By Heather Clancy
March 10, 2015

Cloud software company ServiceMax is gaining some heavy-hitter board members this week. That’s drawing new attention to technology for automating field services, especially mobile applications for overhauling inefficient processes.

The appointments, disclosed Monday by Re/code and set to be announced later this week, include former Jive Software CEO Tony Zingale (who used to work with ServiceMax CEO David Yarnold at Clarify Software) and former Epiphany Software CEO Roger Siboni.

ServiceMax specializes in software that automates tasks and processes for service technicians, delivery teams and other field workers that spend very little time at a desk. That’s roughly 20 million people globally, in field services alone. If you include occupations in healthcare, manufacturing and other industries, those desk-less workers add up to an estimated 80% of the U.S. workforce. In January, the company released its first native app for Android devices (it already supports one for iPad and iPhone).

“Being ‘field-ready’ means making sure technicians have access to the people, the processes, the systems, and the data they need to do their job at all times, and that’s what we deliver with our mobile applications,” Yarnold said.

Over the course of its existence, ServiceMax has raised $120 million in venture financing. Its last round was a $71 million Series E led by Meritech Capital. Other investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Emergence Capital Partners, one of the venture capital firms backing Box. One story line suggests that the appointments point to an initial public offering in the near future.

Field services software and other industry-specific applications that “democratize access” to technology are a big focus for Emergence’s new, oversubscribed $335 million enterprise cloud venture fund, according to general partner Kevin Spain, with whom I chatted last week.

The firm tracks at least 400 early stage companies that are building mobile-first apps for healthcare, retail, agriculture, construction and other industries where most people are constantly on the go, he said. The potential market size for transforming processes far away from desks? Up to $100 billion, estimates Spain. “Mobile devices are making entirely new app categories possible,” he said. “This is a greenfield opportunity.”

Here are three existing Emergence portfolio companies building practical field apps:

  • Augmedix, which is building applications for doctors that use Google’s SmartGlass technology to collect patient data. (It has raised approximately $23 million.)
  • Doximity, a secure messaging app that counts at least half of U.S. doctors as registered users. (Its reported total funding is about $82 million.)
  • Handshake, a developer seeking to bring wholesale trade into the digital age. (So far, it is supported by $8 million in Series A funding.)

Another example comes from Kofax, which develops electronic signature software and other workflow applications. This week, it introduced mobile technology that uses photos of passports, driver’s licenses or national identity cards to initiate processes—such as opening a bank account.

“As customers demand to interact with businesses through their mobile devices, companies must respond by creating mobile applications or mobile web experiences that reduce customer friction at the start of the relationship,” wrote Sheryl King, research director of Yankee Group/451 Research, in a recent report.

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