How Service Managers Can Meet Today’s Most Pressing Service Management KPIs: MSI Data’s Interview with Bill Pollock

Field service industry expert, Bill Pollock, explains how service management KPIs in 2016 are shifting back to the basics, although the ways they measure and exceed those goals are changing fast.

[Reprinted, with permission, from MSI Data.]

A seasoned field service analyst, Bill Pollock, president and principal consulting analyst at the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based research analyst firm Strategies For Growth (SFG), has his eye on service industry standards and provides no shortage of advice for service managers looking to run a top-flight field service department.

In this interview, Bill breaks down how business leaders can improve key metrics, such as profitability and customer satisfaction and what service managers can to do exceed key performance indicators (KPIs) using today’s technologies.

Today’s service KPIs are back to the basics, but also back to the future

Even though there have been many changes in how companies do business, and there are many new technologies that have transformed business processes, many of the traditional service KPIs have stayed the same. For example, customer satisfaction is still #1. “The best practices organizations have 90% or higher customer satisfaction,” said Bill.

Service Management KPIs

Here are the top KPIs Bill highlighted for today’s service organizations:

1. Customer Satisfaction
2. Total Service Revenue
3. Total Service Cost
4. Technician Utilization

Returning to Normalcy: The Evolution of Service Management KPIs

In fact, the priority of these top KPIs have evolved significantly in the last decade.

“Recently, we’ve been seeing total service revenue surpass service cost. In 2016, we’re seeing 72% of organizations looking at total service revenue, and 69% at total service cost.”

While this isn’t a huge difference in percentage, it’s reflective of the trend to increase revenue from service since the cost-cutting days of the 2008 recession. According to Bill, best practices organizations are more focused on revenue than cost.

“During the recession, KPIs were cost oriented: cost, per product; cost, per field engineer; cost for service. But, after 2-3 years, the most aggressive – and progressive – organizations had cut all the costs they could, and the market started coming back to revenue generation.”

Service organizations are prioritizing revenue-production over cost-reduction. But, in 2016 they’ve started coming back around to placing the highest importance on customer satisfaction.

“Today, now that best practices organizations have implemented everything they could to generate more revenue; they’ve come full circle, back to normalcy, and back to customer satisfaction as the most important measure of success.“

How Service Managers Can Help their Team Meet KPIs

As a service manager, it’s one thing to set goals and another to meet them. Empower your team to meet the KPIs you’ve set by following these tips:

  • Set targets: Decide on the baseline, and define standards or targets. Then create a plan to reach them.
  • Define a scoring methodology: Determine how you’ll measure success and assign individual scores that roll up to a total score for each category; for example:
    • 95-100% = Exceeds expectations
    • 85-95% = Meets expectations
    • 0<85% = Does Not Meet expectations
  • Link KPIs to critical factors that drive the performance of the organization. If the metric is not directly linked to a critical organization success factor, it will probably not be worth the resources to measure.
  • Assign someone to take ownership of the data coming in. If you don’t have accurate data to report on, there’s no chance you’ll achieve your goals.
    Communicate KPIs clearly to everyone involved.
  • Invest in resources necessary to achieve goals. You can’t expect someone to increase measurement in an area without listening to their needs and giving them the resources to make improvements.
  • Foster collaboration between sales and service. Give sales-reps an incentive to sell more service contracts and turn the service department into a profit center.

Technology is Changing How Service Organizations Set Goals and Measure KPIs

Manual or paper-based service processes make it nearly impossible to track the data necessary to manage and measure KPIs. That’s part of the reason why FSM software is a crucial piece of the service management puzzle. Not only does it improve service operations, it also enables you to collect the information you need to measure improvements.

“You could be looking at the right KPI for your business, but calculating it the wrong way. You can use technology to figure out what the problem is. Then, once you know the problem, it’s a synch to fix.”

Conclusion: Always Room for Improvement

In closing, Bill emphasized the importance of continuous improvement and measuring success. “Even if what you’re doing is rated as excellent today, you still need to improve it. How are you going to do that? You need to measure where you are and make improvements from there.”

Even if you’re turning a profit today, if you’re not taking steps to stay up-to-date and relevant, you’ll find yourself slipping to competitors.

Bill suggests that “Now is your time! You have the technology; you’re collecting the data. Now you have to use it effectively!”

____________________________________________________________________

Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For Growth (SFG), the independent research analyst and services consulting firm he founded in 1992. In 2015/2016, Bill was named “One of the Twenty Most Influential People in Field Service” by Field Service News (UK); one of Capterra’s “20 Excellent Field Service Twitter Accounts”; and one of Coresystems’ “Top 10 Field Service Influencers to Follow”. He writes monthly features for Field Service News and Field Service Digital, and is a regular contributor to Field Technologies. Bill may be reached at +(610) 399-9717, or via email at wkp@s4growth.com. Bill’s blog is accessible @PollockOnService and via Twitter @SFGOnService.

Real Time May Not Be Enough When Augmented Reality Can Make It Even More Real!

[Excerpted portion of our Feature Article published in the April 21, 2016 edition of Field Technologies Online]

Augmented reality may just be the “next big thing” in field service.

It hasn’t really been all that long since the field services community was introduced to the concept of “real time.” Prior to the introduction of real-time data collection, analysis, and dissemination, most field service organizations (FSOs) typically relied on batch-collected and processed data generally obtained from multiple sources over an extended period of time together with data often read and input by hand into numerous paper templates so they had to wait for the proper review and approval before the processed data could be distributed to relevant parties. Fortunately, those days are long gone!

Field Service Methods And Measurements Are Changing

However, real time may no longer be good enough for the global community of FSOs and their respective field technicians. As traditional KPIs (key performance indicators), such as Mean-Time Between-Failure (MTBF), have steadily shifted from measurements reported in numbers of days, weeks, or months just a couple of decades ago to practically “never” today for many products, this particular metric finds itself diminishing in importance and is no longer being measured by a growing number of service organizations. And even when equipment is about to fail, the easy availability of predictive diagnostics, remote diagnostics, and real-time communications has made this formerly important KPI nothing more than an afterthought for many FSOs.

This is where augmented reality (AR) comes into play. According to whatis.techtarget.com, “Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.” Think of the “yellow first-down line” that magically appears when you’re watching a football game; that’s AR, in that it doesn’t create a “new” virtual reality, but, rather, enhances the perceptual reality that you, the viewer, are able to visualize while watching the next down take place. It’s not a new creation; it’s an enhanced reality that makes it easier to process what’s going on and what needs to be done next.

[To read the full Feature Article, please visit the Field Technologies Online Website at: http://www.fieldtechnologiesonline.com/doc/when-is-real-time-not-enough-when-augmented-reality-makes-it-even-more-real-0001?atc%7Ec=771%20s%3D773%20r%3D001%20l%3Da&utm_content=33205462&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.]

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

What the Acquisition Means to Microsoft / FieldOne Users – and Non-Users

The acquisition represents a “win-win” situation for both Microsoft and FieldOne customers for the following two principal reasons:

  • FieldOne’s Field Service Management (FSM) solution enriches the ever-evolving Microsoft portfolio of business management and customer relationship management-related tools to include a more expansive application that is suitable, not only for its services provider customers, but for any business that deals with both customer service and a mobile workforce (i.e., isn’t that virtually every business?); and
  • FieldOne benefits from the ability to support its FSM customer base with a full, and coordinated, spectrum of not only what it takes to run a services organization, but with a complete portfolio of what it takes to run a business.

A longtime complaint among users in the FSM space is that the selection of vendors they have available to them is essentially a conglomeration of individual “best-of-breed” solution providers whose applications cannot – or will not easily – co-exist in a single services organization – let alone in a synergistic fashion. As a result, many users have had to find multiple providers to support them with respect to their needs for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Mobile Workforce Management (WFM), Field Service Management (FSM) and various other Business Management applications or modules.

While some of the leading, larger Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) vendors, such as SAP or Oracle, say they can deliver it all, the services marketplace, as a whole, remains duly unimpressed. It may also be argued that Oracle’s July 2014 acquisition of TOA Technologies should have thrust them into the limelight of the FSM market, or that PTC’s August 2012 acquisition of Servigistics should have done the same. However, the market is still waiting for whatever sea changes “should have” come – but have not, as yet.

There are still many “seasoned” analysts and services managers who remember when Hewlett-Packard’s acquisition of Tandem Computers (1997) and merger with Compaq (2001) were supposed to propel the “new” company to the top of the mainframe, mid-range and PC product and services mountaintops – but that never materialized – although it is still being talked about today!

Some skeptics also forecast a level of disappointment in the acquisition. They say that Microsoft is “too large”, and that it will “gobble up” the much smaller FieldOne FSM business. Others say that FSM represents only a very small percentage of Microsoft’s overall customer base and, as a result, will largely be ignored by the parent company in deference to its other business management and CRM-related endeavors.

However, this acquisition appears to be very much unlike what we may have seen in the past (i.e., Oracle, HP, etc.) in that there really is a true “fit” between the two companies with regard to their respective roles in supporting its customers’ organizations. As pointed out earlier, any Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer with both a customer service and a mobile workforce function will benefit from the acquisition; conversely, any FieldOne solution customer will also benefit from the ease of incorporating a leading CRM function (plus numerous other business services functions) into their overall services operations.

While at first glance, the benefits may not be as evident for non-current Microsoft or FieldOne customers, there is still quite a strong rationale for why the acquisition is a good thing. For example, many services providers do not presently have a formal CRM functionality supporting their customer services operations (i.e., particularly among Small and Medium-sized Businesses, or SMBs). For this group, the ability to select the FieldOne solution to manage their field service operations, coupled with the ability to select a companion CRM solution that works in total synergy with it, effectively eliminates one vendor from each business’s multi-vendor mix, and provides a total solution for managing both their services operations – and their business – all through a single provider.

Again, conversely, a services organization that has been running a formal CRM program for some time now, but is not happy with its present FSM solution provider, can easily make the switch to FieldOne, as it is already part and parcel of the overall Microsoft family of business solutions.

Further, the proliferation of cloud-based CRM and FSM solutions has normalized the overall playing field to allow business of all types and sizes, and of all financial considerations, to select from among the same long lists and short lists of prospective solution vendors, and pay for their services “as they go”, rather than in a large initial capital expense normally associated with a more traditional perpetual license scenario. The cloud has made it easier to select a solution provider, as well as easier to pay for its services. It has also made it easier to switch vendors, if the current one is not believed to be up to par.

Not having sat in on the pre-acquisition negotiations between Microsoft and FieldOne, the rest of us are left to post-acquisition conjecture as to why the argument was sound, and what ultimately drove the two companies to move forward with their joint plans for dominating the FSM market.

First, the impact of the acquisition on the existing Microsoft CRM Dynamics user base:

As a brief back story, in January 2014, Microsoft acquired Parature, a customer service SaaS provider. This acquisition bolstered the existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM product by augmenting it with the capabilities of a world-class self-service knowledge base designed to connect users across multiple channels via e-mail, the Internet, chat and social media. One of the principal attractions of Parature to Microsoft was its proprietary knowledge base that integrates context, search, prediction and learning, tying directly to social data and processes. At the time of the acquisition, Parature boasted 70 million customers – about twice the number from only three years earlier.

Another key benefit was that, along with the combined resources of Parature, Microsoft could provide customers with a state-of-the-art means for solving problems on their own, rather than having to call an “800” number or going into a chat room. As such, it made Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM product a more complete tool for users who wanted the flexibility to manage their customer relationships on their own, and performing as much of the associated problem solving themselves , but without the necessity of having to use an external help desk every time. This was very important to some customers, as a large percentage of users (e.g., gamers, etc.) typically desire to have this added capability for heightening their overall customer experience, without the need for external intervention.

According to Bill Patterson, Senior Director, Strategy and Planning for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft already had all the process capabilities in place for routing information in a complex call center workflow, but that Parature could be expected to help broaden its capabilities, as well as position the company to more effectively compete against other major players, such as Salesforce.com, the acknowledged market leader. Microsoft has since fully integrated Parature into its Dynamics CRM platform, although the company plans to run the company independently for the foreseeable future.

By now adding FieldOne to the mix, Microsoft has staked out the ground for positioning itself as a complete solution for supporting all of its services organization customers’ requirements for both CRM and FSM, while also providing a comprehensive knowledge base to strengthen the overall customer experience; along with an entire portfolio of leading business management solutions. In essence, the acquisitions of these two companies allows Microsoft to provide its customers with all of the tools necessary to support their entire business – and customer experience – whereas, previously, they could not deliver the FSM portion of the equation, nor could FieldOne, on its own, deliver much more than FSM.

The two acquisitions have served to coordinate all of these synergistic functionalities under a single roof – but, without necessarily removing all of the autonomy from either of the two acquired firms – at least, not as yet. Nonetheless, it remains clear to see that the addition of FieldOne to the Microsoft family of products reflects the company’s increased service focus as it continues to expand its presence in the global CRM market.

Current Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partners also believe that the acquisitions of Parature and FieldOne will be beneficial with respect to their own roles in marketing and promoting the product. For example, many Partners acknowledge that since the FieldOne solution is built on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform, it will ultimately be an “easy sell” for them to their general market base – particularly among the services organization segment. They also believe that the addition of the new Parature Customer Service functionalities (i.e., chat, knowledge management and self-service functionality, among others) will upgrade the current Dynamics CRM Service Module to one that will make the overall product much stronger – and saleable.

The fact that the FieldOne solution is a cloud-based offering, with cloud-based ease of use, implementation and pricing, also makes it a very attractive product for the Microsoft Partners to sell. They also acknowledge that, as the FieldOne solution was built on the Microsoft Dynamics platform, it works extremely well with other Microsoft Products, such as SharePoint and Office 365. However, they are quick to point out that the solution can also work on most of the industry’s other leading non-Microsoft devices that are designed to support a full mobile experience. For some prospective customers, this is certainly one of the most important aspects of the chosen FSM solution.

This FieldOne solution is also acknowledged as being fully synergistic with the Microsoft suite of Dynamics CRM products, delivering a comprehensive set of functionalities ranging from automated scheduling, to work order management, inventory and procurement management, asset contract, workflow capabilities and mobile collaboration. The consensus among most Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partners is generally that FieldOne is an attractive addition to the product line, especially with the support that may be provided through the Parature functionality – all on a single platform, and from a single vendor.

Now, the impact of the acquisition on existing FieldOne Sky users:

Both Dynamics CRM and FieldOne Sky are cloud-based solutions backed by the full resources of one of the world’s leading services organizations – Microsoft. Added to the mix, as previously stated, is the Parature Customer Experience solution. All working on the same platform, these acquisitions provide a comprehensive solution for organizations that either consider field service management to be one of the business’s top priorities, or simply approach it as an add-on to their existing customer services offerings. As such, for FSM organizations, the combined Microsoft offerings will represent a major upgrade to the overall functionality now typically available through a single provider.

FieldOne’s flagship product, FieldOne Sky,  already provides customers’ businesses with full FSM functionality, but, from this point forward, will be seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM (and via acquisition, Parature) as one of the most complete FSM solutions in the marketplace. FieldOne Sky already provides rich reporting and data visualization features, but as a result of the acquisition, is now able to provide its customers with Microsoft’s full line of business intelligence and analytics-oriented solutions, as well.

The benefits of a combined Microsoft Dynamics CRM/FieldOne offering is quite significant to both segments of existing customers. Basically, the acquisition brings the following to the table for existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers. Existing customers will now have the ability to:

  • Monitor and manage their field service needs through the same system they use to monitor and manage their customer sales and marketing activities
  • Add both a predictive and preventive capability in the field, rather than performing primarily in a reactive mode with respect to supporting their field service operations
  • Manage every interaction throughout the entire customer product sales and service lifecycle, leading to a superior customer experience
  • Meeting – and exceeding – customer expectations through the application of “deep insights and intuitive tools” made available through the integrated Parature knowledge base capabilities
  • Measure performance metrics across the company’s entire sales, marketing, customer service and mobile/field workforce through a single platform
  • Track the most important business analytics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can ultimately drive ongoing service quality improvement
  • Combine field service data with company sales, marketing and customer service data to build a stronger knowledge base to support combined data analytics and continuous quality improvement
  • Integrate the company’s CRM and FSM solutions to enhance cross-functionality and drive operational excellence throughout all sales, marketing, customer service and field service activities
  • Manage all of the company’s workforce resources (now, including the field workforce) by availability, logistics, skill level, workload, automated scheduling and more – all in a seamlessly integrated fashion
  • Shorten the timeframe of customer service cases that bridge between product sales, customer service and field service, thereby fostering faster overall resolution times
  • Integrate robust field service features for the first time, and begin to focus on the overall customer engagement
  • Work with a comprehensive CRM solution that is also fully optimized for field service organizations

For Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partners, the “new” offering also provides the ability to expand their respective sales and promotional activities to include additional cross-selling and upselling opportunities, thereby allowing their previously separate CRM and FSM sales teams to work in concert with one another.

For existing FieldOne customers, the combined offering also provides significant benefits, as follows:

  • The combination of CRM and FSM functionality in a synergistic solution is becoming increasingly important to services organizations that deal with both field service and customer service (i.e., CRM); ultimately, both must be tied together in order to support the full customer experience
  • Because FieldOne Sky is already built on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform, it easily integrates with other Microsoft products (i.e., Office 365, etc.) and, therefore, the overall integration process would neither be particularly invasive nor costly
  • The ability to input field service data/information directly into a CRM system will enable users to better support their customers, while also identifying new sales and marketing opportunities
  • The ability to leverage Microsoft’s existing capabilities in Azure IoT and Cortana Analytics can also help customers be more creative in the way they use device-generated data and analytics to identify service opportunities
  • Services organizations can now be much more proactive and predictive in the way they engage with their customers, as their overall customer knowledge base will be that much more powerful
  • Any new FieldOne functions can be delivered either on-premise or in the cloud, via integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.
  • Users now have an easier road ahead toward the integration of CRM into their overall field service operations, without having to rely to Microsoft’s historically “minimal” field service application, as FieldOne Sky delivers a more robust solution than had previously been made available through Microsoft

Summary and Takeaways

Most industry analysts believe that the acquisition of FieldOne was a smart move by Microsoft, primarily on the basis of the reasons stated in this Analysts Take. However, in terms of providing a summary of the overall picture to the services industry, as a whole, there are still some additional reasons that may be stated.

For example, while Microsoft is a fairly ubiquitous player in the product and services segments of the Information Technology (IT) sector and, certainly in the CRM segment through its market leading Dynamics CRM solution, it has never been perceived as one of the ‘one-size-fits-all” types of vendors that provides its customers with everything they need to both run their specific business processes, let alone their entire business operations.

Even following its most recent acquisitions, the company is still far from being positioned in such a manner. However, with respect to the confluence of CRM and FSM, it can now boast a combined, state-of-the-art, and comprehensive dual solution for its services organizations customers that, arguably, cannot be matched by any other single vendor – especially with respect to users in the various SMB markets.

The acquisition of FieldOne has already done a number of things for the company’s overall reputation, including alerting the marketplace that it is aware of the inter-relationships between its existing portfolio of business products and services, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Field Service Management (FSM) – and that it plans to take actions to do something about it (i.e., to become the dominant FSM player within a five-year period).

This move has also notified the market that Microsoft recognizes that businesses need to rely on more than just general business solutions software and, that by delving deeper into its customers’ “mission-critical” business operations, it can become a more important provider to that customer. Again, with all things delivered on a single platform, by a single vendor.

Microsoft’s acquisition of FieldOne was also very smart as it was neither a knee-jerk nor an impromptu decision on its part. FieldOne had been properly vetted over time and, ultimately judged for its “fit” on the basis of its tenure in working alongside Microsoft in supporting a growing portion of its customer base. Its March, 2015 selection as a Microsoft Strategic Global Independent Software Vendor – the only Field Service Management Partner in the Microsoft program – further reflected the faith that Microsoft had in the company, its management team and its solution. This has been key to the success of the FieldOne brand, as Microsoft has since been actively promoting and selling the FieldOne Sky solution through its global sales operations for the better part of the past year.

Still, as in any business acquisition scenario, there are potential downsides to the resultant combination. More than a few industry analysts have noted concern that there might be some prospective customers that believe that their field workforce will not receive full technical and customer support if they are deploying the solution on mobile devices other than those provided by Microsoft (i.e., iOS or Android). If this would be the case, they believe they may find themselves at a disadvantage with respect to receiving the same high levels of support from Microsoft than if their solution were deployed on Microsoft product. However, most analysts do not believe this to be a major concern – although it may cause some in the market to wait just a little longer to move forward with the company if the are still harboring any doubts.

Another area of concern is with respect to potential dissonance among the Microsoft Partner network. For example, the company already has built relationships with competitive vendors (i.e., competitive to FieldOne) in the likes of Astea, Fieldpoint, Wennsoft and several others. As such, some of these other vendors can find themselves both cooperating with, and competing directly against, Microsoft, depending on the specific prospect and opportunity. Of course, this will not be the first time that this type of situation will have arisen as a result of an acquisition; so it is unlikely that anything much will come out of this scenario.

Finally, there is always the risk of the market looking back over its shoulders and asking questions like “Whatever happened with respect to IFS’s acquisition of Metrix, Oracle’s acquisition of TOA Technologies, PTC’s acquisition of Servigistics?” and so on. The greater the perception that some of these vendors may have “disappeared” following their acquisitions, the greater the skepticism may still be with respect to the FieldOne acquisition. However, the recent spate of acquisitions within the FSM marketplace has probably already steeled potential users to set aside their fears based on other vendors’ past actions (or lack thereof), and look at the FieldOne as being a good thing.

If Microsoft can pull it off – and there is much justification as to its ability to do so – there should be little residual concern left in the marketplace after a short period of time. However, the market also clearly recognizes that it has choices and, that Microsoft management would be well-served to allocate its vast resources and deep pockets to assure that its quest to “dominate” the FSM market will reflect a clear and well thought out plan for doing so. It also does not hurt that Microsoft plans to keep the current FieldOne management team intact as it moves forward.

The Impact of Microsoft’s Acquisition of FieldOne on the Global FSM Landscape: An SFG Analysts Take (Part 2 of 3)

How the Acquisition Jives with Market – and FieldOne Customer – Expectations

While the market expectations for the impact of the acquisition initially rolled out at a heightened level, there was still some skepticism as to exactly how “all in” Microsoft will be in offering a true Field Service Management (FSM) or Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) solution. However, Slasky assures that “The team at Microsoft, in the Dynamics group, has been following the FSM or SLM space for many years. They know all the players in the space and have contemplated whether to build or buy a solution that addresses this very large and rapidly growing market.” Obviously, they chose to “buy”.

“In their many discussions with their enterprise customers, Microsoft has come to fully appreciate how significant a need there is for a Field Service solution, and how underserved this market really is. The customer feedback has validated much of their internal thinking, and their intention to go after this market was truly the impetus for the acquisition of FieldOne.” Slasky goes on to say that “We have been working with them over the past couple of years, with increasing frequency, on ever-larger opportunities. The acquisition of FieldOne is a natural extension of that working relationship which will allow Microsoft to realize their aspirations of becoming a dominant force in the Field Service Management market.”

As is the case in any major acquisition, while the market is typically impacted by the changing composition of the overall vendor landscape, it is the existing customer base that is generally the most heavily impacted segment. Again, Slasky assures his FieldOne customers that “Microsoft has repeatedly commented that their customers and ours are the biggest beneficiaries of this transaction. Customers will benefit from an even tighter integration of FieldOne Sky and Microsoft Dynamics CRM that leverages powerful predictive analytics and weaves intelligent Field Service functionality into the increasingly innovative Microsoft Dynamics offering. By pairing FieldOne Sky with the capabilities of Cortana Analytics, Parature and Power BI, to name a few, both Microsoft and FieldOne customers will have predictive maintenance and Internet of Things capabilities at their fingertips.”

Further, since the “Microsoft and FieldOne product teams have been working together for some time now … the real benefit will come when they can truly share their respective product roadmaps and fully leverage solutions for the good of the customer. There are things that FieldOne does exceptionally well that will allow Microsoft to leverage in the core Dynamics CRM product. In the same way, the product roadmap for Microsoft Dynamics CRM will allow FieldOne to better leverage the core platform for key features that customers are asking for. This will become all too evident for customers on product releases later [in 2015 and 2016].”

Clearly, the acquisition of FieldOne by Microsoft is a game changer – particularly for the existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer base that is involved in any aspects of the field service management market. According to Slasky, “More and more enterprise customers want to benefit from the breadth and scale of their software vendors who have integrated solutions to offer them. Customers have repeatedly told Microsoft and FieldOne they prefer to have the large software companies provide the solutions that are so instrumental to their daily operations – solutions like FSM and SLM.”

So far, Slasky has been encouraged that “Customer response to the announcement has been nothing short of ecstatic as the market realizes how much will come from further product development that reaches more broadly across FSM/SLM. For customers to now have a single source where they can purchase end-to-end solutions – CRM for their sales efforts, Parature for their customer support needs, and FieldOne for their field service needs – meets the needs of so many enterprise accounts looking for these very solutions as part of their customer engagement strategy.”

However, perhaps, the ultimate aspirations of the “new” Microsoft/FieldOne FSM solution is to position Microsoft as “a remarkably significant player in the FSM space” by joining forces and offering its solution “through Microsoft.” The primary goal at FieldOne has all along 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”.

The Market’s Initial Reaction to News of the Acquisition

Largely, the market’s initial reaction to news of the acquisition has been positive – although some still remain skeptical as to the potential magnitude of the “game changing” impact it may ultimately have. Others believe it to be a good move, but mainly for existing customers of the two organizations who will likely benefit from the expansion of their CRM offerings into the FSM domain, and vice versa – but, only for those firmly immersed in the field service management sector.

Still others see little, if any impact to those services organizations that are currently using, or planning to use another FSM solution provider to manage their service operations – that is, other than FieldOne, regardless of whether they are using Microsoft’s CRM product or not. Among this group, clearly the news has been positive – but not necessarily seen as a major “game changer”.

Among some of the leading published reactions to the announcement are the following:

  • Fortune expounded that “Microsoft is serious about capturing the attention of information workers who aren’t sitting at desks. That would be repair people and the like who, by necessity, are on the road as opposed to in the office.”

It further stated that this acquisition represents, “the first big public move out of the Microsoft Dynamics business applications teams since it was swept into the software giant’s cloud and services group as part of a massive reorg in June [2015]” coming “just four months after the two companies signed a strategic alliance to integrate Microsoft Dynamics customer relationship management application with FieldOne’s flagship suite, which includes scheduling, routing and inventory.”

The magazine then added that “Some estimates suggest [the field service management market to be worth about $18 billion” and that ‘Microsoft’s acquisition pits it against ServiceMax, which is closely allied with Salesforce. That company added more than 140 companies to its cloud platform last year, including enterprise accounts with up to 40,000 technicians. The deal will also get the attention of Oracle, which moved more aggressively into the market last year [2014] through the buyout of TOA Technologies.”

  • Venturebeat, the tech news organization, noted that “The deal comes four months after the two companies announced a ‘multi-year agreement’ that would allow companies to access Microsoft Dynamics and FieldOne’s tools in one package,” and that “Buying FieldOne instantly turns Microsoft into a go-to provider for yet another type of business software and helps the tech giant diversify itself a little bit further. But perhaps more importantly, over time Microsoft can set a new standard for what field service software can be, by connecting it with sophisticated tools like the Cortana personal digital assistant that’s part of the recently announced Cortana Analytics Suite.”

They went on to emphasize that, “The company’s software can run in companies’ on-premises data centers or as a cloud service” and that “Mobile apps are available for field service workers.”

  • The VAR Guy noted that “Microsoft sees FieldOne’s mobile apps and cloud services aimed at remote workers, including automated scheduling, dispatching, work orders, inventory contracts and collaborating, as offering another element to an end-to-end enterprise solution with its Dynamics platform,” and repeated Microsoft Dynamics partner group program manager, Param Kahlon’s, claim that “What keyed Microsoft’s interest in FieldOne was the mobile component” and that mobile customer service technology is “one of the key areas that will drive the growth of Dynamics CRM.”
  • GeekWire noted that “The acquisition comes as Microsoft sheds products and services in other parts of its business, including scaling back its Windows Phone hardware business, the recent sale of its display advertising business to AOL, and the acquisition of Bing Maps assets by Uber”, thereby suggesting that this may represent a significant shift in the direction Microsoft will be taking to support its customers’ total services needs in the future.
  • The Street noted that “Microsoft shares are advancing 1.79% to $46.48 on Thursday afternoon, after the company announced today that it is acquiring FieldOne, a field service management solutions provider.” It also repeated some of the official announcements from Microsoft that, “The acquisition will give Microsoft the ability to take service directly to the customer, as enterprises are looking to improve their responsiveness with customers,” and “additionally, as FieldOne allows businesses to drive revenue, reduce costs and deliver great customer service, it will only enhance Microsoft’s customer service capabilities.”
  • eWEEK headlined its post with “The deal is an early step in bringing predictive analytics and IoT-driven workflows to field service workers.”

The e-magazine also reported that, according to Bob Stutz, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, ”FieldOne’s technology will be incorporated into the Dynamics CRM product portfolio. Param Kahlon, partner group program manager and CRM program manager at Microsoft, also told eWEEK that “In terms of integrating the tech and the company’s talent, the companies are already on the same page.”

“FieldOne has built [its] field service delivery service on our product,” said Kahlon, referring to the platform’s basis in Microsoft’s CRM. “In terms of go-to-market, it’s already built on our stack,” he added, suggesting that there will be few technical hurdles in linking the companies’ platforms. Although the integration process is in its earliest stages, Kahlon predicts that a FieldOne-based solution will be made available first on Dynamics CRM Online and later on its on-premises counterpart.” Further, “Most of the solution’s developers are also expected to make the jump to Microsoft.” It’s the software giant’s “intent to keep most if not all the employees,” Kahlon said.

  • Also, from eWEEK’s interview with Microsoft’s Kahlon, “The deal, several months in the making, helps Microsoft flesh out its cloud-delivered CRM vision. When we look at the Dynamics portfolio, we have strong products in sales, marketing and a pretty strong product in customer service as well. Acquiring Parature solved that [last] part,” he said, referring to Microsoft’s earlier acquisition of Parature, a provider of customer-facing self-service software, in January, 2014.

The technology also aligns with Microsoft’s Internet of Things (IoT) push and continuing efforts to popularize workplace analytics, for work environments such as oil rig inspections or on-site repairs of business equipment or industrial machinery. By layering services like Azure IoT and Cortana Analytics, and armed with “a lot of sensor data,” Microsoft hopes to aid field service organizations in these and other segments in the transition from a “break-fix delivery model to a predictive model,” said Kahlon.

“Businesses are starved for ways of better integrating their field service operations into their customer service efforts,” said Ilan Slasky, CEO of FieldOne. They are juggling “hundreds of millions of service calls and work orders annually,” he stated. Seeking better customer outcomes and more efficient business processes, FieldOne is “seeing demand from all sorts of companies that desire to differentiate themselves from their competitors.”

“They lack the right technology and they admit this freely,” Slasky said of his company’s own customer engagements. With a strong focus on mobile-enabled productivity and collaboration, FieldOne’s platform helps businesses that regularly dispatch field personnel “automate and improve,” he said.

  • MyAppsAnywhere reported, “If you haven’t heard of FieldOne before, this tool is designed to deliver field service management options built around servicing customers while in the field. The acquisition will allow Microsoft to incorporate more customer service capabilities into Microsoft Dynamics CRM.”

“At its core, FieldOne handles the field service management piece of comprehensive customer service. In short, it allows businesses to respond to customer needs while in the field – or as Microsoft states it, ‘taking service directly to the customer anytime a service cannot be managed by phone or other channels.’ In terms of impact, Microsoft’s statement likens the acquisition of FieldOne to the earlier acquisition of Parature and suggests the two will complement each other in Microsoft’s bid to provide comprehensive customer service tools within the Microsoft Dynamics CRM space.”

Further, according to MyAppsAnywhere, what this means to customers is that, “CRM users will have access to a cloud-based service that will allow them to handle work order management, automated scheduling, asset contract, inventory and procurement management, workflow capabilities and mobile collaboration all from a single, mobile source within their Dynamics CRM platform. Think the ability to adjust routes on the fly or deliver service arrival estimate times with smaller windows – FieldOne is essentially offering the flexibility to make customer service decisions off the cuff.”

  • CRMBuyer announced that the acquisition of FieldOne’s technology will “add a new dimension to Microsoft Dynamics CRM” through the provision of “field service management tools for work order management, automated scheduling, asset management, contract management, inventory and procurement management, workflow capabilities and mobile collaboration”. It further quoted Microsoft spokesperson, Stacey Andrews, as saying, “These capabilities allow people in enterprises and mid-market companies to better manage and deliver service to their customers in the field.”

Andrews went on to say that, “This announcement is further evidence of our [that is, Microsoft’s] commitment to providing the most comprehensive customer service offering available,” Andrews added. “We will continue to support existing FieldOne customers, and for new customers, the FieldOne capability will be available with Dynamics CRM in the near future.”

  • Business Cloud News reported that, “Microsoft has acquired FieldOne to strengthen its Dynamics CRM offering,” and that the move was “aimed at complementing its Dynamics CRM customer service capabilities …[since] The cloud-based field service management software is already built on Microsoft technology on the back and front-end (Dynamics CRM), making integration with Office 365 somewhat more straightforward than it would be otherwise.”

The news source echoed Fortune’s belief that “the FieldOne acquisition is a ‘major step’ toward helping it round off its customer services software portfolio” and that it was “reminiscent of a similar acquisition made last year [i.e., 2014] by Oracle” when it “bought TOA Technologies, which it rolled into its Service Cloud offering.”

  • CIO Review called the acquisition “an early step towards deploying predictive analytics and IoT-driven workflows to field service workers;” that “Through this acquisition Microsoft integrates FieldOne’s technology into Dynamics CRM product portfolio;” and that “The technology affiliates with Microsoft’s Internet of things (IoT) catering to workplace analytics.”

In the CIO Review piece, FieldOne CEO, Ilan Slasky, was quoted as saying, “Businesses are starved for ways of better integrating their field service operations into their customer service efforts. Seeking better customer outcomes and more efficient business FieldOne is seeing demand from all sorts of companies that desire to differentiate themselves from their competitors.”

In each of these industry reviews, from a variety of sources, one thing is clear; the consensus is that most analysts believe that the acquisition is a “win-win” for both existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM and FieldOne customers. However, the one question remains as to whether the “new” Microsoft/FieldOne FSM solution will be the one to dominate the market in five years or less. For this, the jury is still out; however, there are arguments – on both sides – for why this may, or may not, be the case.

[Watch for Part 3 coming up shortly in a subsequent @PollockOnService Blog!]