Editor's Note: This post was originally published on June 8, 2017, and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Yes, yes. I know. It’s one of the most asked and least definitively answered questions. But because this question can be relevant in various settings, I decided to apply it to what I know best: family and mobile field services.
I recently decided – albeit in hindsight, maybe it wasn’t wise – to rent an RV and take my family of four on a two-week trip to different national parks in the United States. We went to Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Zion, and the Arches in Utah. Since our trip started in California, I did a fair amount of driving in that rented RV.
The RV that we rented was a 29-foot Thor Four Winds. As I drove down the highway, I saw many different types and sizes of RVs. I saw large diesel pusher Class A models and smaller Class B vans. I also saw many that were similar in size to our rented Class C RV. Seeing all of these different sizes and types of RVs made me realize that one size doesn’t fit all, and each RV, regardless of size and style, had its purpose and its proper usage for the people driving it. For example, some people needed the larger, more-expensive Class A RVs because they had larger families and maybe had more money to spend, and some people needed the smaller Class B models because they fit their needs.
Different Sizes for Different Needs
As I observed the various models, I realized I could apply the same principles to mobile field services. Not all organizations have 2,000 or more field users with multi-million-dollar budgets. Some organizations may not even classify themselves as organizations because of their size; they may consider themselves a mom-and-pop company with five workers on their payroll. Budgets aren’t measured in millions for them but in thousands.
Whether an organization considers itself a proper organization or a mom-and-pop shop when the decision is made to increase the productivity and effectiveness of its field operations, there’s an essential factor to consider from the beginning: What vendor will provide the right solution? On the one hand, they can choose a well-established vendor with tens of thousands of installations. This vendor may charge $1,000 or more per license, and installation may cost upwards of $100k. On the other hand, this vendor typically focuses on large organizations with 5,000 or more field users, unlimited budgets, and multiple departments to handle projects and implementations independently, without their vendors’ support.
On the other end of the spectrum are solutions for mom-and-pop shops. These small mom-and-pop businesses typically need significant support from their vendors and want to keep a close eye on budgets. Therefore, they must immediately receive updates from their vendors. Their margins are thin, and their customers demand that response times, updates, and costs be tightly managed.
The Vast Majority of Companies are in the Middle of the Spectrum
The vast majority of businesses are between very large and very small. They may have budgets for technology solutions, but they’re typically limited. They may have IT staff, but they’re generally busy performing their internal duties. And regardless of the number of users and field staff, they need a well-supported mobile workforce solution that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
So, where do all these middle-of-the-spectrum companies go when they need a solution provider? Do they go to that large vendor that has it all and does it all but has costs that rival the GDP of some small foreign countries? Or do they go to a smaller vendor with a solid solution that may be less recognizable? (Merely because a vendor doesn’t have a large enough marketing budget to put their names at the top of every conceivable Google search – and to buy glitzy tradeshow booths the size of a city block – doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of consideration!)
There’s Always A Good Mobile Field Services Fit
The point is, there’s no correct answer. Like there are hundreds of different types and models of RVs to suit almost every possible need, there are also many choices in the mobile field services domain. The right choice is the one that meets the specific needs of the company that’s looking to implement a solution, not one that promises it’s the best solution for every company. Field service organizations shopping for a productivity-boosting solution should do their homework, shop around, and check references. Flashy bells and whistles never outweigh substance, and a good old phone call to the vendor’s current clients that asks, “How was your experience with this company and their software?”
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