Bill Pollock’s Responses to Field Service Digital’s Predictions for Field Service 2020

[Note: If you’ve just completed taking SFG℠‘s 2020 Remote Expertise Benchmark Survey and would like to download a complimentary copy of our 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey results, please click here: Servitization Journey.]

The remainder of this Blog represents the companion piece to Field Service Digital‘s “Ringing in 2020” predictions, as published in the December 20, 2019 edition of its digital magazine. However, this Blog contains the full text of my responses to FSD‘s eight questions. Please feel free to visit the FSD Website to view my edited responses, along with those of four other services industry experts, at: FSD – Ringing in 2020.]

Q1. There’s been a shift away from manufacturing toward the Servitization model—will this trend carry on into the next year? How will it evolve?

Pollock: Quite frankly, there’s been a shift away from manufacturing toward the Servitization model for decades already. However, while the manufacturing model is a well-entrenched, deeply-rooted model that everybody understands; the Servitization model is still not anywhere near being as widely understood – even within the services sector.

The transition from break/fix, to network services, to self-help, to remote diagnostics/support has been steady, and has followed a logical evolution over the years. However, the move toward Servitization requires more of a “leap of faith” as well as and a whole new mode of operating (and pricing) for which many services managers are still not familiar – or comfortable.

This trend has carried on for decades – and the services sector is just about ready to “rock and roll” with it moving forward; however, even some of the key (and more savvy) players are not yet 100% certain that they have it right with respect to re-engineering their overall service delivery structure; services support organization; KPIs and metrics; services support policies, procedures and processes; pricing, accountability – and the list goes on. As such, this trend will positively carry on throughout the next year – and well beyond – as each major group of services organizations (i.e., leaders, followers, “wait-and-see’ers”, skeptics, and all others) begin their respective transitions.

The evolutionary prospects for Servitization are quite simple: the market, as a whole, will need to see some prime examples of success in their respective vertical and/or horizontal services segments before making the plunge. They’ll need to move beyond all of the “failure” and pratfall stories before feeling more confident. They’ll need to hear some success stories – and, in their own segment. Bank/financial organizations will need to see how others in their field have succeeded, and what the positive results have been. The same will go for the medical/healthcare segment, manufacturing/industrial segment, and so on.

Most organizations will also need help with how to price “power by the hour”, “airplanes in the air” and other “new” ways for pricing their services. I suspect there will be an uptick in the number of case studies, Webcasts and conference sessions focusing on these and other related areas. Servitization is – and will continue to be – a big deal for years to come.

Q2. Organizations are transitioning from providing corrective maintenance to predictive maintenance—how will this continue to shape the industry moving forward?

Pollock: Corrective maintenance has worked for many years because, basically, that’s all the industry had to offer. From the break/fix, call the manufacturer’s hotline, days; through the current remote diagnostics and repair days, there has been a common thread running through our industry: Some piece of equipment fails, a call is made (i.e., either by phone, in the past; or, today, remotely from the equipment itself) and a corrective action is taken.

However, these are examples of the soon-to-be -bygone OTR (i.e., On-Time-Response), MTBF (i.e., Mean-Time-Between-Failure), MTTR (i.e., Mean-Time-To-Repair), FTFR (i.e., First-Time-Fix-Rate) and PM (i.e., Preventive Maintenance) days. Through Predictive Diagnostics and Predictive Maintenance the need for any On-Time Response will be highly diminished, as will the need for MTBF, MTTR and FTFR KPIs/metrics, etc. Over the coming years, there will be the need for “new” metrics, such as MTBPF (i.e., Mean-Time-Between-Prevented-Failures); MTTR will be measured in minutes or seconds, rather than in hours or days; FTFRs will be normalized as everything will get fixed in a single attempt, whether it requires a single “try”, or multiple “tries”; and PMs will virtually disappear (or at least be replaced by another PM = Predictive Maintenance).

There will be a whole “new” way of delivering service, as well as measuring the success of the organization through an entirely “new” set of KPIs, or metrics. [By the way – I have already written many times about the need for “new” KPIs/metrics and, respectfully claim the rights to MTBPF!]

Q3. Customer expectations for uptime have grown—how have service providers responded? What more can they do? What will move the needle in 2020?

Pollock: Customers no longer will be pleased simply with equipment that is working, sensors that are communicating, and devices that are operating – they are now beginning to look more closely at how their systems, equipment, sensors and devices are working together, in their behalf to get the job done. A services organization that merely keeps individual systems or equipment up and running (i.e., maintaining high levels of uptime), but does not ensure that they are all working together to effectively and efficiently execute the company’s business, will ultimately find themselves being replaced by other services organizations that do. The clear winners will be those organizations that “get” Servitization, and not those that do not.

Again, what will move the needle in 2020, is clearly communicating to the marketplace what failures to avoid (and how to avoid them), and what successes can be had (and how to achieve them). There will need to be an industry-wide educational “push” as to what Servitization really is, what it can do for the organization (and what will happen if they don’t embrace it), what the ultimate value propositions are for transitioning to this “new” model, and what some of the best success stories have been.

Q4. Field service automation software continues to mature, but are companies leveraging the full potential of existing capabilities? What’s standing in  their way?

Pollock: Most services organizations are not currently using their respective Field Service Management (FSM) solutions to their full capabilities. The most successful organizations may come close, but there are few that eke out all of the capabilities that may otherwise be offered to them. Some may augment their FSM solution with a home-grown Excel spreadsheet “patch”; others may be using their Sales & Marketing Management (SMM) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions for activities that their FSM could (or should) be able to support; and still others may not even be aware of the full spectrum of capabilities they may have right at their fingertips. Again, it becomes an educational process that should be driven by the FSM solution providers themselves through the offering of strengthened professional services, such as customer portals, training, train-the-trainers, etc.

As some FSM solution providers may be focusing more on developing Augmented Reality (AR), Merged Reality (MR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) based applications to bolster their offerings, they may be relatively deficient in focusing on the basic, or “core”, components of their solutions and, thereby, miss the opportunity to help their customers/users get the most out of their offerings.

Q5. How much more heavily are organizations relying on apps and mobile devices for service? How will this change in 2020?

Pollock: Society, as a whole, is relying more and more on apps and mobile devices for communications and, in many cases, the services sector is leading the way. Most FSM solution providers are providing their customers/users with more apps and customer portals to facilitate their use of the solution, as well as for communications with their remote support providers. Every year, a higher percent of business is being conducted remotely, and the need for more functional mobile communications is increasing commensurately. The IoT stands for the Internet of Things; and in this regard, humans may also be considered as one category of “things” that the IoT helps to connect. 2020 will see the proliferation of all types of “things” connected to one another through the IoT: systems, equipment, devices – and people. In fact, the numbers of connected things will likely to continue to grow at an accelerated rate in 2020 – and beyond. The more connectivity there is, the better the delivery of service can be.

Q6. How will companies continue to expand their use of AI-powered field service technology?

Pollock: Basically, companies that are already using AI technology in support of their services operations are much more likely to expand its use over time – and, probably, very quickly. However, companies that do not yet employ the use of AI in their services operations typically lie on either side of the fence: either, “we need to do it now”, or “let’s wait and see how this all works out.” The pressure to embed AI in their services operations will be so intense, however, that there is likely to be a surge in usage throughout 2020 and successive years.

Primary uses of AI include the powering of a chatbot capability; the ability to identify key target markets for selling/upselling/cross-selling products and services; and the ability to make their overall services operations work much more productively and efficiently.

Q7. How will AR and VR technologies continue to empower service techs? How rapidly are these implementations happening?

Pollock: Just as Virtual Reality (VR) has made watching American football games easier for the layman (or woman) to understand, it is also making it much easier for field technicians to repair equipment in the field. No more bulky documents or manuals are required, and training programs can be short-cut (to a certain degree) as AR and VR, merged together into MR, can lead the technician to a “perfect” fix, first time, and every time.

The move toward AR and VR is beginning to grow even faster as more installations have been deployed, and more success stories are making the rounds (at trade shows and Webinars, etc.). In fact, the merging of AR and VR has sent out a signal to the “Wait and see’ers” that they may be missing the boat on AR as it is already merging with VR – all while many of their competitors are beginning to implement AI and Machine Learning platforms in support of their services operations. The time to move is now – before it’s too late in terms of having your competitors ending up being better equipped to support (and market to) their targeted customer base.

Q8. With the rise of IoT-connected devices and smart homes, what challenges lie ahead for the field service industry? 

Pollock: The rise of IoT connected devices and smart homes provides a major value proposition to customers, as well as to the FSM solution providers. However, what also comes along with the benefits are a number of potentially serious consequences. For example, once virtually everything is connected, smart systems will likely become more susceptible to power outages, hacking and various types of breaches in security. The analogy is: before watches, people used sundials to tell time. Then watches could help them tell time – until they either wound down, or the batteries went dead. Today, if the global satellite network goes down (e.g., as a result of space debris, solar flares, etc.), many things we all take for granted will stop working, including a partial/temporary halt to our ability to tell time, make change, or communicate to one another via our mobile devices.

As an example, I have written my responses to Field Service Digital’s questions for this interview with a pink post-it note covering the camera on my iMac. At the same time, Alexa is probably listening to anything I say without me even thinking about it. Somewhere across the globe, there is probably someone standing outside the front window of a home and yelling at Alexa, Googol or Siri to “remind me what my password is for the front door security code.” What the “expert” hackers can do to outsmart smart homes or businesses will only get more invasive – and potentially dangerous – over time (i.e., the invasions of privacy tend to happen first, with the “patch” or “fix” coming later).

The need to provide continual connectivity PLUS protect the privacy of the customer/user will be paramount as more and more smart implementations go into play.

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