Digital transformation is a recurring hot topic amongst top business leaders, as organizations emerge from the pandemic and increasingly realize the old ways of doing business are over.

Companies in every industry - from utilities to telecoms - are rallying towards adopting digital solutions to replace not just archaic tools, but manual tools. It is refreshing to see stakeholders realize the value of digital tools for front-line workers and driving change in what is the largest segment of the workforce.

There are 3 billion people employed globally. Almost 80% are considered deskless i.e., people who do not work behind a desk. Yet, until now, this critical segment of the workforce has been left behind on access to technology.

Office employees have enjoyed a digitalization drive in recent decades. From HR to Finance, almost every facet of desk-bound work has a digital solution. In contrast, deskless workers have minimal access to technology and tools, to help them optimally execute daily tasks. Hard as it can be to believe, walkie talkies, clipboards, and paper forms are still the standard and prevalent methods for capturing and executing work. Now, demand is surging for digital services delivered in the field. The challenge, and hence the catalyst, is that current manual tools are ill-suited for handling such high throughput and complex service delivery requirements – thus becoming a drain on companies’ operations.

Forward-looking organizations are striving for the efficiency gains achieved via digital transformation, and see archaic front-line execution methods for what they are. A typical example that many consumers can relate to is in the telecoms sector, and the request for domestic internet service connectivity – which then becomes a consumer’s nightmare. Starting with inconvenient and absurdly long booking time windows - "Our technician will be there between 9am-5pm" - or worse, a technician not showing up at all. This creates customer dissatisfaction, but also lost revenue and demotivated staff.

Blame often lands on the front-line worker, but the fault lies chiefly in legacy tools used to manage customer service delivery. The disconnect between the front line and the back-office manifests itself in manual schedules and bookings, critical details shared verbally, or on paper, and no real-time visibility on last minute changes.

To overcome the challenge, the solution has to be holistic; looking at the entire process and digitizing the full chain from service creation to service delivery, providing the same real-time access to information enjoyed by back-office staff, to the front line. This ensures the entire team is aligned, with ad-hoc changes visible to everyone. Information is captured accurately and the whole team collaborating to provide an efficient service.

The telecoms sector has experienced a revolution in deploying modern digital tools for service delivery, as an explosion in demand for digital connectivity and value services has strained capacity. Coupled with the need for installing modern equipment in the field, and tedious configuration requirements, service delivery has become much more complex. Telecom providers have realized modernization is required in the front line if surging demand is to be met effectively.

As a case study, Bnet - the leading telecommunications connectivity provider in Bahrain - has elected to build its entire service delivery operation on an end-to-end digital platform. This allows Bnet to deliver services efficiently, at high throughput and achieve higher customer satisfaction levels. The frontline and back office both have visibility and access to information in real time. This makes service delivery simpler, faster, and better.

The automation of mundane, routine, and repetitive tasks through digital tools frees up front line staff to focus on their core tasks. Accurate forecasting and scheduling also leads to faster response time. Paper-based tools are replaced by mobile friendly software, delivering increased productivity for front line staff. Overall, the holistic strategy delivers a substantial return on investment, creates a productive and efficient deskless team and a higher level of customer satisfaction.

The revolution of technology arriving to the field is expanding to equipment and assets too, with billions of IoT devices anticipated to be deployed in the field in the coming years. Deskless teams will soon have access to critical data about equipment status, faults that require troubleshooting, or real-time readings. This connection between people and machines is growing stronger and faster, with deskless teams’ capabilities set to grow exponentially as a result.

The field revolution is well underway, and the results will be materially impactful for companies with the vision to embrace it.

© Opinion 2021

Any opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own

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