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.]

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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.

UK & EMEA Services Organisations Clearly Understand the Value of “Minding the Metrics”

The services sector has traditionally been guided by a succession of rules, regulations and policies that, hopefully, make us all better at supporting our customers and the global business economy, as a whole. Many of these guidelines mirror other aspects of our lives as well, such as “Mind your Manners”, “Mind your Own Business” and – of course, “Mind the Gap!” However, no guideline may be as important to the services community as “Mind the Metrics” – and this is particularly well evidenced in the UK & EMEA geographies.

In fact, a special cut of the results from Strategies For Growth’s (SFG) 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey reveal that, for the UK/EMEA services community, “developing/improving the metrics, or KPIs, used to measure Field Service Performance” is the number one strategic action currently being taken, as cited by nearly two-thirds (i.e., 64%) of survey respondents.

No other strategic actions are cited by as many as half of respondents, although “investing in mobile tools to support field technicians” rates fairly high at 49%, followed by “improving planning and forecasting with respect to field service operations” at just over one-third (i.e., 34%).

This is no surprise to Steve Alderson, Managing Director at Cognito, a leading, UK-based provider of mobile workforce management solutions to field service organisations, who corroborates that “This exactly reflects what we are hearing from the industry with service organisations facing intense pressure from competitors and rising customer expectations. These survey results confirm the strong sense in the market that getting a better understanding of field service metrics is critical to improving overall performance.”

The primary Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics, currently being used by a majority of UK/EMEA Field Services Organisations (FSOs) include:

  • 78% Customer Satisfaction
  • 75% Total Service Revenue/Turnover
  • 68% Total Service Cost
  • 53% Field Technician Utilisation (i.e., time spent performing repairs ÷ total hours)
  • 53% Percent of Total Service Revenue under Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • 51% Service Revenue, as a Percent of Total Company Revenues
  • 51% Service Revenue, per Field Technician

It is interesting to note, however, that most of the primary KPIs that were being used when many of us were just breaking into the business, while still important, are typically only used today by a minority of services organisations (i.e., on-site response time and first-time-fix-rate, each cited by 49%; SLA compliance and mean-time-to-repair/MTTR, each cited by 47%; and several others). However, what the data do not show is a diminution of importance among the old ‘tried and true’ KPIs, but, rather, an increased emphasis among those factors that are most influential today with respect to customer satisfaction, field tech utilisation and – oh, yes – the bottom line!

Most services industry analysts would also agree that you cannot – and should not – merely collect and tabulate the data – that is basically what a market research analyst firm does. Running a services organisation, however, is quite different, according to Alderson who suggests that, “Information without action is useless”. He continues, “As service organisations mature, and implement the next generation of mobile workforce management systems, sophisticated data gathering and analytical capabilities will be mandatory. However, the ability to act on the insights and knowledge gained, to improve field service performance, will be the key to thriving, not just surviving.”

But, why are KPIs so important to the overall well-being of the organisation? Because, for many, their service performance goals are simply not being met! For example, in the UK/EMEA services community:

  • 32% of FSOs are not attaining at least 80% Customer Satisfaction; (UK/EMEA average is 82% Customer Satisfaction)
  • 28% of FSOs are not attaining at least 80% SLA Compliance;         (UK/EMEA average is 81% SLA Compliance)
  • 26% of FSOs are not achieving at least 20% services profitability; (UK/EMEA average is 35% Services Profitability)

For these reasons alone, between a quarter and a third (or more) of the UK/EMEA FSOs probably find themselves in the need for new and/or upgraded mobile workforce management technologies to run their organisations. Then, of course, they’ll still need to measure their performance along the way. It’s definitely time to “Mind the Metrics!”

Complimentary Distribution of this Article has been made possible through Cognito:

Cognito is a leading provider of mobile workforce management solutions to field service organisations. For more than 20 years, we’ve been at the leading edge of innovation and best practice when it comes to helping our clients drive field force performance, exceed customer expectations and deliver consistently excellent service. Recently, Cognito has embraced a series of key innovations in mobile workforce management software, culminating in our flagship Fieldforce iQ solution. Cognito operates throughout Europe and North America. Our customers typically have mid-size to large mobile work forces ranging from 50-plus field workers to many thousands. For more information, please visit our Website at www.cognitoiQ.com, email us at info@cognitoiQ.com, or call +44 (0)1635 508200.

An Improving Services Market Is Investing in New Mobile Tools and Technologies

Now that the economy is (apparently) improving, many services and supply chain organizations find themselves in situations where they are trying to support a growing customer/market base with antiquated (legacy is more politically correct) service management systems that are no longer up to the job.

As a result, many are investing in new technologies and mobile apps to support their service and supply chain operations. This has, in turn, caused the Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) solution providers to expand their offerings to now include Reverse Logistics and other new-to-them functionalities.

Pricing models for new technologies are also in a mode of change – largely stimulated by the proliferation of Cloud-based solutions. For example, a $1 million SLM solution, paid for on a perpetual license basis, requires a large lump sum capital expenditure upfront – plus an annual maintenance contract for the duration.

However, the Cloud has allowed organizations of all sizes to implement their SLM solutions on a either a perpetual license basis or – as an alternative – a subscription model basis that requires only a fraction of the total cost to be paid on a monthly basis. Many services executives are finding that it is easier to acquire their SLM solution on a monthly payment plan (i.e., that they can charge on their company credit card) than having to go through all the red tape and paperwork to come to terms on a perpetual license contract.

Finally, more and more service and supply chain organizations now recognize that even the best systems and solutions, by themselves, won’t get the job done. A majority (for the first time in our surveys) are now citing the ability to implement and/or improve their KPI (i.e., Key Performance Indicator) measurement and tracking as the top strategic action they will be taking to bolster their service and supply chain operations performance.

The net net is that the market recognizes that now is the time to stake their claim to a larger share of the pie – however, they also recognize that they will need the proper solutions, tools, technologies and resources to actually make it happen. The opportunity for growth is here – but there’s no way to accurately forecast how long the window will remain open.