability.
“This triggers a technician being scheduled and dispatched to the customer, and that technician would have full access to customer records, notations from the call center rep, and other important job info,” says Timms. “At the end of the visit the tech can close the feedback loop by issuing an invoice or having the customer fill out a survey about the experience, and that info would be fed back into the back office system directly from the technician’s mobile device.”
Brazil’s Field Service Opportunity
Brazil appears to be the place to be in South America when it comes to leveraging mobile capabilities in the field, and for BPO to be a part of that story. But it is important to assess how Brazil differs from other markets.
“Smartphone penetration here in Sao Paulo, and Brazil by extension, is an alternate universe in many ways,” says Kevin Restivo, IDC’s Senior Analyst, Mobility,a Canadian who has been working out of IDC’s Sao Paulo office. “The feature phone is alive and well here in Brazil. ‘Talk and text’ phones, otherwise known as feature phones, are still used by the overwhelming majority of Brazilians. This makes the country’s device users very different when compared to Canadians and Americans who mostly use smartphones.”
It also presents unique challenges when trying to put together BPO support for mobile devices. For example, HTML5 solutions, in addition to online/offline mode, offer rich user experiences, and the ability for organizations to have a flexible or BYOD mobile policy. Though it can be argued that HTML5 is device agnostic, a user needs a smartphone to get the most out of it. Without a large installed base of smartphones, Brazil will lag in terms of getting the most out of mobile capabilities – and the richer BPO opportunities that follow.
“Mobile data in Brazil is in its infancy,” says Restivo.“There’s a lot of room to grow for those companies that stand to benefit from data collection efforts that presumably come from mobile service usage.”
Restivo says that once smartphones become de rigueur in Brazil, Big Data becomes more of a reality. Butthe problem to date is that the groundwork for Big Data is still being laid.
“Wireless infrastructure seems strained especially during prime time for mobile phone usage,” says Restivo. “LTE networks, if implemented correctly, will give Brazilian wireless service providers the opportunity to leapfrog many of the current infrastructure issues facing the country’s mobile device users.”
The Holy Triangle: LTE, Smartphones & Buying Power
With LTE in play, sophisticated mobile field service applications like those offered by ClickSoftware will be exposed to a very big market, as will those companies who want to outsource support.
“Workforce management and mobility present a massive opportunity for the service industry”, says Timms. “Especially given that LatAm companies will need to focus on differentiators such as service, instead of price.”
That shift to value is a must for maturing markets like Brazil. Specifically, Timms calls out four areas where the move to enterprise application availability on mobile devices will deliver real benefits: improved customer service; increased productivity; lower operating costs; and improved business processes.
He has certainly found agreement with market analysts. In February, Accenture announced the result of its 2013 CIO Mobility Survey, in which the surveyed executives responded that mobility was a “key revenue generator and primary channel for customer engagement”. However, in order for that to be true, the application environment has to be rich – and this has to be much more than talk and text.
“In Latin America we are seeing high demand for mobile applications, specifically enterprise apps,” says Timms. “The push for enterprise apps is the desire for companies to have more flexibility and control over how workers access information, and the desire to add functionality as needed without undergoing massive upgrades.”
It’s coming. All Brazil needs are three things: LTE mobile infrastructure; a reduction in smartphone prices; and an increase in domestic buying power. With that holy triangle in play, companies like ClickSoftware can then drive IT and employee buy-in. It should work as long as their applications are secure, easy to use, and easy to install.
From there, business process outsourcers can go to market with higher value offerings that address the rich content coming into to businesses that, often enough, already have too much on their hands.