Companion Piece to Bill Pollock’s July, 2017 Guest Blog Post on Behalf of Sprint Business (Part 1 of 2)

[This companion piece to my two-part guest Blog published in July on the Sprint Business Blogsite focuses on the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the Field Services industry. As is the case in most analyst interview-based guest Blogs, much of my responses will not be included in the final posts. As such, please consider this Blog as a more detailed companion piece for the first five of 10 questions posed by Sprint Business. Hopefully, this will provide you with additional “between the lines” thoughts and opinions.]

Q1:   In what ways is IoT transforming the field service industry, and at what pace?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the field service industry in ways that most analysts –  and practitioners – could not have foreseen just a few years ago. While most of us were focusing on machine-to-machine (i.e., m2m) communications and the prospects for utilizing Augmented Reality (AR), the IoT was already beginning to be leveraged into smart systems and Connected Field Service (CFS) solutions among the more progressive services organizations in the global marketspace.

Even as we speak, while some companies are just beginning to evaluate the benefits of integrating Augmented Reality into their services operations, AR is already morphing into Mixed, or Merged, Reality (MR) through the combined deployment along with Virtual Reality (VR) applications. And this advanced trend is not only not going to stop; it is much more likely to accelerate right before our eyes.

The growing recognition that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) applications are ultimately poised to make the difference between those services organizations that are destined to be the market leaders versus everyone else (i.e., the followers, and laggards) is also picking up steam, and will likely join the mainstream of market adoption shortly (albeit, the inner working of AI and ML are both much more complicated than the IoT – especially with respect to AI).

The IoT is not just for m2m anymore. It is the tool that can make any services (or other) process “smart”, if applied effectively. It can (and will) take services organizations to places they never dreamed possible just a short time ago – and it will be responsible for cutting the costs of delivering services along the way.

At what pace? Basically, if you merely blink, you may find yourself quickly falling behind your more progressive competitors! Many of them are already there!

Q2:   What are the highest-impact factors in this transformation?

The highest-impact factors in field service transformation will be the normalization of the playing field across all industry segments, by vertical market, size, type, geographic coverage and any other “demographic” segments you can think of. Field Service Management (FSM) is not only for the large enterprise organizations, but for services organizations of all types, regardless of size or market coverage.

The proliferation of Cloud-based FSM solutions has also moved many organizations from the historical perpetual license pricing model to a much more manageable subscription basis pricing model. This also is having a significant impact on facilitating the entry of smaller and medium-sized organizations into the world of the IoT and smart solutions.

The integration of AR, VR and/or MR platforms into services operations will also normalize the playing field even more, thereby empowering services organizations of all types and sizes, etc., to compete head-to-head against each other (as well as the market leaders) with essentially the same levels of system capabilities. It will also lead to quicker customer equipment “fixes”, at reduced costs (to the services organization), and with far fewer visits required to the customer site to perform the repair.

Q3:   What do you see as the top three or four benefits to field service organizations?

The top benefits to field service organizations, as cited in Strategies For Growth℠’s (SFG℠’s) 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, are (1) the ability to run a more efficient field service operation by eliminating silos, etc. (cited by 44% of respondents as one of the top three benefits); (2) improved customer satisfaction (cited by 39%); (3) the ability to provide customers with an end-to-end engagement relationship (cited by 35%); (4) the ability to establish a competitive advantage (cited by 30%); and (5) improved field technician utilization and productivity (cited by 26%).

Other top benefits include (6) reduced Total Cost of Operations (TCO) (cited by 25%); (7) reduced ongoing/recurring costs of operations (cited by 19%); (8) improved service delivery time (cited by 16%); (9) fostering enhanced inter-departmental collaboration (cited by 15%); and (10) ability to complete the automation of all field service operations (cited by 12%).

However, as more and more services organizations ramp up with respect to IoT-powered technologies and applications, there will likely be even more potential benefits identified within the global services organization community.

Q4:   How can organizations best leverage all the IoT data they gather?

Many reports have been written about services organizations (and businesses of all types) “drowning in data lakes”. However, the key to success is to establish early on what data is needed to effectively run the services operations, and hone in on specifically those types of data when collecting and processing the reams and reams of data generated from your IoT-based systems. Too much data is … well, too much data, if you don’t have a plan to harvest it effectively.

Services organizations also need to be able to identify which data is “need to know” vs. which data is only “nice-to-know”. Nice-to-know data is ultimately way too expensive to collect, process, analyze, monitor and distribute; however, need-to-know data is not only invaluable – but critical to ensuring the well-being of the services organization.

You don’t go to work wearing 12 watches; you don’t buy 48 oz. of steaks, per person, to put on the grill for a summer barbecue; so, why would you pay for more data than you will ever need when you can harvest just what you need for now (plus whatever else looks like you may need in the future)?

Think of your data repository as a storage space for all of the data you will need today, tomorrow and in the future. If large enough, put it in a data lake – but make sure you don’t use Lake Superior for what a smaller data lake can do for you more efficiently.

Q5:   What barriers do organizations face in taking full advantage of IoT, and how can they overcome those barriers?

The greatest barrier in taking full advantage of the IoT is typically senior management resistance at the top of the organization structure. Coupled with a general lack of understanding of exactly what the IoT is, and exactly what it can do for the organization, these two factors can too often become “momentum-killers” within the organization.

This is why making sure that all participants comprising services management are kept up-to-date with (1) advances in IoT-based technologies, (2) the introduction of new applications and mobile tools to support field technicians (and to transfer some of their historical on-site responsibilities to more remote-based scenarios), and (3) evolutions in FSM solution capabilities, etc., is so important.

With subscription-based pricing, cost should no longer be as critical an issue to the prospects for moving forward with the desired FSM solution – however, do your CFO and Purchasing teams understand that? Or are they still entrenched in the traditional perpetual license mindset?

Attending field services trade shows and IoT-focused conferences should “shake off the cobwebs” for most of the non-believers or nay-sayers in the organization. Collect as much information as you can, schedule some demos, and invite management to witness the benefits (i.e., the outcomes) of an IoT-powered FSM solution first-hand. This will definitely sway most of the non-believers!

Hopefully, my responses have helped you to better understand the ways in which the services management market is changing – both rapidly and pervasively. Blame it on the IoT for this rapid evolution; however, blame yourself if you’re not keeping up with the advances in services management technology!

[To access the published Blogs, please visit the Sprint Blogsite at https://business.sprint.com/blog/field-services-iot-makeover/. Or, if you prefer, you may access the complete SFG℠ Analysts Take paper simply by clicking on the following Weblink: How the IoT Is Transforming the FS Industry (Draft-17-07-21-01)]

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.

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

[This is the full, unedited, version of our Feature Article published in the April 21, 2016 edition of Field Technologies Online. The Blog version includes portions that did not make the publication’s final cut.]

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

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

Fortunately, those days are long-gone!

The proliferation of the application of the Internet; the advent of machine-to-machine (m2m) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT); and the exponentially growing degree of connectivity between not only machines and machines, but between machines and people – and people and people – has resulted in a real-time environment that has propelled the global services community to its current technological positioning.

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

This is where Augmented Reality, or AR, comes into play.

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

This is exactly how AR is able to assist in a field services environment; that is, to provide the field technician (who may not ever have been called upon to service a piece of equipment with such a long MTBF) to actually perform the repair by “overlaying” an enhanced reality – in 3D motion – over and above what he or she would otherwise be able to visualize, in order to make a quick, clean and complete fix.

Think of it this way: When field technicians are called on for service, they may be facing either a piece of equipment that they have rarely seen in the past; a device that is inherently complex and difficult to disassemble and/or reassemble; or a system that is so business- or mission-critical, that a single delay or misstep could bring a factory’s total production line to a screaming halt – or any combination thereof!

The ability to “see” this Augmented Reality – in 3D motion – with accompanying instructive text, metrics and repair parameters overlaid and easily articulated will undoubtedly provide, at the very least, an extra measure of comfort to the technician, as well as access to a readily available tutorial for performing the repair as quickly, accurately and safely as possible. As such, another historically important KPI, first-time-fix-rate, may also go quickly into the twilight, same as MTBF! And all it takes is the appropriate pair of special glasses for the technician to “see” what needs to be seen!

However, talking about Augmented Reality – rather than actually seeing it in action – is like trying to tell a Southerner how cold the Northern Winters are – in words. It’s just not possible. That’s why AR is best understood by actually seeing a demonstration of it in action.

At a recent field services conference, I was asked to cite what I believe would be the “next big thing” in field service. I suggested “Augmented Reality”. Why? Because we really can’t do things any quicker than real time; and we can’t make repair tutorials any smaller, more compact and/or transportable than they already are. What we can do, however, is make it easier for the field technician to “see” what needs to be done, in real time, and with an “augmented” view of what reality alone cannot, and does not, necessarily provide.

AR has already made it easier to follow – and understand – football games. Isn’t time that it was also used to make it easier to perform field service activities? The answer is resoundingly “Yes”!

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

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

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

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

Field Service Methods And Measurements Are Changing

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

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

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