Companion Piece to Field Service Experts Interview in the May, 2017 Issue of Field Service News

[This companion piece to the Field Service News May, 2017 issue focuses on the impact of the recent spate of events (i.e., mergers/acquisitions, strategic partnerships, new entries to the FSM competitive landscape, etc.) that appears to be transforming the global services industry. As is the case in the magazine’s multi-analysts interviews, most of these responses are not included in the published feature. As such, please consider this Blog as a more detailed companion piece that provides additional “between the lines” thoughts and opinions.]

Q1: Why do you think that Field Service Providers have recently become an attractive target for investment – is this indicative of the growing importance of field service to the wider economy?

The current spate of acquisitions of Field Service Providers is long overdue. In fact, it should have happened years ago! However, the acquiring organisations seemed to have other priorities in mind with respect to broadening and strengthening their existing offerings, and tailoring them to a more narrowing-defined market space.

For example, CRM vendors tended to focus more on expanding the functionality of their respective CRM platforms, while ERP vendors tended to do the same with theirs. Remember, there were days – way back when – when a Field Service Management (FSM) solution provided only the functionality required to run a services operation – but not a services business (i.e., no accounts payable/billable or accounting functionality; no reverse logistics; no human resources; etc.). In those days past, a services business would also need to acquire ancillary software packages (e.g., anyone remember Peachtree Software) in order to manage the entire services business.

However, it’s a bit different today. As more and more software providers expand their offerings to run the entire business, they now market themselves as offering a “new” type of platform for doing so.

In general, it will be those organisations that move into (or buy into) the field services arena – for all the right reasons – that are most likely to be successful. That is, if a field service functionality makes sense as a logical extension of their existing offerings, then they will be more likely to succeed. However, those that attempt to “ram their way” into what is already a fast-growing and vibrant market sector, some without even having a complete FSM offering, will find themselves “busted” in the eyes of their targeted market base.

Q2: The FSM solution space has seen huge innovation in recent years, is there a danger that with so much M&A activity this innovation will plateau, and if so is the technology now available suitable to empower field serve organisations to meet growing consumer demands?

Currently available technology, coupled with newer technology that always seems to be lurking “just around the corner”, is already sufficient to meet (and exceed) all of the FSO’s requirements for managing their field service operations – and then some! It’s already here!

As such, the global services market is not likely to experience a plateau in terms of recognition, adoption and/or deployment of these new technological advances anytime soon. In fact, as the proliferation of technology appears to be eclipsing adoption by the marketplace, there is no plateau in sight. There is still a “mountain of growth” ready to be conquered!

As such, this accelerating growth is likely to bring more FSM provider suitors to the forefront rather than less. For example, three or four years ago, how many field service managers thought that Microsoft would acquire itself into the fray? Many industry analysts missed the signs that Oracle was about to acquire TOA Technologies. However, with several major players already having acquired, licensed and/or organically entered the field services market, the question arises: Who will be next?

On the demand side, where has Apple been? What about SAP? What about any of the large, global, systems integrators? On the supply side, what, if anything, will ultimately happen with ClickSoftware? What about the “tried and true” historical vendors, like Astea? And what about all of those Venture Capital and investment firms that seem to be gobbling up one FSM vendor after another?

The technology is already here! Watch out for the impending approach of more acquiring organisations!

Q3: Finally, the comments from each of these acquisitions almost universally refer to FSM “platforms” and certainly there is a growing trend for Field Service Management tools to be part of a wider service platform solution. Do you think that ultimately we will see FSM become as integral to business systems as ERP and CRM?

The difference between an FSM solution and an FSM platform is that the former is essentially used to run the services operations, while the latter is used to run the entire business. As far as marketing and market positioning go, doesn’t “platform” sound more important than “solution”, anyway?

CRM-based solution providers have long touted their products as full “platforms” that may be used to run an entire business; ERP-based solution providers have essentially marketed their offerings in the same manner. By incorporating an FSM solution into their respective offerings, they can now all claim (and, probably, rightfully so) that their offerings represent a complete (or near-complete) platform upon which future services functionalities can be built – whether strictly in support of field service operations, or any other business activity.

However, it is not necessarily a “slam-dunk” that FSM will become as integral to business systems as ERP and CRM, as not all businesses have field service offerings – while all have (or should have) an ERP and/or ERP capability. Further, as remote and predictive diagnostics, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality (AR), make further footholds in the general services arena, running a field service operation may become more important, while become less cumbersome to run (and, as such, more likely to be outsourced, possibly, to a third party).

For the time being, FSM will likely remain subservient, in most cases, to CRM and ERP – but will only become more important to those FSOs for whom FSM is basically the whole business to them.

[To access the published Field Service News feature, please visit their website at www.fieldservicenews.com.]

Companion Piece to Bill Pollock’s Field Service Experts Interview, Posted by Mobile Reach

[This companion piece to the Field Service Experts interview series posted by www.MobileReach.com focuses on “The Future of Field Service Management”. As is generally the case with interview pieces, most of the responses are not included in the published feature. As such, please consider this Blog as a more detailed companion piece that provides additional “between the lines” thoughts and opinions.]

Questions for Bill Pollock:

Q1: You’ve seen field service evolve over the years in your various roles. In what ways is field service management changing now? 

BP: I’ve seen the Field Service segment evolve several times over the years, from break/fix, to network services, to software support and such. However, the introduction of the Internet of Things, or IoT, is going to have a much greater and profound impact on the global services community than anything else that has preceded it! In fact, it already is!

For years, services managers have been talking about ways in which to reduce a “truck roll” in order to save money, and repair the customer’s equipment remotely – first, by phone, or assisted self-help; and, now, via remote diagnostics and even predictive diagnostics.

Truck rolls are not necessarily a thing of the past; however, they have greatly diminished in frequency as a result of the integration of the IoT into Field Service Management (FSM) systems.

Improvements in business analytics have also assisted field service managers in their ability to manage their entire business operations – and not just the field service aspects of the business. There are more analytical tools available now than ever before, and most managers are actively engaging their dashboards, so they can intelligently manage their field service operations.

Through the use of Augmented Reality (AR) apps, now actively being combined with Virtual Reality (VR) to form a more complex and robust “Mixed Reality” (MR) capability, we are likely to see even more advances in the types of technology that will ultimately reduce the cost of performing service – for both on-site and remote repairs – over time.

Also, with technology visionaries like Elon Musk, who started out with his Tesla business, branching into solar panels and, of course, SpaceX, we are likely to see more and more technological advances coming down the pike. For example, Musk’s new venture, Neuralink, has set its goals on attaining the ability to “merge” the power of the human brain with the power of the IoT, in order to upload and download “human thoughts” onto chips, and vice versa. Imagine the impact that new ventures like this will have on all aspects of business, if successful! All of a sudden, veteran field services technicians will become just as important as the influx of computer-savvy millennials with respect to their experiential value to the Field Service Organization (FSO).

The process goes on and on, and field service management will continue to evolve over time, as a result.

Q2: What are the strategic opportunities you’re seeing for field service organizations?

BP: The greatest strategic opportunities for FSOs will be to gain additional efficiencies as they use the IoT to power their field service operations. Of course, the converse is equally true, in that those FSOs that do not step up to the challenge will ultimately find themselves falling further and further behind the technology curve, their customers’ expectations for quality of service delivery, and their ability to compete head-to-head against not only the market leaders, but any small, medium or enterprise-sized services organization that has already embraced the new technologies.

There may still be a “wait and see” attitude toward AR, VR and MR at this time, as no single solution provider has come out with an industry-leading solution just yet. Anyone remember the decision as to whether to go with the Sony BetaMax or VHS? For many organizations, it’s the videotape wars all over again!

However, regardless of the organization’s size, vertical industry segment or geographic coverage, there are ample opportunities for ALL services organizations to take advantage of the IoT and Cloud-based FSM solutions to take their operations to the next level.

From our most recent Field Service Management Benchmark Survey Update, conducted in December/January 2017, we find that the top two drivers influencing the global services community, as cited by a majority of respondents, are (1) customer demand for quicker response time, and (2) need to improve workforce utilization and productivity. The question arises, then, “How can the services organization adequately address these two key issues without the strategic advantage of an IoT-powered FSM solution? ”The answer, of course, is increasingly. “It can’t!”

Other strategic opportunities can also come through strategic partnering with complementary technology solution providers. PTC is doing this with ServiceMax, and their respective relationships with GE Digital (ServiceMax’s parent company); and many smaller FSOs are involved in supporting partnerships with either Microsoft, for its CRM capabilities, and/or Salesforce, for its sales and marketing management tools; etc. Customers want what they want, and in most cases, they don’t care whether their primary FSM solution vendor is offering its services directly or indirectly through strategic partnerships. In fact, many customers like the fact that their FSM vendor is linked in some way to GE Digital, Microsoft, Salesforce or other industry giants.

Q3: What features in field service platforms are critical now and what will be necessary in the future?

BP: For many FSOs, a standard scheduling functionality is simply not doing the job anymore, and many have set their sights on solution providers that can offer optimized scheduling, etc. The same applies to standard business analytics vs. advanced analytics, as well as for the various components of spare parts and inventory management. In fact, what used to be “passable” in the past, now looks a little bit “dusty” and, as such, some FSOs have elected to move forward with more robust functionalities made possible through the integration of the IoT into their FSM systems.

Nowadays, legacy platforms may not be able to accommodate such new technology apps as AR, VR and MR, and, as a result, newer platforms need to be implemented to power these new capabilities. The same goes for implementing predictive diagnostics and remote diagnostics capabilities for most FSOs.

Mobility is also important, particularly with respect to real-time data collection, sharing and transmission to relevant parties within the organization. Can the organization’s existing platform handle all of these new technologies? Probably not! Therefore, newer platforms will need to be implemented, and they will need to be pretty much state-of-the-art.

Q4: What role do you see the Internet of Things playing in field service management?

BP: The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming an integral component of ANY FSO’s desire to be able to improve its services processes, streamline its services processes, collect and share business analytic data, and serve the customer better. It’s already here!

FSOs will be greatly behind the technology curve if they do not have existing IoT-powered FSM capabilities – or at least a primary FSM solution provider that does. The IoT is quickly becoming the chief differentiator that divides those FSOs that can meet the challenges of the present, let alone the future; from those that cannot.

Without the IoT, there can be no predictive diagnostics; there could be no AR, VR or MR; there could be no chance of being able to compete directly against those FSO who do have these capabilities. Just as Cloud-based FSM solutions normalized the playing field across all services industry segments, the IoT is now doing the same – but on steroids!

In the past, falling behind the technological curve still gave the FSO an opportunity to catch up in another year or so. However, there is not that much time available for catching up anymore. Falling behind for just a few months may represent too much of a gap to make up.

The IoT allows all FSOs to keep pace with the market leaders, regardless of their size, reach or reputation, etc.

Q5: How are mobile technologies changing the way field service organizations interact with and serve customers?

BP: Mobile technologies are, of course, also of critical importance to FSOs. Without a full complement of mobility, it would be as if you’ve got all this technology “hidden” in your office, but you can’t share the benefits with your field force or customers. This is particularly true with respect to customer engagement activities and business analytics.

For example, competitors may already have the capability to generate customer contracts, invoices and other types of paperwork right at the customer site. They can obtain a customer’s signature immediately and, by doing so, eliminate much of the “float” that has been historically associated with paper-based forms management and USPS “snail” mail, etc.

Mobile technologies can also make an FSO’s business analytics capabilities much more vibrant. What good does it do to collect real-time data if you can’t share it in real time? In other words, a full-bodied mobility platform can improve any FSOs “velocity of service” by shaving off days, if not weeks, of delays and potential paper-based mistakes, etc.

Having the IoT generate data in real time, but not getting relevant data and information out to the field in real time, is a big mistake. The combination of the IoT and mobility can help FSOs avoid this opportunity cost.

Q6: How are you seeing field service organizations use mobile technologies to drive revenue and maintain a competitive advantage?

BP: The float issue is only one small component of how mobile technologies can assist in driving revenue and maintaining a competitive advantage. There are many others, as well.

However, it is important to note that, if all you’re doing is automating bad processes, then you’ll only be doing all of the wrong things faster – but not better! That’s why it’s so important to use the tools of a Cloud-based FSM solution, powered by the IoT, to improve your processes first; empower your field techs with real-time data, information and analytics; empower your customers through customer portals and self-help platforms; and generally perform all of your services activities better. Then, you can see additional benefits by doing it all faster – that is, through the functionalities of the IoT, etc.

By doing so, customers will recognize the improvements you have made and, therefore, will be more reliant on the organization for future services needs and requirements, upsells and cross-sells, etc. This will have the combined impact of reducing the cost of customer acquisition, while simultaneously increasing the existing revenue stream. Then, increases in customer satisfaction metrics can be used to promote the organization’s competitive advantage, which can also benefit from the fruits of social media coverage and word of mouth. But, it all starts with making improvements to the processes!

Q7: How can field service organizations better capitalize on sales opportunities?

BP: One area where many services organizations do not do a good enough job is in the area of contract and warranty management. It’s so simple; but it’s not “sexy” or “glitzy” enough.

However, by using an FSM solution that has a contract management and warranty management capability built into it, or by finding a reputable warranty management solution provider, an FSO can focus directly on contract attachments, contract renewals and contract management, all of which can contribute to generating not only an increased revenue stream, but one that is also a more predictable revenue stream.

The increased use of business and customer analytics can also provide the organization with increased insight into which customers may require expanded services agreement based on anything from surpassing their throughput limits for existing equipment, repetitive failures for the same problems; or to make adjustments for an expansion of the business, a recent acquisition or merger, or the increase in the number of daily shifts using the equipment; etc.  This is something that the organization’s field techs can recognize either through the customer analytics they have access to, or simply by being at the customer site on a recurring basis.

Many FSOs also do not have the expertise for upselling and/or cross-selling their existing customers. This is a critical component for any business – not just for field services. If you do not already have these capabilities, you may need a new, highly-trained salesperson, or a process for ensuring that no sales opportunity goes unrecognized.

Q8: How is the broader economy affecting field service management?

BP: The broader economy affects businesses of all types, including field services. However, field services has one thing going for it that many other industry segments don’t (i.e., particularly manufacturing and product sales) – that is, while not necessary recession-proof, businesses will always need their systems, equipment and devices to be up and running for the duration – in many cases, in spite of what it may cost to do so.

Even at reduced capacity, factories will need their production lines to continue to operate; hospitals will need their medical devices to be readily available; banks will need their transaction-related systems to run continuously; and so on. However, Business-to-Consumer, or B2C-focused services organizations may feel the full brunt of any economic downturn, as a majority of consumers may opt to wait until they can afford to have their home electronics serviced until they can better afford to pay for those services.

A broadly robust economy can stimulate increased product sales, which in turn, can stimulate increased services opportunities; conversely, a poor economy can dampen everything – including the field services segment.

However, the sign of a truly progressive services organization is one that has already taken into account the effects of a weakened economy and planned on how to best deal with a temporarily reduced workforce (through the use of a Freelance Management System, or FMS, solution); temporarily diminished service call activity; or the like. If these types of economic-influenced events occur, those FSOs that have already taken measures to address these temporary downturns can more effectively “roll with the punches”.

Q9: How is the role of Chief Service Officer evolving?

BP: The role of the Chief Service Officer (CSO) has already evolved significantly over the past several years. In many cases, today’s (and tomorrow’s) CSO must also be a Chief Data Officer (CDO) willing and able to manage the data and business analytics that drive the operations of the services business.

He or she must also be a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), once again, willing and able to interface with the customer directly when customer problems need to be escalated. As you can imagine, the role of the CSO can also be expanded to be the Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO), Chief Social Media Officer (CSMO) and …, well, you get my gist!

The days of simply managing a staff of dispatchers, field technicians and administrative assistants are long over. From this point forward, all CSOs must also be accomplished and experienced in a much larger variety of customer-facing, analytics, business development, sales, marketing and social media functions.

Q10: What are the top three KPIs that you recommend FSM organizations focus on? How might those KPIs change five years from now?

BP:  Basically, the rule of thumb is that you should be measuring all of the metrics that focus on areas where you are underperforming, or have recognized (or suspected) problems in service delivery. For example, if your customer satisfaction ratings are lower than desired, then you will need to measure and track customer satisfaction ratings; if your on-site response time is deficient, then you will need to measure things such as on-site response, providing an Estimated Time for Arrival (ETA); etc.

There are also several Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, that a majority of  FSOs measure, based on the results of our 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey. For example, the top KPIs currently being measured by a majority of FSOs are:

  • (73%) Customer Satisfaction
  • (62%) Total Service revenue
  • (61%) Total Service Cost
  • (53%) Field Technician Utilization
  • (50%) On-site Response Time
  • (49%) First Time Fix Rate

However, it should also be noted that a majority of Best Practices FSOs (i.e., those that are attaining both 90%+ Customer Satisfaction and 30%+ Services Profitability) typically measure twice as many KPIs as the average FSOs.

Five years from now – actually, even sooner – there will also be an entirely “new” way of collecting data and reporting KPIs as a result of remote diagnostics, Augmented Reality and the growing influence of the IoT. It will be analogous to keeping two sets of books – that is, one set of KPIs, like Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), Elapsed Time from Problem Identification to Correction, etc., for the way service has historically been performed (i.e., having a field tech dispatched on site), vs. the “new” way via remote diagnostics and repair. Combining the two will not make sense, and will need to be measured, monitored and tracked separately.

[To access the published Mobile Reach feature, please visit their website at http://info.mobilereach.com/blog/field-service-expert-interview-bill-pollock.]

How the Right Warranty Management Solution Can Help Improve Your Organization’s Bottom Line!

[This Blog presents an excerpted portion of the White Paper written by Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) and distributed by Tavant Technologies, a global leader in providing Cloud-based Warranty Management systems and solutions.To access the complete White Paper, or to download an archived copy of the companion Webcast, please use the Weblink provided at the end of the Blog.]

Each year, SFGSM conducts a series of Benchmark Surveys among its outreach community of more than 39,000 global services professionals. Total responses for the 2017 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey, conducted in January/February 2017, are 215. As such, we believe the survey results to represent a realistic reflection of the global warranty chain management community in which we all serve.

Putting Things in Perspective

Overall, survey respondents identify the following as the top factors that are currently driving their desire – and ability – to optimize warranty management performance:

  • 47% Post-sale customer satisfaction issues
  • 43% Desire to improve customer retention
  • 36% Customer demand for improved warranty management services

In order to effectively address these challenges – and strive to attain best practices – respondents then cite the following as the most needed strategic actions to be taken:

  • 43% Develop / improve metrics, or KPIs, for advanced warranty chain analytics
  • 28% Foster a closer working collaboration between product design & service
  • 28% Institute/enforce process workflow improvements for supplier cost recovery

The survey results also reveal that roughly two-thirds (66%) of respondent organizations currently operate service as an independent profit center (or as a pure, third-party service company), compared with only 34% that operate as cost centers. At these percentages, the warranty management respondent base represented in the survey reflects a consistency over the past few years, and mirrors the overall composition of the global services marketplace.

Further, the two-thirds ratio supports the supposition that it would strongly benefit services organizations that are attempting to keep their customers satisfied – and make an attractive profit by doing so – to put into place a well-structured, automated and Cloud-based warranty management solution designed both to satisfy customers, and contribute directly to the bottom line.

However, while the importance of effective warranty management is sufficiently validated by the responses to the survey, a majority of warranty management solution users are not as duly impressed with the vendors that render them these services. For example, only 42% of respondents are presently satisfied with the services and solutions provided by their respective primary warranty management solution vendors – including a stunningly low 12%, or only one-out-of-eight, who are “extremely satisfied”.

In fact, just under half of users (44%) rate their perceptions of the performance of their primary vendor as “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” – or what we would normally describe as a “complacent” user base. While only 3% of users claim to be “not at all satisfied”, there are still a total of 15% that fall into the “dissatisfied” category.

Research shows that a majority (i.e., 50% or greater) of the dissatisfaction that users have with their current vendors apparently stems from the importance that the market places on key factors including cost of services (70%), followed by the industry reputation and warranty management experience of the vendor (i.e., at 47%, each). Other factors influencing performance perceptions include the vendor’s data/information reporting capabilities (41%) and specific geographic experience (38%).

Roughly half (49%) of the survey respondents’ organizations have either implemented a “new” warranty management solution, or upgraded their existing solution, within the past three years or less. Of this amount, about one-in-seven (15%) have implemented a “new” solution, while more than one-third (34%) have upgraded their existing solution. The remaining 51% are currently using warranty management solutions that are, at least, three years old, or older (Figure 1).

The survey research clearly shows that those organizations that have implemented “new” warranty management solutions have realized the greatest levels of performance improvement – certainly, much greater than for those that have merely upgraded their respective Warranty Management solutions. The Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, that reflect the greatest improvements for each category of organization are as follows:

Warranty Claims Processing Time:

  • 14% Performance improvement for “New” Implementations
  •   6%  Performance improvement for Upgrades

Supplier/Vendor Recovery (as a percent of Total Warranty Expense):

  •   8%  Performance improvement for “New” Implementations
  •   5%  Performance improvement for Upgrades

Based on the results of SFG’s 2017 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey, the key takeaways are:

  • Roughly half (49%) of the warranty management segment have either implemented or upgraded their warranty management solutions in the past three years or less
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of current warranty management processes are at least partially automated
  • Over the next 12 months, annual warranty management budgets are expected to increase, with more than twice as many organizations planning increases over decreases
  • Organizations with “new” warranty management implementations have realized significantly greater performance improvements than all other categories with respect to warranty claims processing time and supplier/vendor recovery (as a percent of total warranty expense)
  • Warranty management organizations are being driven, first, by Customer-focused factors; second, by Product Quality-focused factors; and third, by Cost/Revenue-focused factors
  • The most significant challenges currently faced by warranty services managers are identifying the root causes of product failures, followed by product quality issues and claims processing time and accuracy
  • Currently, as well as in the next 12 months, warranty services managers will be focusing primarily on developing and/or improving their KPIs and warranty analytic programs, fostering a closer working collaboration between product design and service, and instituting/enforcing process workflow improvements for supplier cost recovery
  • Nearly half (46%) of organizations are currently integrating warranty management with all other services functions, and just as many already have an end-to-end workflow process in place to handle claims and returns (46%); however, this means that more than half presently do not have these capabilities in place
  • The top uses of data/information collected from warranty events are basically to improve processes (i.e., field service, depot repair, parts returns, etc.) and effect changes (i.e., product design, manufacturing, etc.)
  • Customer satisfaction and warranty management-related costs are the top two categories of KPIs used by warranty services management organizations, followed by warranty costs, per product

[To access the complete White Paper, containing much more information and numerous supporting tables and charts, please visit the following Weblink, hosted by Tavant. An archived copy of the companion Webcast is also available for download at http://bit.ly/2lUppNZ.]

Market Outlook: The Impact of the Convergence of Field Service and the Internet of Things

[Excerpt from our upcoming Feature Article in the April 2017 issue of Field Service News.]

There have been myriad times in recent years when a new technology seems to control the conversation in the business world – and, particularly, in the services sector. And, field service is typically one of the first areas where customers and users catch their first glimpse and initial understanding of what each of these “new” technologies can do for the industry. However, it usually takes a while longer before they truly understand what these new technologies can do specifically for their respective organisations.

Many of these new technologies enter the mainstream of the business world – and the global services community – after some initial fanfare, trade press, blogs, tweets and white papers, etc. However, most of them will actually take years to be fully accepted and deployed via a more staggered and drawn-out basis over a lengthy period of time. For example, 10 to 15 years ago, RFIDs were all the rage, with seemingly every article and white paper talking about the potential use of RFIDs for everything from tracking parts shipments, to identifying personal items that consumers send to the dry cleaner for laundering.

The evolution of RFIDs, however, was fairly steady to the point of almost being modestly linear over the next decade and a half. But, fast forward to 2017, and Tesla Inc. founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has recently announced the formation a new company, Neuralink Corp., which The Wall Street Journal describes as a “medical research” company that plans to build technology “through which computers could merge with human brains”, essentially using embedded chips to upload and download thoughts directly from humans. In less than a couple of decades, RFIDs went from the “talk of the town”; to a backdrop of steady (albeit non-glitzy) market adoption and deployment; to a virtual science fiction-like catalyst between the technology of today and the advanced future.

That is why the introduction and accelerating proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) in field service is such a big deal. Because, as most industry analysts tend to agree, the projected growth path for the full integration and convergence of the IoT into the global services community – particularly in field service – are stunning!

[Watch for the complete article, including findings from SFG‘s 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, in the April 2017 issue of Field Service News. I’ll also be presenting some toppling data as part of my opening Keynote at the 2017 Field Service Summit in Coventry, UK, on April 11, 2017.]

Building Your FSM Solution on an IoT-Powered and CRM-based Platform

[Excerpt from our upcoming Feature Article in the March/April 2017 issue of Field Technologies Online.]

According to Gartner, the “IoT is not one thing; it’s the integration of several things,” requiring “advanced integration skills and end-to-end thinking.” As such, Gartner makes it quite clear that the IoT, alone, does not make field service operations work. There are still many other aspects of Field Service Management that must be addressed – although the IoT, as it stands today, is eminently ready to serve as the foundation of the FSM platform.

However, to truly benefit from an IoT-based FSM solution, the organization must also meet some key requirements that reflect its readiness for utilizing the power of the IoT in a connected FSM application. It may also be argued that there could be no servitization without the IoT; and that there could be no complete FSM solution without its integration with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Only in this way, could the FSM solution work together – in concert – with each of the other components of the CRM system to manage and run all aspects of the business itself – and not just its services operations.

[Watch for the complete article, including preliminary results from SFG‘s 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, in the March/April 2017 issue of Field Technologies Online.]

Salesforce Poised to Strike with Its Field Service Lightning Solution (Part 4 of 4)

[This is part 4 of a 4-part series on the launch of Salesforce Field Service Lightning. Part 4 focuses on SFGSM’s “Take” on the new offering.]

Field Service Lightning – SFGSM’s Analysts Take

With the introduction of Salesforce’s Field Service Lightning, the FSM market has now witnessed, in the space of only two years or so, a trifecta of large, established, ubiquitous, global companies – each historically known for their respective other business platforms and solutions – entering the FSM market in a “big way” (i.e., in terms of market posturing, press releases, promises of FSM market dominance, etc.). The largest – and potentially, most promising of these – include:

  • Oracle, acquiring TOA Technologies in 2014;
  • Microsoft acquiring FieldOne in 2015; and, now
  • Salesforce announcing Field Service Lightning (FSL) for market launch in Spring/Summer 2016 (i.e., no acquisition made; platform includes ClickSoftware technology).

However, of these “big three”, only Salesforce has elected (i.e., at least, so far) to build its FSL functionality, albeit, with help from ClickSoftware for schedule optimization, while the remaining two have each elected to “buy” their way into the segment.

Whether it makes a difference to potential FSM solution users as to whether their vendors have acquired their way into the business, or have built a home-grown model is unknown at this point in time. However, past research conducted by Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) would indicate that it will most likely not be a major selection or evaluation factor for most potential solution acquirers. In fact, it will probably end up being a non-issue for most.

Other smaller – but typically faster-growing – FSM solution providers may have brought their respective solutions to market much earlier than Salesforce, although Field Service Lightning still has certain advantages that these other relatively new entries to the global FSM market are not as likely to have. Further, the introduction of Salesforce into the global FSM through its Field Service Lightning offering now provides an added level of competition to the competitive landscape – a level that ServiceMax and its peers have not seen in recent years (i.e., save for the emergence of the acquired “newbies”, such as Oracle/TOA, IFS/Metrix and Microsoft/FieldOne, etc.).

For example, ServiceMax – which is essentially built on the Salesforce platform, itself – had virtually dominated the recent FSM user market in terms of familiarity/awareness, marketing and promotion, and user consideration and adoption in recent years. However, the May, 2015 announcement of the company’s strategic partnership with PTC “to provide [a] comprehensive and connected Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) solution offering” (i.e., where ServiceMax provides the SLM support, powered by PTC’s ThingWorx IoT-based platform) positions it, in some minds, as just another one of the industry’s “new” and/or reengineered SLM vendors, among other like vendors.

All-in-all, the entry of Salesforce into the FSM market does not simply represent the addition of a single “new” competitor to the overall landscape – but, rather the introduction of a “new” synergistic “mix” of traditional FSM functionality (i.e., built on the platform of one of the most popular and well-respected vendors, ClickSoftware), but seamlessly integrated into the overall Customer Experience, CSM and Sales Management suites offered by the “world’s #1 CRM company”. As such, potential users have the opportunity to not only choose a “new” FSM solution provider – but a “new” type of integrated FSM vendor, with a “new” (i.e., to the FSM market) corporate culture and philosophy for providing “cradle-to-grave” pre-sales, sales, after-sales service and perpetual customer support to an ever-evolving and demanding customer base.

In any event, the introduction of Field Service Lightning reflects Salesforce’s continuing “push” to enter this expanding global market segment on at least an “at par” basis with the other major players currently comprising the “new” FSM market entrants. However, while its entry into the market may initially seem like something “new” for Salesforce, it is not necessarily a “new” idea to the many services organizations that could realistically be thought of as potential Salesforce FSM customers – actually, many have already been using Salesforce to assist in running their respective services organizations for some time now.

For example, the results of SFGSM’s previous two Field Service Management Benchmark Surveys, conducted in 2011 and 2014/15, respectively, reveal the following about Salesforce’s historical positive image and reputation within the global FSM community – even before it had formally entered the market this year with its Field Service Lightning offering. The following data is derived directly from these two SFGSM FSM Benchmark surveys:

In SFGSM’s 2011 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, respondents were asked to answer a number of questions relating to their familiarity with each of 48 individually listed FSM solution providers. The specific question asked was:

  • “For each of the solution vendors listed below, please indicate the ones with whom you are currently familiar in terms of their Field Service Management

For the 2011 survey, Salesforce was not included among the 48 pre-selected FSM vendors listed in the questionnaire; however, based on new information obtained during SFGSM’s one-on-one telephone interviews conducted as part of the 2014/15 survey Discovery Phase, Salesforce had been mentioned enough times to be included as the 49th FSM vendor – although, it still did not technically offer an FSM solution at that time!

Therefore, in 2011, the most cited FSM solution providers, listed in terms of their respective familiarity among the respondent base, specifically as a “Field Service Management solution provider”, were as follows:

2011 SFGSM FSM Survey Results (percent familiarity as an FSM solution provider):

  • #1 @ 39%; SAP
  • #2 @ 33%; Oracle
  • #3 @ 29%; ServiceMax
  • #4 @ 26%; ClickSoftware
  • #5 @ 24%; Astea
  • #6 @ 18%; Servigistics
  • #7 @ 17%; Metrix
  • #8 @ 15%; Microsoft Dynamics

The 2011 survey results reaffirmed the #1 & #2 standings of SAP and Oracle from earlier FSM surveys, and reflected the growth of ServiceMax which, for the first time, had surpassed ClickSoftware in this historical series of surveys. Further, although Microsoft also did not yet offer an FSM solution in 2011 (i.e., the company did not enter the FSM solution market until July, 2015, via its acquisition of FieldOne), it was still listed as #8 (i.e., at 15% familiarity) by the respondents to the survey. It is noted that two other of the highest cited vendors have since been acquired by larger organizations (i.e., Metrix, by IFS in May, 2012; and Servigistics, by PTC in October, 2012.)

However, SFGSM’s 2014/15 FSM Benchmark Survey update (i.e., with the expansion of the list of potential FSM solution vendors to include Salesforce, for the first time) reveals a largely altered ranking of the most familiar FSM solution providers, as follows:

2014/15 SFGSM FSM Survey Results (percent familiarity as an FSM solution provider):

  • #1   @ 56%; Salesforce
  • #2   @ 50%; SAP
  • #3   @ 35%; ClickSoftware
  • #4   @ 32%; Oracle
  • #5   @ 28%; ServiceMax
  • #6T @ 25%; Astea
  • #6T @ 25%; Kronos
  • #8   @ 21%; AT&T Advanced Mobility Solutions
  • #9   @ 21%; Microsoft Dynamics

In 2014/15, while SAP actually increased its FSM market familiarity to 50% (i.e., from 39% in 2011), and Oracle dropped a mere one percentage point to 32%, Salesforce, the “new” entry to the list of vendors, was cited by 56% of survey respondents as one of the FSM vendors with which they were currently familiar – again, however, without actually offering an FSM solution at the time.

Thus, the key takeaways revealed by trending the two most recent SFGSM FSM Benchmark Surveys, are the following:

  • In 2014/15, Salesforce had already been recognized as a potential FSM solution provider by a majority (i.e., 56%) of the field services marketplace – despite the fact that it did not actually offer an FSM solution at that time.
  • Microsoft, through its CRM Dynamics platform, had also risen in familiarity as a potential FSM solution provider, growing from 15% familiarity in 2011, to 21% in 2014/15 – despite not formally entering the FSM market until July, 2015.
  • The historical leaders in terms of FSM solution familiarity (i.e., SAP and Oracle) have, as a result, since been relegated to the #2 and #4 positions, respectively, trailing far behind Salesforce.

We have seen these types of familiarity rating anomalies in the past; however, what the trend data clearly reflects is that many field services organizations have already been using (arguably, mis-using?) either the Salesforce and/or Microsoft platforms for more than just sales management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications, respectively. And, that this is apparently not limited only to Small/Medium Businesses (SMBs), but also to small-to-medium-sized divisions of larger services enterprises, as well. In many cases, Salesforce (and/or Microsoft CRM) serve double duty within the organization with respect to their use in managing some of the key components of FSM. In fact, in 2014/15, 7% of respondents also reported that Salesforce was their “primary FSM solution provider.”

What this all means is actually good news for Salesforce – and especially for the services organizations that have historically been relying on the company’s platform to support their field service operations, in that, with the introduction of Field Service Lightning, they will now be afforded with much greater FSM functionality – however, this time from a solution that is specifically designed for use in running a services organization.

While other companies, all with fairly deep pockets, have either tried to buy their way into FSM, grow an FSM capability organically, or some combination of the two, not all have had either the resolve – or inclination – to strive to dominate the FSM market. However, with respect to Salesforce, the combination of a corporate mentality that looks to dominate in each of the markets they serve, with a documented history of key players in the FSM community having already been using (i.e., or mis-using) their CRM platform to assist in running their respective services organizations, the prospects for Salesforce actually becoming a dominant leader in the FSM marketplace may be a somewhat safer bet.

Nonetheless, it must still be stated that, so far, Salesforce has only announced a very small portion of field service capability (i.e., key components including contract management, parts management, etc. are still missing) and, as a result, the jury will continue to be remain “out” until more of the company’s Field Service Lightning offering actually hits the market – in full – and in sync with the market’s expectations.

The Impact of a Changing FSM Competitive Landscape Is Revealed from SFG℠’s 2016 Field Service Management Tracking Survey

[If you haven’t already taken SFG℠’s 2016 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Tracking Survey, simply click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SFG-PollockOnService.]

We’ve all heard the expressions, “Everything old is new again”, and “Back to the basics”. However, while these expressions may still be somewhat reflective of the global services community, we have finally begun to see an uptick in the degree of market consolidation, as well as the impact of the many mergers, acquisitions and partnerships that seem to be re-defining the competitive landscape on a virtual daily basis.

For example, just a couple or few years ago, there was no real (i.e., dedicated) presence in the global services community by companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, PTC and Salesforce (although many services organizations, mainly among the smaller-sized companies, had already started using Microsoft Dynamics and/or Salesforce to, at least, piggy-back their Field Service Management (FSM) operations onto their existing CRM, ERP or Business Management platforms).

Other vendors, such as IFS, Oracle and SAP had, years earlier, embedded some form of FSM into their general offerings, but not everyone was necessarily buying. Of course, there was always ClickSoftware and ServiceMax generally breaking out of the pack to gain some robust market share, leaving most of the tried-and-true traditional vendors as proud purveyors of their respective Best-of-Breed FSM solutions (e.g., Astea, Metrix, ServicePower, ViryaNet, Wennsoft and many others).

However, fast forward to today: Where are all of these vendors now? PTC acquired Servigistics (including MCA Solutions), ThingWorx, Axeda Systems and other technology firms; Oracle acquired TOA Technologies; IFS acquired Metrix; and Microsoft acquired FieldOne, all major software players “buying” their way into the FSM market through a series of blockbuster deals.

Salesforce, which had historically either been used (and/or mis-used) in its ability to manage field service operations, decided earlier this year to build its own Field Service Lightning module – but, built primarily on ClickSoftware’s Field Service Expert platform. ClickSoftware went private (i.e., after years of speculation that it would, one day, be acquired by SAP) and may have lost some of its historical luster in the marketplace (i.e., in terms of “Who are they now – really!). Another long-time vendor, ViryaNet, was acquired, first, by Verisae (i.e., taking its name), and now, by Accruent; and Wennsoft is now known as Key2Act.

In other words, the FSM competitive landscape has probably changed more in the past two years than in the dozen years before, in terms of structure, presence, influence and use. However, we would be burying our collective heads in the sand if we thought that this recent spate of market consolidation is now over – it’s not – and there are likely to be further surprises in the short term, rather than in the longer-term future.

So, … what does the future hold for the global FSM marketplace? Much will depend on how the market itself (i.e., the current and prospective FSM solution users) believes it should evolve.

That’s why Strategies For Growth has launched its 2016 Field Service Management Benchmark Tracking Survey after an approximate two-year hiatus. The times have changed; the competitive landscape has changed; and user needs and requirements, perceptions, expectations and preferences for FSM solutions have changed.

In fact, it may be because of the latter that many of these mergers/acquisitions were “forced” to take place. In many cases (i.e., too many cases) the existing FSM solution providers did not, or could not, evolve as quickly as the market’s needs and, as a result, either lost their traction, their “mojo”, their market preference, or any combination thereof.

It is frustrating to not be able to present some of the key preliminary findings from our current (i.e., 2016) FSM Survey – but that could likely influence the responses of some of the individuals who have not yet taken the survey.

So, … here’s our suggestion: First, take the survey, and we guarantee that you will, at the very least, learn something more about the global services community merely by reviewing the questions and answer sets, and thinking about what your top-of-head responses should be.

Second, after taking the survey, be sure to continue to watch our Blogsite, www.PollockOnService.com, for frequent updates and posts on key survey findings; Third, watch for our various published articles in Field Service DigitalField Service News and Field Technologies Online, and any of the other client-sponsored White Papers and Webcasts; and, Fourth, we will be happy to e-mail you a special, not otherwise published, Executive Summary, following the close of the survey later in the mid-to-late November timeframe.

In any case, we’ve got you covered – with the market data and information that you can use to compare the challenges, drivers, technology adoption and strategic actions taken by your organization compared against all others. All it takes is about 15 minutes of your time, for timeless information about your field – Field Services.

To take SFG’s 2016 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Tracking Survey, simply click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SFG-PollockOnService.