What would it be like if your workforce could have all the data they need to hand while carrying out a repair at a remote location and didn’t have to return to the office to ‘finish the job’? Truly real-time filesharing, issues logging and scheduling: essentially everything to do the job at their fingertips.
This is just one of the topics of conversation at a recent Fujitsu workshop for the built environment, energy and utilities sectors that I attended.
From the conversations I’ve had with some of our customers in this sector, I know they struggle with the paradox that while many of their people are often out in the field; they don’t always have access to the data they need to do their job efficiently. These industries are extremely data rich but as engineers often work in siloes, they can become disconnected from much of this information.
The use of mobile devices in the field has bridged this gap to a certain extent, but for companies to grow and prosper, they need to overcome this and many other issues. Microsoft’s new operating system Windows 10 allows you to take steps to create an always connected workforce that is able to get access to vital and time-saving real-time information, as well as collaborate and respond to issues in a timely manner. Built from the ground up as an ‘evergreen’, extendible platform, it has been hailed as Microsoft’s best OS yet.
Our customers have told me that on the whole they are impressed by the new functionality offered by Windows 10 and are running the OS in pilot to get a better feel for it. At Fujitsu, we are supporting a number of businesses in developing a roadmap of how they can move to the new platform and how it will work with and enhance their existing processes.
Field workers are keen to benefit from greater compatibility between a mobile and desktop, so one of Windows 10 features called Continuum will help make them productive across different devices. Continuum allows apps to scale smoothly across different screens, so staff coming in from being on-site can swap from their smartphone or tablet to their desktop seamlessly and carry on working.
Parts of the workforce may prefer laptops, whereas others feel more at home with a mobile device, and might opt to incorporate Windows 10 functionality such as Cortana (which responds to voice commands). A feature that may come in handy if an engineer needs information in the middle of a job or is wearing gloves, for example.
Not only do these features provide a huge boost for productivity, they also allow different parts of the workforce to access real-time; optimised information in a way they are comfortable with.
One area to consider when having a remote field workforce is security. Sensitive data relating to advanced manufacturing processes and vital infrastructure has to remain secure and working in this area there are often high levels of regulations and compliance.
What I do know is that Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most secure OS to date, with security built into its core. Customers have shown a great deal of interest in its security features, such as Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport, which aim to replace passwords with the use of biometrics. The software will enable both iris and facial recognition to accurately verify users’ identity. Surely the perfect marriage of security and practicality for workers needing their hands free?
To ensure sensitive data is handled correctly, Windows 10 also contains Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Most of us associate DRM with the music and gaming industry, but it can also be used to protect digital media files by encrypting them with a key. It enables data to move across devices to mobile workers in a safe way.
Of course, any upgrade to Windows 10 will be a major undertaking for a business, especially if they are looking to embed some of these new features into their processes to save costs and increase productivity.
Here at Fujitsu we’re already working with organisations to plan and support their journey towards the new platform and look forward sharing these success stories as they develop. And we’re confident this sector will be one to watch as the operating system makes its mark.
Graeme has a first degree in Computing Science and a Masters in Business Administration. He has successfully used his experience and knowledge of both business and technology to deliver IT enabled change for many organisations. Outside of work, Graeme has completed a project to build his own house and plays regularly in a band.