How does a company with eight employees in its U.S. office impress such colossal clients as Honeywell and Siemens? By making savvy investments in mobile software and partnering with wireless wizards, of course. Developing multi-million dollar solutions that pay for themselves in less than nine months doesn’t hurt, either.
Innovative Business Software (IBS) was launched in 1982 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to tap into the country’s emerging home security market. Providing software that automates operations for commercial and residential alarm companies such as Honeywell, Siemens and Securitas Direct, IBS landed on U.S. shores in 1991. Today the firm’s American staff of eight is based in Irving, Texas.
An alarm company’s central station, or hub of operations, must run at maximum efficiency to protect its customers in an emergency. As a pioneer in its field, IBS seized an opportunity to develop customizable software to enable alarm companies to improve their hub processes. IBS’ modules include monitoring, marketing and accounts receivable, among others, as part of its Security Business Net (SBN) software suite.
A Mobile Groundswell
One of IBS’ strategic differentiators is its customer-centric nature. All of IBS’ solutions can be tailored to fit the needs of a particular client, and the company prides itself on upholding this core philosophy. “We consider ourselves a partner with our customers, and our customers have significant input in the development of our product,” explains Tim McKenney, IBS’ CFO. “We work with them hand in hand to make their companies more efficient.”
Not surprisingly, when alarm companies came to IBS asking for ways to disentangle field operations, the firm took the challenge seriously, setting out to create a mobile component to SBN. But there was just one problem, according to McKenney. “We knew the security side of the business, [but] we were not mobility experts. So we partnered with a subject-matter expert,” McKenney adds. That higher authority was Orsus Solutions, provider of a mobile application framework, who brought their knowledge to the table after an IBS client made the introduction.
“Combining IBS’ expertise in alarm company software solutions with Orsus’ market-leading mobile technologies provides IBS’ customers with the best of breed mobile applications,” notes Avrami Tzur, VP of business development at Orsus.
A Grander Central Station
While building Mobile SBN, IBS, its customers and Orsus collaboratively began defining the key business challenges faced by both alarm company field forces—which typically include inspectors, service techs, installers and sales reps—and the central station.
1. Streamlining the dispatch process: A typical day for an alarm company field technician would start when he either received a fax with his appointments or drove into the central station to sort out his tasks.
Mobile SBN enables the field force to download daily schedules to Microsoft PocketPC-based handhelds and update them during the day via a wireless connection. The system even provides driving directions through a Web mapping module.
2. Eradicating cumbersome onsite tasks: Before Mobile SBN, missing customer data sparked calls to the central station because call center agents served as conduits to data housed in the system. Significant time was also spent on the phone with agents switching alarms in and out of test mode and opening job tickets.
Now with technicians wirelessly connected to the SBN system during a site visit, customer data is readily accessible. Technicians can also test alarms in real-time and record service work as it is completed.
3. Rectifying erroneous ticket closures: Without Mobile SBN, paperwork was filled out manually upon completion of a job and faxed to the central station. This often led to mistakes in data entry and extra steps.
The Mobile SBN client enables technicians to close a ticket while on site, and even allows for a customer to approve work by signing the handheld’s screen.
Mobile SBN integrates existing SBN applications, Web-based mapping and the alarm company’s proprietary apps. Orsus’ Mobile Framework acts as middleware to mobilize these components and optimize transmission across a wireless network—either T-Mobile’s GPRS or Verizon’s CDMA 1XRTT network.
Yield in the Field
Alarm companies typically need up to two weeks after closing a job ticket to even send out an invoice, says McKenney, but Mobile SBN users can reduce this lag to one or two days by sending closed job tickets directly to an accounting system. In the future Mobile SBN will allow techs to close a ticket and print an invoice before leaving the customer, McKenney adds, translating to an even healthier cash flow for IBS customers.
According to the ROI projections of the first IBS customer to embark on a Mobile SBN project, the payback potential could be staggering: a 20-percent increase in service calls and technician productivity; a 25-percent reduction in central station call volume and staff time; faster collection of accounts receivable; reduced costs and errors in data entry; more problems resolved on the first call; and more time to upsell customers on new products.
By the numbers, the analysis shows the potential for more than $2.7 million in field tech productivity gains, along with $54,000 in reduced headcount in the central station. Against a total outlay of $1.9 million, the projected return for going mobile is in excess of $850,000 after eight and one-third months.
By keeping its finger on the pulse of its clients’ business challenges, partnering with solution providers whose expertise augments its own and having the foresight to maximize the power of its existing software assets with a killer mobile app, IBS has proven that deploying high-ROI field service mobility is no cause for alarm. •
Randi Rosenberg is a freelance writer based in New York City.