Breaking down silos: Why the flow of data is essential to modern service delivery…

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It is often said that data will be the true currency of future businesses across all sectors, but have we already reached a point where the seamless flow of data within an organisation is now essential for effective service delivery?

In modern field service, it is impossible to ignore the power fo data and it’s potential to drive businesses forward. One company that has been able to harness that power effectively to push their own service delivery levels to new levels of efficiency has been print and copy giant Konica Minolta and in a forthcoming exclusive Field Service News webcast we were joined by Ged Cranny, Head of Direct Service for Konica Minolta as well as Dave Bohensky and David Webb of Cognito iQ – the organisation providing Konica Minolta with the tools that have allowed them to fully embrace data-driven service.

Cranny often speaks about the importance of transparency that adopting such a data-centric approach has yielded and how such visibility has empowered important conversations around there service delivery in multiple layers across the organisation – and it is the seamless flow of data across an organisation that is crucial to being able to reach such levels of transparency across the various business units within an organisation.

So is this smooth movement of data across different divisions within an organisation the fundamental building block of modern service excellence?

Have we now reached a point where it is imperative for field service businesses to break down the data silos that often exist within their systems in order to remain competitive?

“I think transparency of data is important in the service world because service can often be viewed by the rest of the business as something of a dark art,” explains Cranny.

This is indeed true for a vast majority of organisations. Whilst for those of us engaged within the sector, we can absolutely see the key strategic importance of having an effective and efficient field service operation, which increasingly can become a significant contributor to overall revenues, the fact remains that within many organisations field service is all too often still viewed merely as a necessary evil and something that is a huge red line on the P&L sheets.

However, by being able to clearly outline the various complexities and benefits of a field service operation, supported by robust, accurate data that can be viewed in real-time, it is far easier to make the case as to why field service should be a key area of strategic focus within any customer-centric organisation.

“TOne of the most important things when we got the data from Cognito during the trial phase was that we were able to show this to our Financial Director and Managing Director and straight away they were able to see the value of that data across the business. Essentially it took away the ‘dark art’ element of what we do,” Cranny continues.

However, it is not just at the exec level that such visibility into the data can have an impact. Right across an organisation, there are wins to be had from being able to share data-led insights with various different stakeholders.

“We’ve actually opened up the data to anybody who wants to look into the top level figures within the business. For example, our CX manager can see the information relevant to customer satisfaction levels.  In fact, anybody can see how we are performing on any given day in terms of how well we are meeting our SLAs and that openness has led to much more informed questions to us int he service department, which in turn raises the level of both our service engineers and our service managers,” Cranny explains.

“It is absolutely key that service organisations are able to harness field service teams as a whole and that they really encourage collaboration around the data,” adds Webb.

“I think that is the nature of the world that we are operating in now. It is no longer the preserve of the management teams to manage the customer experience, to manage the performance of the business, to worry about dimensions of success for the organisation – it is now down to all contributors.”

“Field Service engineers are the people that interact the most closely with the customers and the old adage of the customer advisor is absolutely true today. Therefore being able to share with the engineers the impact that their contribution is having on the overall performance of the operation, to ensure that you have that openness of communication is hugely important.”

“What I’ve seen Ged and his team at Konica Minolta do so effectively is to make that performance discussion about the process in the operation. It is far less about people and far more about their contribution to the process and identifying those aspects of a process that are failing or that could be improved.”

“So openness and transparency are key, but also the way in which you engage teams in the  discussion around that performance is critical.”

“If you use good data badly, then you’ll only get to use it once, if you use it well then the reality is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, you get to see a continuous performance improvement mindset emerging within your teams which makes a huge difference to the overall business.”

This of course also frees up management teams who can then offer a huge amount of value in other areas of the business as well such as new business development, key account management and those aspects of the role.

Essentially by freeing  these key personnel up from the day to day service delivery, they are able to focus purely on management by exception around the operation and then really focus on where the next business development role coming from and how they can contribute – making the service operation come alive for their business development colleagues when they are dealing with prospects and customers.

Of course, this is an optimal end goal, however, it is not necessarily a simple path for an organisation to follow. It is clear that the relationship between Konica Minolta and Cognito IQ is one which is well grounded in a level of trust and openness and there is a clear willingness from both sides to work in tandem to help Konica Minolta unlock the insights held within their data.

But how much weight falls on the shoulders of a solution provider to be able to guide their clients on that path, and how much responsibility does the field service organisation for plotting the path themselves?

“I think the answer ultimately here is that it really depends on the dynamics within the relationship in any given scenario and either can have contributions on that level,” comments Bohenski when the topic comes up.

”It is certainly true that data is the new arms race within business and being able to marshal and gain insights into that data is really what can drive benefits and opportunities for you to beat your competition. If you can harness the data then the rewards are absolutely there,” he adds.

“That then comes into the two sides. You can have some insights yourself, but it also helps to have someone from the outside also looking at things that perhaps yo might not have seen about your own data – sometimes companies can become a bit tunnel visioned about their data without that external viewpoint.”

“Absolutely, I see the role of service providers to  help with platforms to bring that data into a place where meaningful insight can be drawn from it – to establish one place where companies can access all of their data through APIs etc.”

“Then when we have that the flow of data from different parts of the business is available, so a solution provider can not only help you access that data but also glean some insight that you might not have necessarily got yourself, but it is also available to other parts of your business and what I find is that when you have that kind of structure within your data you have emergent things happen that you might not have initially anticipated.”

“Essentially, if you have two different people looking at the same piece of data, very often you can find something that never of them would have seen were they looking at the data on their own.”

This is a hugely salient point as often companies are able to unearth unexpected value within their data – sometimes that can help them improve their own processes, but equally it can be insight that can be intrinsically valuable for their clients as well – leading to ways to further increase an organisations stickiness with their customers, or even opening up completely new revenue streams entirely.

Indeed, the benefit of breaking down information silos within a business does appear to be perhaps one of the most crucial tasks field service organisations must undertake in today’s world of data-led field service.

By working alongside CognitoiQ Konica Minolta certainly seem to be an excellent example of a company that has achieved that and they are now positioned to reap the rewards of that forward

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