Business Analytics in Support of an Effective KPI Program: The Importance of Data Analytics

From the results of the Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, updated in 2015, more than one-half (52%) of respondents cite that developing and/or improving the metrics, or KPIs, they use to measure field service performance is the top strategic action currently being taken with respect to optimising their organisation’s overall service delivery performance.

However, for Best Practices Field Services Organisations (FSOs) (i.e., services organisations that are already attaining levels of customer satisfaction at 90% or higher, and services profitability of 30% or greater) this figure increases to 61%. The percentage jumps even higher, to 64%, for UK/Europe-based services organisations; that’s right – more UK/Europe-based respondents cite their respective KPI programs as the top strategic action they are currently taking – moreso than the survey’s top-of-the-line Best Practices survey segment!

So, why is the establishment of a services KPI program so important? Mainly due to the targeted applications that most of these organisations have for using the collected, analyzed, measured and distributed data – basically for the following top reasons:

  • To improve field service
  • To make product design changes/improvements
  • To make manufacturing changes/improvements
  • To make changes to product documentation
  • To make purchasing decisions

Nearly as many respondents in the UK/Europe (i.e., 48%) also cite the use of a business intelligence/analytics solution as one of the top technology applications currently used to support their services operations – and another 39% cite knowledge management as a top-used application. However, few of them actually refer to these programs as “big data” – just, simply, business analytics!

What this proves is that, for most FSOs, data collection, analysis, measurement and sharing is not conducted merely for the sake of doing so – but, rather to:

  • Build, maintain and apply these data to a formal services KPI program
  • Distribute/share the collected and analysed data with the appropriate departments and individuals within the organisation
  • Establish and maintain an enterprise-wide knowledgebase from which all facets of services operations can benefit from – and build upon
  • Share the database/knowledgebase with all components of the enterprise (i.e., manufacturing/production, warranty management, forward and reverse logistics, etc. – rather than simply “holding the data hostage” within the FSM or Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) areas of the business
  • Use the data, and resultant database, knowledgebase (or, for the largest of organisations, data lake) to foster a more collaborative relationship between and among the key departments/divisions that ultimately have an impact on supporting the customer

But how big does your data really need to be in order to support each of these functions? The required size of the database, or knowledgebase, will depend largely on the size of the organisation, the volume of field service activity conducted on a regular basis, and other key measures of throughput that characterize the overall “size” of the organisation and its requisite data analytics needs. Similar types of organisations, with similar characteristics, but with order-of-magnitude differences in one or more key throughput factors may find themselves with totally different needs for data; big, small or otherwise.

The one thing to remember is that all services organisations need a minimum of data to support their respective operations. Call it what you will, but they will still need the analytical support contributed by a formal Key Performance Indicator (KPI), or metrics, program; the structure of a formal service call data activity repository; a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database; accessibility to a centralized database, or knowledge bank to support management decision making; and all of the performance metrics and measurements required to evaluate and assess the organisation’s performance over time.

An effective business analytics program is what most organisations need – not big data, data lakes, or the construction of overly-sophisticated, cumbersome and highly inefficient knowledgebases. It should never be primarily a matter of how much data needs to be collected; but, rather, the ability to collect enough data to support the organisation’s overall business analytics goals, objectives and targets.

[Our thanks to Astea UK for commissioning this Blog on Data Analytics. For more information, directly from Astea, please visit their Website at www.Astea.com.

You may also wish to visit the Astea UK booth at Copperberg’s 2016 Field Service Summit in Oxford, UK, 12 April, 2016. For more information on the Summit, please visit the conference information Webpage at www.fieldserviceexcellence.co.uk.]

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The Impact of Microsoft’s Acquisition of FieldOne on the Global FSM Landscape: An SFG Analysts Take (Part 1 of 3)

Looking at Microsoft’s Acquisition of FieldOne – Six Months Down the Road

On July 16, 2015, Microsoft announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire FieldOne Systems LLC (“FieldOne”), a world-class provider of field service management solutions that allow organizations to better manage and deliver service to their customers in the field. And depending on your own, specific feelings about this acquisition, it would either represent the beginnings of a “sea change” in the Field Service Management (FSM), or Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) markets – or simply another smaller, state-of-the-art, high-tech services solution provider being swallowed up by a larger, more broadly-focused Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) company (e.g., Microsoft). Initial indications are that it will be the former.

So far, the published evidence looks promising … , but the “new” company, supported by the vast resources – and deep pockets – of Microsoft still has much to prove – and relatively little time (i.e., the window keeps closing) to do so in order to capture the market’s trust. But, again, the early indications suggest that Microsoft fully plans to enter into the Field Service Management market – big time!

In its official press release announcing the acquisition, Microsoft stated that, “In today’s connected world, people expect to engage and be engaged by organizations in new ways, in ways that are most convenient for them. To help businesses respond to these changing expectations, we are committed to providing the most comprehensive customer service offering, and this includes the best field service capabilities.”

The release went on to say that, “Field service management is a specific but critically important area of customer service, providing companies with the ability to deliver end-to-end field service. This is a unique, and transformational point in time for these solutions as enterprises look to improve their responsiveness to customers with service in the field – taking service directly to the customer anytime a service cannot be managed by phone or other channels.” This, according to Microsoft, was the main reason behind the acquisition – that is, to provide a full spectrum of service and support to its global customer base.

Published in one of his industry Blogs, Bob Stutz, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, stated that, “In this critical area, FieldOne really stands out. They have the baseline functionality that organizations need to drive a more effective field service operation. They are a leading provider of end-to-end solutions that enable businesses to drive revenue, reduce costs and deliver great customer service. Their industry-leading solution specializes in delivering a full set of capabilities that include work order management, automated scheduling, asset contract, inventory and procurement management, workflow capabilities and mobile collaboration – providing enterprises with a comprehensive modern field service solution. This gives companies the ability to do things such as adjusting routing on the fly and delivering service arrival estimate times within a smaller window, which is essential for more personal customer engagement.”

Stutz went on to say that, “FieldOne is a great fit for Dynamics CRM adding to our extensive customer service capabilities – which includes chat, knowledge management and self-service functionality from Parature which we acquired in January of 2014. Like Parature, FieldOne is offered to customers as a cloud service. It’s built on Microsoft technology for fast integration, it already works great with other Microsoft productivity offerings like Office 365 and SharePoint, and has cross-platform capabilities meaning it can work on different devices enhancing the mobile experience which is so critically important in field service management. FieldOne was built from the ground up to leverage Dynamics CRM, and this means that our customers can take advantage of its capabilities right away.”

The acquisition of FieldOne by Microsoft also represents a major portion of the company’s plan for “providing customers with complete and comprehensive solutions that address their end-to-end service needs.” In the press release announcing the acquisition, Microsoft explains that the move is a “major step forward in providing the most complete customer service offering in the market through Dynamics CRM. And with the potential to enhance these capabilities through machine learning and predictive analytics, we are changing the game in customer service.”

It further states that this acquisition “reflects the investments we are making to deliver true systems of intelligence – enhancing our current offerings with predictive learning and analytics to deliver an intelligent, proactive customer engagement solution. Field service businesses are aggressively trying to move away from a reactive break-fix model to predictive service based model. With this acquisition, Microsoft can help companies tap the potential of predictive service by bringing together the powerful combination of FieldOne, Azure IoT and Cortana Analytics. That means that organizations can use insights that effectively provide servicing proactively while streamlining the provisioning of service to significantly reduce costs.”

This mission for Microsoft to provide a comprehensive CRM and Field Service Management solution to its services customers is praised by Ilan Slasky, CEO of the acquired company, FieldOne, who explains the rationale behind the acquisition of the company to be founded on the benefits associated with becoming an integral part of one of the world’s largest customer service organizations. He says, in his first Blog following the announcement of the acquisition, “With the market for field service solutions growing rapidly, and demand being driven by the need for mobile software solutions and cloud-based products, Microsoft recognized the unique capabilities of FieldOne Sky and our ability to address a very real market need. It became apparent to both companies that joining forces to bring FieldOne Sky to the market together was indeed compelling” – “together” being the operative word.

“For FieldOne, having the breadth of the Microsoft sales and marketing organization, and leveraging their product development group to augment our R&D efforts was instantly attractive. Our ability to aggressively grow our business across the enterprise is much, much stronger partnered with Microsoft.”

He further echoes that, “Microsoft has identified field service management software as an enormous and rapidly growing market. For Microsoft, the opportunity to bring a fully integrated field service solution into the Microsoft Dynamics group, pairing it with the powerful capability of applications like Azure, Parature, Cortana Analytics and Power BI, led to a natural conclusion that it made perfect sense to acquire FieldOne.”

According to Slasky, the major capabilities that FieldOne brings to the Microsoft table are “particularly in the areas of mobility and cloud, and FieldOne’s focus on processes, data and predictive service.” As such, with these new capabilities, Microsoft is now positioned to “provide end-to-end customer service solutions to enterprise companies as they manage and leverage IoT assets,” and since “FieldOne is built on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform, Microsoft customers will gain immediate value from FieldOne’s functionality.”

Slasky also believes that “the biggest winners in this transaction will be our existing customers. As the companies begin the integration process, our customers can expect a seamless transition. Essentially the same FieldOne team that has partnered with our customers in the past, will be there to support them into the future. However, the FieldOne team will now have access to the far deeper range of Microsoft capabilities. In addition, Microsoft will continue our commitment to enhancing and expanding the capabilities of FieldOne Sky.”

Probably the greatest impetus for FieldOne’s quest to become part of the Microsoft domain is its desire “to be a remarkably significant player in the FSM space by offering its solution through Microsoft. “Our primary goal at FieldOne has been to bring our solution to the enterprise, empowering them to meet the twin objectives of delivering a superior, differentiated customer experience and doing so in the most efficient and productive manner possible.”

“We recognize that the quickest way for us to reach the largest of enterprise customers globally is to do so with Microsoft, whose sales teams are calling on these very same accounts looking for ways to help them meet their objectives. I would all but guarantee that over the next five years, Microsoft and FieldOne will be the dominant player in the market for FSM software, and will be recognized for its innovative, client-driven solutions for this evolving and rapidly growing market.”

[Watch for Parts 2 and 3 coming up shortly in subsequent @PollockOnService Blogs!]