There are many industries in which field operations are a major part of the work, but that opens up some potential problems. Any time there is a separation between the head office and the field team, communications errors can lead to mistakes and wasted time. This can happen even when both sides are trying their best and understand what the goals are. The nature of business means that the segment of a project that involves field work frequently has to change, so poor communication can make talking about that change with the field team difficult and frustrating. Here are some useful technology and techniques for maintaining good communications.
Making the most of your mediums
First of all, it’s a best practice to send out each piece of information in more than one format: talk about things in a Skype call and then follow up with an email summary. That way, you can use the different benefits of each medium. A phone call allows for great simultaneous dialogue, so everyone on the call can hash out the details and talk things out. But an email is good for summaries and refreshers, because it leaves a paper trail that is easy to search and store. Tapping into the power of different media is key to successful communication with field work.
It is also important to make sure the technology is reliable. Inconsistent Internet connectivity poses a serious threat to good communications between the field team and HQ. This is especially problematic in more remote areas, where the work is also more difficult and dangerous. VSAT equipment can provide consistent connections with field teams; this not only keeps communication channels continually open, but it also provides continual connection to your team, which adds to their safety. Providing a VSAT terminal at both the field site and HQ enables both parties to communicate over the Internet without any problems.
Tailoring communication to your project’s needs
Much also depends on the specific project. For example, an energy company might have one site that is established and reliable and another site that is more exploratory. The exploratory site needs more direct oversight, so it has a greater need for robust, frequent communication. That changes the picture of what kind of equipment and protocols are necessary at both sites. There could be benefits to more communication and better hardware at the exploratory site. However, it might be more convenient to establish one, single standard for field communications and use it across all remote sites. This is more common in larger companies that have more field sites to manage. It is a compromise between ease of use and customized solutions.
Growth is also a factor. A small field operation has very different needs from a large one, and trying to channel all of the necessary Internet content for a bigger operation into the bandwidth of a smaller one will slow everything down. Finding both hardware and software that will scale up easily is important for any field project that is slated to grow in the future. A bigger dish can send and receive more data. The managerial team can either start with a small system and replace it, or use a scaling system from the start. The better option will depend on the future of each project.
One of the key things to note is that the individual needs of each field project are very important for determining how to set up the right protocol and tools for communicating well. Having open and clear lines of communication where everyone understands the context and their goals is essential for coordinating efforts. No mater what kind of field work it is, having that level of understanding will always make or break the outcome. That is why it pays to think not only about the current needs of the project, but also whether or not they will grow and need new attention to ensure communication is still functional. Larger projects are also more complex, so crystal clarity is a must. Keeping this article in mind will help you decide how to build communications with your field workers and ensure that everyone is on the same page.