Field Service Management

What Is Field Service Software?

What is Field Service Management?

Field Service Management Helps You:

  • Manage a workforce
  • Manage inventory
  • Handle billing
  • Collect and manage documentation
  • Perform back-office tasks

It isn’t sexy technology, that’s for sure. It doesn’t offer the glamorous aesthetics of Instagram and its potential use isn’t nearly as widespread as autonomous vehicles. In fact, chances are those outside the industry haven’t even heard of it.

Yet, despite a lack of press and high-profile CEOs, field service management software is shaping the world of tech as we know it. We just might not realize it yet.

Field service management tracks fleets of vehicles, inventory, and manages field technicians, and handles essential back-office tasks such as dispatch and documentation.

What is Field Service Management

Manage a workforce

Workforce management is one of the primary functions of field service management. “Managing a workforce” is a broad term and can mean a lot of things. Let’s dive into that a bit.

When a customer requests field service support, a service tech is typically dispatched to go and assist the customer. Now, back in the days before modern day field service management technology, scheduling and assigning workers was tedious at best, and a nightmare at its worst. Managers had to manually input schedules and track a tech’s availability, then connect them to the nearest customer. Back-office administrators were often more concerned with scheduling and managing techs, rather than other important tasks like billing and resource management. Having to manage workers via spreadsheets (or even pen and paper) was slow and inefficient, nearly tripling response time. Double bookings were not uncommon, and neither were late appointments. All of this leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Today’s tools make it easy to properly schedule and manage workers when it comes to where their next job is, what their tools are and more. Oftentimes, this is even handled without user intervention by features such as automatic smart scheduling.

Manage inventory

As a field service company, your inventory is more than just essential to your day-to-day operations; next to your techs, it’s your most important asset. But tools break down, degrade and need to be repaired or replaced. A coveted feature of field service management is its ability to track, manage and assign resources. Before software became a standard tool across the industry, managers used to track company resources manually. Now this task can be automated, freeing up valuable time for back-office administrators.

What does tracking resources mean? It means to log the amount of present inventory or assets, and then keep track of them as they’re doled out to technicians or used across an enterprise. This goes hand-in-hand with assigning resources, which isn’t as simple as it sounds. Sophisticated solutions will assign workers equipment based on their skill level and based on the equipment’s condition itself. This allows for the best possible allocation of assets across the entire business.

And then there’s resource management, which sounds like it’s from a video game but has more to do with the health of the resource and stock of your inventory. Because resources have to be replaced (which has an impact on inventory), resource management tracks their general health and condition and reports back to managers, so they can prepare the adequate stock. This ensures users always have an adequate supply of whatever tool they need on hand — as well as replacements.

Handle billing

Billing customers can often be a hassle, so automated solutions are now often equipped with features to help back-office managers issue invoices and store them securely for records.

Another valuable component of field service management is that it empowers technicians with the ability to issue invoices and collect payment on the spot. By utilizing a smartphone app connected to your back office, techs are able to pull up billing information and relevant documentation, and oftentimes are able to have customers sign on the spot. That payment information is then transferred back to the office for processing and storage.

Collect and manage documentation

Field service management often has a document management system that makes it easy to store important information that helps technicians and office managers alike do their jobs. Some important documentation examples include:

  • Blueprints
  • Schematics
  • Topographical maps
  • Zoning information
  • Parts numbers
  • Parts lists

And much, much more. These documents can often be pulled up on mobile devices to assist field workers who are out on a job.

Perform back-office tasks

Billing, scheduling, dispatch, management — all of these can eat into the valuable time of managers. Most field service management solutions handles these things with ease.

Billing, which we’ve already covered, can be handled by either the technician or back in the office, where quotes are dispatched and receipts are kept.

Scheduling is another beast, however, but it’s a tameable one with the help of effective field service management. Sending out techs to multiple jobs can become a hassle when the job is:

  • Out of their geographical range
  • Out of their skill level
  • Not compatible with their work schedule

Field service management helps mitigate this by intelligently pathing out jobs and then picking service workers who are able to meet those requirements based on preset and user-established criteria. Most software will also work with predefined start and stop schedules, which can be invaluable for keeping customers and field service professionals happy. It won’t give them jobs that are estimated to take too long or that are too far out of the way if the day is coming to an end. Prior to the arrival of software tools, managers had to handle this by hand. They had to know their (ever-changing) lineup of techs’ skill-levels, expertise, locations and preferences. Now it’s all stored in a robust database, which also handles other pieces of information like tool usage and technician routing.

And an additional benefit in scheduling software is that it takes employee scheduling, routing and skill information, and pairs it against customer schedules, which means the right tech and the right customer are paired together.

Real-Time Analytics

All of the above are possible thanks to information collected in real time. Field service management software collects data of all kinds to run your field services at maximum efficiency. For example, it uses your technicians’ current locations and job statuses to schedule and dispatch them once a new job opens up. It also keeps your inventory lists up to date by updating them whenever a component is used on a job. And lastly, real-time analytics helps the software realize when a job is done and what was done on the job so it can send the bill over. Basically, these real-time analytics provide you with the information you need to run smoothly.

Mobile Applications

Any field management software worth its salt will have some sort of mobile component to it. This is not a “feature” either. This is now a requirement.

A mobile application allows workers to stay in sync with HQ. It provides all the flexibility of a personal digital assistant with the mobility and agility of a mobile device. By tacking on a mobile asset, field workers are better able to serve the customer. They get access to data quickly, they can respond to jobs faster, and can constantly be in touch with their managers in the event that the higher-ups need to be pulled.

Mobile field service management can also help billing move quickly. Customers are able to sign receipts on-the-go, receive invoices and more. And all the while, that data is being sent back to HQ to be stored and processed.

On-Premise vs Cloud Field Service Management Solutions

Fieldwork is an essential component of service companies. Supervisors and managers use field service management software to allocate field tasks to workers and then monitor their performance. It can help businesses improve field productivity, service delivery, business performance and increase sales. Some examples of businesses that use this kind of software are companies in construction and utilities, health care assistance and home repairs.

One of the major decisions for businesses that are looking to invest in field service management software is whether to deploy the software on-premise or in the cloud. Let’s explore both deployment options in-depth before analyzing which one you should choose.

On-Premise Deployment

An on-premise software solution is installed as well as hosted in your data center, which means the management of the solution is typically carried out by your internal IT staff. Such a solution allows businesses to have full control over every aspect of the system as well as secure company data. On-premise field service management software, like any on-premise software, typically entails a significant upfront investment. However, ongoing costs other than regular maintenance and service expenses aren’t much of a factor.

Cloud-Based Deployment

A cloud-based software solution is when the software is hosted by an external service provider who is responsible for all aspects of the infrastructure. Some of these aspects include data storage, security, server stability and maintenance. This software is accessible via the internet in a web browser and, sometimes, a mobile app. Cloud-based field service management software generally has a subscription-based licensing model. As a result, their upfront costs are low or nonexistent.

Now, when you’re evaluating which deployment option is best for you, what do you need to be aware of?

Which to Pick?

In the upcoming year, companies must be extremely agile in their response to the changing needs of their customers, as reports are saying that the field service industry could be worth nearly $4.45 billion by 2022. So which one should you pick in order not to miss your slice of the pie?

The cloud is:

  • Agile
  • Cheap (at least up front)
  • Scalable

But on-premise systems present their own significant advantages. On-premise solutions:

  • Are customizable
  • Can be scaled (in some cases)
  • Provide companies more control over their data

 

Field Service Management cloud vs on-premise installationsSo it’s understandably hard to pick which solution will suit all of your needs. Thankfully, it’s becoming increasingly common among FSM vendors to offer cloud deployments alongside their on-premise solutions, letting you stay mobile and benefit from everything an on-premise solution has to offer.

Developments in Field Service Management

Field service management is a surprisingly agile field. Just check out our trends article to get an idea of what we’re talking about. There’s constant growth in both the methodology and technology in service management, and one of the biggest ones comes from the unlikely fusion of uber-like technology with field service.

The Uberization of Dispatching

Do you remember what we said way back about how companies like Uber are using field service management software? Have you figured out how yet? We’ll give you a hint: start by thinking about automated dispatching.

When a passenger requests an Uber ride, the field service system processes the locations of all nearby drivers. Once it finds the closest one, it dispatches the trip to that driver. At this point, the driver can either accept or decline the trip. If they decline, the trip gets dispatched to the next closest driver, and so on. After a driver accepts, the passenger can track where the driver is, see the driver’s name and see an updated ETA.

The main difference between Uber’s field service management software and regular FSM software, however, is “crowdsourcing.”  As you probably know, Uber drivers aren’t full-time employees. Rather, they work whenever they want to, oftentimes only a few hours a week. This has become a massively successful business model, and traditional field service may follow suit. In fact, some companies are already trying it out, with positive results so far. It’s no surprise that the uberization of field services is one of the biggest trends in the industry.

Although requesting a technician at the push of a button isn’t here yet, the transparency is already possible. Boston-based Dispatch is a field-service platform that helps companies connect with their technicians and their customers better. Similarly to Uber, the platform lets customers see the incoming technician and provides real-time updates on their arrival time.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Game Changers in Field Service Management

“What does virtual reality (VR) have to do with field service management software?” You might ask. Well, it’s got a lot more to do with field service software than you think.

We reported on how augmented reality (AR) and VR were changing the game. They’re lowering the barrier to entry by deploying workers with a live connection to the back office staff, who can see what they see and direct their actions.

Imagine sending two unskilled employees to go do the work of an engineer, guided virtually by that engineer. Or maybe the engineer takes to the field, and, using AR goggles, is able to visit a worksite and pull up live data on a piece of equipment he or she might be working with.

VR and AR are also being used in training scenarios across the field. Companies like Stefanini are deploying VR and AR goggles and software to train their field service employees.

The future of FSM might not be behind a pair of screens, but behind a pair of goggles instead.

AI and Field Service Management — An Unlikely Match Made in Heaven?

Think of all the rote, boring and mechanical tasks you have to take care of when it comes to running the back office and managing people. There’s scheduling, asset management, dispatch and more. After a while, this starts to eat away at the time you could be spending doing other things — even with some of the best asset management solutions, you’ll still be bent over the keyboard working out little details.

Getting any of these details wrong can spell trouble for your business: unhappy workers means unhappy customers, both locked in a self-sustaining cycle of dissatisfaction.

Though it may sound like a trendy buzzword to you, artificial intelligence might just be the technology to save schedulers and managers from themselves. Almost half of all surveyed field service organizations say that automation is leading to the greatest source of their revenue growth.

Software like ServiceMax is already deploying automated scheduling, asset distribution and more to help make their customer’s lives that much easier. Picture this: when you’ve got a full day of service calls on the board, ServiceMax’s optimized algorithm goes through and assigns the best worker to each one, in accordance with their own, already-set schedules.

But it’s not all left up to AI. You can set rules and regulations regarding who is assigned what, and the AI will work around those rules to come back with the most optimized placements and asset assignments.

Suddenly you’ve got your board cleared up, and can move on to more pressing matters, all thanks to AI’s self-learning and self-sustaining capabilities.

FAQs

What Are The Different Types of Field Service?

There are four different types of field service, each one serving a unique and important role in a customer and professional life.

  • Repair: No fancy language or acronyms for this one. If something is broken or not working right, a fieldworker makes an appointment and shows up to fix it.
  • Maintenance: This is where things get a little more complicated compared to simple repairs. Maintenance is all about maintaining equipment in proper working condition, hopefully preventing the need for repairs. Which is why of the different types of maintenance (yep, there are different kinds of this too), preventative is the first and foremost.
  • Preventative: Routine, scheduled maintenance can help things run smoothly, with the goal of preventing the need for repairs entirely (that is the ideal, but not often the case). By pulling in data about their current assignment, they can also order replacement parts or schedule follow-ups to avoid the need for repairs altogether.
  • Predictive: This type of maintenance is done in anticipation of future faults and problems, and is often predicated by a non-critical warning of some kind. It could be an inordinate temperature reported by a gauge or a small leak of some kind. Predictive maintenance is powerful because it is performed on a still-working product, alleviating the need for repairs./li>
  • Corrective: Unlike predictive maintenance, corrective work is done on products that are still functioning, but due to a mechanical error, aren’t functioning at their full capacity. This can also be done in order to optimize performance, in the case that nothing is wrong.
  • Installation and commissioning: Though people would like to think of themselves as pretty handy with a set of tools, there are some things that just can’t be done without help from an experienced technician. Ever tried installing anything more complicated than a washing machine before? That’s what we have field service workers for. After the installation, the field worker will run a series of initial tests to ensure it’s functioning at its intended capacity.
  • Business consultation: Sometimes field service workers aren’t making repairs or installing things — they’re making complex judgments about your facility or site and writing up recommendations or prices. These judgments can vastly improve the performance of your business and operations. You’ll be better equipped to maximize the usage of your tools or worksite, as well as plan accordingly for future work or projects.

What Types of Businesses Use Field Service Management Software?

Any company that deploys skilled laborers and assets to off-site locations likely uses field service management software. But let’s demystify what “deployment of skilled laborers and assets” looks like.

It’s all about resource allocation on behalf of the company. If the technician is bringing tools, arriving in a company vehicle or installing rented hardware, they’ve probably got all of that logged in their businesses’ FSM software. Professionals like:

  • Electricians
  • Cable technicians
  • Plumbers
  • Carpenters
  • Carpet cleaners
  • IT technicians
  • Painters
  • Construction workers
  • Skilled craftsmen

All utilize field service management software in one way or another. Emergent fields like solar panel installation are also starting to take advantage of FSM software.

How Do I Know I’m Ready For a Field Service Management Solution?

Field Service Management apps are completely reinventing the way field service is handled. So how do you know if your business is prepared to start with one? Here are a few signs your enterprise is ready to utilize field service management:

  • You have a cumbersome back-office system that’s reliant on inefficient technology such as spreadsheets or documents
  • You’re losing time and money properly assigning technicians to jobs
  • Customer satisfaction scores are low due to a combination of factors like late appointments or long jobs
  • You’re onboarding contractors but are struggling to properly pay them or log them.

How Do I Select a System for Automating Field Service Management Tasks?

This is an important conversation to have with yourself and your team. Selecting a system for field service management in an already crowded marketplace is no easy task. First, you’re going to want to start requirements gathering. That’s business-jargon for asking yourself, “What do I need in my software?” Luckily, we’ve got a requirements guide that’ll help make that process a lot easier. Next is your all-important budget. Let’s face it: You’re not going to be able to proceed anywhere without selecting software that’s based on your budget. And finally, when you’ve assessed your field service management options via our curated list of software, you’re going to start what’s known as a request for purchase. RFP’s are long processes that involve multiple steps, so it’s better to have your requirements, budget, and some software selections ready before you start.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, you’re not still asking yourself, “What is field service management software?” But if you are, we’ve got a bevy of resources to help answer that question — and then some. We hope you’ve found this guide helpful on your quest to learn more about field service management, or maybe you still need help picking out some software to suit your business’s needs. If that’s the case, maybe look at our requirements template so you can get a good picture of what your company’s software requirements might be.

Have any questions about field service management? Let us know in the comments below!

Field Service Management Resources for Software Selection

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Field service management articles are written and edited by:

Jason Keller

Market Research Associate

Jason Keller is a Market Research Associate at SelectHub who writes content on Business Analytics Tools, Big Data Tools, Facility Management Software, Marketing Automation Software, Field Service Software and Endpoint Security Software. He studied journalism at the University of Northern Colorado, and in his free time likes reading and writing creatively, listening to music, hiking and hanging out with his dogs.

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Shweta Joshi

Market Research Analyst

Shweta Joshi is a Market Research Analyst at SelectHub. She writes content for Warehouse Management, Distribution and CRM.

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Thought Leaders

SelectHub has sought out and invited thought leaders to contribute to our field service management industry articles and resources. These thought leaders ensure we deliver quality content with the most accurate information, focusing on what matters most. No thought leader is compensated for their contributions, but shares our belief that information should be democratized so everyone can make the best decision.

Steve Hilton

Co-founder & President, MachNation

Steve Hilton is a co-founder and President at MachNation, the leading benchmarking and testing firm for Internet of Things (IoT) middleware and platforms.

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Sarah Nicastro

Director of IFS Service Management and Field Service Evangelist

Sarah Nicastro is a field service evangelist at software development firm IFS. For more than a decade, she has been helping service organizations make sense of emerging trends to determine how to improve their businesses strategically.

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Anil Pai

Global Head, Digital Field Service Management Practice at TCS

Anil Pai is the global head of TCS Digital Field Service Management, which is a practice focused on providing solutions and services to field service organizations around the globe.

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Empowering Your Field Workers with Field Force Automation

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Many companies still don’t know a lot about field force automation. It’s a fairly new enterprise resource that’s helping field service businesses to be more efficient and productive by capturing more data than ever before. Having an understanding of what field force automation is — and how to use it effectively — can help business leaders enhance the customer experience, improve revenue and empower their field workers.

Field force automation is revolutionizing how people work in the 21st century. By bringing specific data to the point of use, these types of field service management software and solutions provide workers and managers with more tools at their fingertips and makes them more capable ambassadors of their brands by taking field service and turning it into an automated, mechanized machine.

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Field Service Route Optimization and Planning Software

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Like most production industries, the transportation sector is facing challenging times. Rising fuel prices and tighter profit margins are forcing businesses to evolve and diversify. For instance, according to market research, there has been a substantial increase in the number of shippers outsourcing their transport needs to third-party logistics providers.  

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Best Work Order Management Software For 2020

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Work order management software is a specific kind of asset management solution that helps to create and manage service requests and — you guessed it — work orders. So, what is a work order exactly? Usually, these are for various types of maintenance tasks. Work order software is often folded into a category called computerized maintenance management systems, or CMMS software. But you can also find the appropriate functionality from field service management, or FSM software.

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Big List of Field Service Management Software Features

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Imagine you’re sitting at your desk, sipping your morning coffee after having just arrived at the office. All is well until you notice a huge stack of papers lying on the corner of your desk. You quickly realize that today isn’t going to be anything near easy. You thumb through the papers, full of job schedule complaints, work orders, and screenshots of texts and emails between your dispatchers and field technicians. Sounds like the stuff of nightmares, doesn’t it? But if you don’t already take advantage of field service management software features, this is more than likely your reality.

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What is Field Service Management? (Nearly) Everything You Need to Know

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What is field service management? It isn’t sexy technology, that’s for sure. It doesn’t offer the glamorous aesthetics of Instagram and its potential use isn’t nearly as widespread as autonomous vehicles. In fact, chances are those outside the industry haven’t even heard of it.

Yet, despite a lack of press and high-profile CEOs, field service management software is shaping the world of tech as we know it. We just might not realize it yet.

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Field Force Management Software And 5 Ways It’s Changing

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The field services industry is advancing at a rapid pace. Field force managers want to collect and utilize all the information they can possibly get as their employees work out in the field. With ensuring peak customer satisfaction being the endgame, proper field force management is the way to accomplish it. Enter field service management software. Just as field services are changing, so too is field force software.

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Field Service Trends And Predictions: Future Tech to Know About In The Next Year

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People outside the industry hear the words “field service” and, if they’re even familiar with the term, probably just think about the cable guy who helps them connect to the WiFi. However, those on the inside know that this industry is booming with innovation at every turn. New technology like the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR) and driverless cars all have a role to play in the next era of field service management software. To help you prepare for all the changes coming to the industry, we’ve come up with our perspective regarding the future of field service management trends and predictions.

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Best Field Service Management Software for Small Business

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Cost is easily one of the biggest concerns for small businesses. You know you need the tools to grow, but you can’t squander what you’ve earned so far. Field service management (FSM) software should provide you with the features you need to provide exceptional customer service but can’t break the bank. But, not to worry. There are many cheap field service software options with a wide range of capabilities. We’ve listed the best field service management software for small business starting with the most affordable options.

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Augmented Reality Field Service: A VR Game Changer for Field Service Management

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Field service management software refers, quite literally, to the system that manages a company’s resources when they’re off-premise, either en route to, or on-site at a client’s project location. Today, FSM software is employed by numerous industries whose business activities require the deployment of mobile agents or contractors for work assignments in the field. Augmented reality field service aims to change the nature of field service management.

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ServiceTitan Competitors: Competitive Analysis of Top 5 Alternatives

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With so many different options, selecting the proper field service management software for your business can be challenging. You may have heard of ServiceTitan, but what about other options? There are a number of alternatives, but we narrowed down our top five Service Titan competitors.

Choosing software is never easy, but knowing which features are a must-need for your business and which aren’t is important. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of a free trial either. Multiple FSM software vendors provide this as an option.

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ServiceMax Competitors: Competitive Analysis of Top 9 Alternatives

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If you’ve ever read our blog before, you already know how much we like to stress thorough research during the software selection process. That’s because each business operates differently and, therefore, won’t receive identical benefits from different software systems. For instance, ServiceMax is a top software system used by many field service companies, tied for first place on our field service management software leaderboard. However, it’s not the perfect system for every business, which is why we’ve put together a list of nine ServiceMax competitors. While ServiceMax is undoubtedly an excellent system, don’t forget to consider the following vendors during your software selection:

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Field Staff Management Software & Top Field Service Challenges

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Many of today’s companies need to manage large numbers of skilled staff across various locations. They may monitor the work of a geographically diverse staff, a high number of remote workers and/or a very large workforce. Modern field staff management software, also known as field service management, helps firms automate field staffing and make overall business management more efficient.

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Field Service Management Requirements Checklist

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If you know you need a new field service management (FSM) system but aren’t sure of much else, then you’re in the right place. You’re probably just starting out in your research and getting a feel for what’s available. You may have even found a system or two that’s caught your eye. But before you dive headfirst into the endless sea of field service software options, you’ll need a plan. The best way to go about shopping for a new system is to determine your field service management software requirements.

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What is Mobile Workforce Management?

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