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.

It’s 2020 (Almost) – Time to Revitalize Your Organization’s Services Portfolio!

After a while, even the most innovative services offerings begin to lose some of their appeal, ultimately being perceived as commodity-like offerings, rather than as representing a differentiated portfolio. What was initially offered to the market as a specialized service, often without much competition, soon becomes just another service commodity positioned ineffectively among scores of increasingly competitive offerings.

Regardless of your organization’s market share or position, it is important to gauge exactly where your services portfolio stands at any given point in time with respect to the perceptions – and expectations – of your targeted market base. In most cases, it is the new, innovative upstart companies that are typically conducting the bulk of the market research and competitive intelligence prior to launching their new products and services, not necessarily the companies that are still selling their older commodity-like offerings.

However, there may still be a great deal of life left in the more mature business lines that comprise the majority of your company’s product or services portfolio. Even better, these lines tend to already be “tried and true” with respect to market acceptance, and may only need a gentle marketing or promotional “push” every once in awhile to stimulate additional market interest and sales. Even NASA uses a “mid-course correction” every now and then to ensure that the rocket gets to the proper destination!

There are many ways in which a business can determine exactly how much “kick” its services offerings still have in them, or, conversely, whether it is time to “kick” some of them out of the portfolio altogether and replace them with newer, more innovative and technologically-competitive lines.

The path recommended to evaluate the overall health of your present portfolio of services, is to conduct a strategic business assessment that focuses on:

  • An assessment of your customers’ – and the market’s – perceptions, needs, requirements, preferences and expectations with respect to your existing portfolio of services offerings.
  • The specific features and characteristics (e.g., attributes, benefits, value, cost, etc.) that currently define your services lines, and what it will likely take to “ramp them up” to the new and/or emerging market requirements (i.e., the Three R’s: Refine, Re-design and/or Re-package).
  • Customer/market perceptions and opinions regarding the current quality and performance of the services offered – both from your organization and its competitors.
  • A set of recommended improvements to your existing portfolio in order to better position it against the competition, and to maximize both sales potential and ongoing customer satisfaction.

The assessment and evaluation of the findings from such a study would be extremely useful in terms of providing your company management with the strategic, marketing and promotional tools it needs to:

  • Identify the basic customer/market needs, requirements, preferences and perceptions that can be used to assess and “fine tune” the overall strategic market positioning of the organization’s existing service lines.
  • Ensure that the company is effectively marketing the right services; to the right market segments; by communicating the right marketing, branding, and promotional messages; all through the right media.
  • Modify and enhance existing product/service lines to address the highest levels of customer and market demands.
  • Develop new products and/or services to address the emerging needs and requirements of both the existing and prospective customer bases.
  • Identify and cultivate the most attractive target markets based on identified patterns of customer decision-making and purchase behaviors, and product preferences and perceptions.
  • Strengthen the company’s overall product/service awareness and image, advertising and promotion, and sales activities through the execution of the recommended refinements, enhancements and/or modifications based on the study findings.

While your present business lines are probably the key factors that helped your company grow to its current size and market position, they may have become “dusty” over the years and may now be in need of a good “dusting off” – or even, retirement.

Putting a “cash cow” off to pasture before it is time can cost your company a great deal of money in terms of lost potential. However, keeping it on once it’s gone “dry” may cost you even more in the long run in terms of giving your company a perceived market image as being less than innovative, or no longer offering anything more than commodity-like products and services.

Assessing where your product and services portfolio currently stand in terms of market perceptions, and your ability to meet the market’s – and your customers’ – changing and evolving needs, will allow you to determine just how much “dust” has collected on your existing offerings – as well as what you will need to “dust off” in order to compete more effectively.

Lessons Learned from WBR’s 2019 Field Service Amelia Island Conference – Advancing Service Together through Innovation, Cross-Industry Best Practices & Transformation

[WBR’s annual Field Service Amelia Island conference is one of the premier Field Services event of the year – and this year was, once again, no exception! More than 350 field service professionals attended the conference from August 18 – 21, 2019.

The following is a brief excerpt from SFG℠‘s “Lessons Learned …Analysts Take report, written and distributed under the auspices of WBR. Our suggestion? Don’t read the following excerpt – go to the bottom of the page and download a complementary copy of the full report, and read up on what the key players in the field services community had to say with respect to “Advancing Service Together!“]

Since 2003, WBR has been bringing together the world’s leading services organizations to “benchmark, establish best practices, embrace new technologies and build a strong network to enhance its attendees’ services businesses and field operations.” Each successive conference over the past 16 years has provided participants with “future-facing content and a mix of interactive session formats that ensure [they can] learn and network most effectively.” As such, these annual (and mid-year) Field Service events are designed to set up its attendees “for maximum profitability and competitiveness in [their] service business.”

And this year’s Amelia Island event did not disappoint, as the nearly 400 onsite attendees would most likely attest!

“At Field Service Amelia Island I learned that Field Service professionals love to learn new ways to improve service delivery since that is often the first (and only) personal contact a customer has with their brand. They are especially eager to explore what technology can do to optimize their field service fleets to get them to job sites efficiently and safely.”

– Carol Roden, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Lytx

The main theme for WBR’s 2019 Field Service Palm Springs conference was billed as “Advancing Service Together”, similar to the Palm Springs event held earlier in the year – and the succession of speakers, presenters, moderators, panel participants and practitioners all supported that theme throughout the conference by sharing examples (i.e., mostly success stories) about how it takes a strong commitment to teamwork to have any chance of meeting, let alone exceeding, management goals for improving employee and customer satisfaction – while at the same time, driving increased services revenue streams and making a profit by doing so.

“After attending the Field Service Conference on Amelia Island, the importance of disruptive service, and understanding that what got our businesses to their current level of success will not take them to the next level of success is evident. In an XAAS world, those organizations that embrace these transformations with technology and culture will win!”

– Mary Flake, General Manager – Coastal Southeast Service, Comfort Systems USA

The ”Lessons Learned” at the conference were many, and we have attempted to summarize the main sessions (and lessons learned) in the text that follows. Please note that not all of the sessions are highlighted and summarized in this document; however, there are many others that are available through WBR directly. Also, if you missed the chance to have one of your “lesson learned” quotes included in this paper, … well, there’s always next year in Palm Springs or, again, at Amelia Island!

Each of the three Main Days of the conference had a particular focus, beginning with Day One setting its sights on “Technology and Process Innovation for Efficiency”; Day Two focusing on “Disruptive Service & Customer Value; and Day Three focusing on “Leadership & Service Revenue Generation.”

Overall, WBR’s 2019 Field Service Amelia Island conference gave every attendee the opportunity to learn, question, network, buy/sell and interact with vendors, practitioners, editors, writers, industry experts, consultants, research analysts, peers and competitors and every other important person or company in the field services business.

The temperature was not as hot as in Palm Springs, earlier in the year – but the topics covered at the conference were still “red hot”. One of the key learnings from this year’s event is that “the main benefit of this conference is that it represents a middle ground between what we all learned last year, and what we will expect to learn next year.” As such, this year’s conference represented another key milestone in the Journey that we, as an industry, are taking along with our customers.

At the risk of repeating myself from the “Lessons Learned …” Analyst Take paper distributed following this year’s Palm Springs conference, I believe the following quote still stands true:

“As Bob Dylan once wrote and sang, ‘The times, they are a’changin’.    He must have been singing about the field services industry!”

– Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst
Strategies For Growth℠

Here’s looking forward to seeing you all at Palm Springs and Amelia Island again next year!

[To download a complementary copy of the full “Lessons Learned …” report, simply click here: @@@ 2019 Field Service Amelia Island Analysts Take Report (Final Draft – 19-09-17).]

Bill Pollock’s Responses to Field Service News’ 2019 Big Discussion Questions

[This is the companion piece to Field Service News’ 2019 “Big Discussion”, published in four parts in its digital magazine. This Blog contains the full text of my responses to Associate Editor, Mark Glover’s four questions. Please visit the FSN Website to view my edited responses, along with those of other services industry experts, at: https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/the-big-discussion-what-challenges-opportunities-and-trends-should-we-expect-in-2019-part-1.]

FSN – Across the last twelve months what do you think has been the biggest shift in how we approach field service delivery? 

Pollock – The last 12 months have been quite a bit more active among global Field Services Organisations (FSOs) with respect to their acquisition and implementation of new technologies. For example, after having spent a number of years more as a perennial line item on an organisation’s “wish list”, Augmented Reality (AR) has gained a much wider acceptance, and is presently in use by more than twice as many FSOs as just a year earlier. In fact, the trend lines for AR adoption are have begun to increase at an accelerating rate. We are now also seeing the further incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning into existing FSM systems. As a result, many FSOs have already begun the transformation from the traditional break/fix model to the use of predictive diagnostics and AI-powered chatbots to facilitate and expedite service delivery.

FSN – IoT has become an increasingly key discussion amongst field service companies in recent years – do you think it will soon be essential for field service companies to embrace IoT?

Pollock – I believe it is already essential for field service companies to embrace the IoT. That ship has already sailed – and those FSOs that run their services operations on an IoT platform are already beginning to see the return on their investment. The enormous amount – and wealth – of data that is now being generated through the use of an IoT platform is turning many of the traditional ways of thinking upside-down. For example, it has created an environment where the “old” (i.e., last year’s) way of measuring performance is becoming almost instantly outdated. For example, last year, an FSO might have been assessing its service delivery performance on the basis of asset uptime or SLA compliance, etc. However, this year, they may need to gauge their performance viaan entirely “new” set of KPIs! Measuring your performance in providing “power by the hour” or “airplanes in the air” is quite a bit different than measuring on the basis of the number of monthly site visits, PM calls and asset uptime.

FSN – What do you think should be the key areas of focus for field service managers across the next twelve months?

Pollock – The next most important areas of focus for field service managers in the coming 12 months will likely be among the following three items: (1) embracing the “new” technologies to support an expanded and enhanced capability to deliver their respective service offerings. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning have been around for more than 50 years, but are still relatively new to the services segment – but, it’s time to build them into your service operations! (2) Changing the way in which you deliver – and price – your service offerings. Traditional break/fix service is essentially “dead”. Long live predictive diagnostics and predictive maintenance! Have you spoken to any chat bots lately? Well, you will! (3) Re-engineering the way you measure performance metrics, or KPIs. Mean-Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR) will not mean anything in an environment where services are being performed remotely on an ongoing basis. It will be time to replace some of the old “tried and true” KPIs with new ones that can measure systemic productivity, rather than merely individual field technician productivity. It’s time to rethink the entire service delivery process – and adjust to it!

FSN – What is the biggest area of concern that field service companies should address in the next 12 months?

Pollock – The biggest area of concern for field service companies in the next 12 months will be, if they’re already somewhat behind the technology curve (or with respect to the competitive landscape), what do they need to do todayto ensure that they will not fall further behind? And, it’s not just a matter of technology either; many FSOs will need to alter their corporate philosophy and mentality as well. Technology goes hand-in-hand with the personnel that use it, so attention must also be given to how the organisation goes about replacing, and/or supplementing, its existing field force with new hires or the use of outside, third-party “feet on the street” support. The services world is evolving so quickly, that any missteps along the way can be devastating – so every step, every move counts. There will also be no time for any intra-mural infighting – only for collaboration and inter-departmental cooperation. Equipment will keep on breaking, and end-of-lifecycles are getting increasingly shorter. As such, there will always be the need for services organisations to deliver their support! However, only those that have the technological and corporate wherewithal to continually improve the way in which they deliver their services will rise to the top of the competitive order – and stay there!