What’s Missing on The Last Tactical Mile

In by Danika Delph

Do you remember the last time you looked up a number in the phone book? How about driving directions from a paper roadmap?

Chances are that it’s been a while. We tend to take the digitization of these tasks for granted. We expect to have the information we need readily available with minimal hassle.

If I am travelling in a new city for a meeting, I expect my digital calendar to remind me of the meeting’s time, mapping software to tell me how to get there, business software to provide me with all the tools I need to be effective during the meeting, and I expect all of this to be rapidly delivered to me. A few taps on a smartphone screen or on a laptop should be all it takes.

Inaccessible Data

It’s a very different story for the technicians and skilled laborers working on the last tactical mile. Having even the most basic information about where they are going, what they’ll be doing, and who to speak to when they get there may not be readily accessible. The data they need is all too often stored in outdated formats, buried in enterprise databases, or simply not made available for mobile work crews.

Too Much Data

On the flip side, because this issue is hardly a new one, this data can be obfuscated by an abundance of choice. Technicians may have access to numerous digitization platforms and enterprise dashboards which provide them with too much data, rather than the right data they need at that moment. They may need to contend with numerous logins, dashboards, programs, and even physical devices to get an answer to a simple query, such as: “What the hell do I do next?”.

These issues with data access are endemic to the last tactical mile. Every minute that a technician needs to scour a formidable dashboard or flip through a weighty paper manual, is a minute not spent on fixing a piece of malfunctioning equipment or preventing an unscheduled shutdown. And these minutes come with a hefty price tag. In 2016, it was estimated that downtime costs businesses an average of $260,000 per hour, up 60% from 2014[1].

It was estimated that downtime costs businesses an average of $260,000 per hour, up 60% from 2014

The Way Forward

Much like how I can expect to have everything I need for a business meeting on a single device, technicians need access to the same degree of technological efficiency. In an ideal near-future, a technician should enter a worksite having been automatically notified of what they need to do and where they need to be. And once there, they should be able to troubleshoot any issue or access any work-related data point with a few taps on a screen or keyboard. Office workers across the world have come to expect their workflows to be enhanced with digitized insights and rapid data access, so too should technicians.

We need to provide better access to information for those who work on the last tactical mile. More data and dashboards aren’t the answer. We need to remove barriers to data access, provide solutions that work both online and off, and have proactive methods of data delivery so technicians can spend less time searching and more time doing.

[1] https://www.aberdeen.com/techpro-essentials/stat-of-the-week-the-rising-cost-of-downtime/