In our continuing series on field service industry leaders, Dave Yarnold, CEO ServiceMax talks to Mark Ambasna Jones about the company’s journey so far and the future of field service.
When Dave Yarnold, ServiceMax CEO, first ventured into Europe in search of business, ServiceMax were nothing more than a start up. Today it is one of the most successful field service management providers in the world.
Still a relatively new kid on the block in software terms, ServiceMax is only eight years old. You get the feeling it’s still punching above its weight and Yarnold encapsulates the energy and excitement of the company that believes it is onto something.
ServiceMax has witnessed phenomenal growth (300% year on year with 150 new customers in 12 months, according to the company). Its inaugural ServiceMaxLive Europe customer event in Paris last year showed it has certainly arrived.
Yarnold was fresh back from Japan when we met. Was it easier to set-up in Japan than in Europe, I asked?
“Western Europe in particular and North America were clearly the top targets for us when we first started but then the next one in line terms of the number of manufacturers and the premium on service and quality was Japan. It’s always hard going into a new territory, a new country. No one wants to be the first to break a market but fortunately we have a number of companies that have done global roll outs and that has helped us and continues to do so.”
It’s really cool to see what different folks are doing with the platform.”
“In our early days in Europe we were a small company with just a few use cases. To have people like Manish Gupta from Schneider Electric and John Cooper from Sony at ServiceMax Live was great and I think that says a lot about how far we have come. I have personally been working with Manish for five years, before we even had a team here, I was flying to Paris working on the details, looking at the installed base and helping find a solution. Schneider has over 20,000 field technicians.”
I asked why Yarnold had seemed particularly enamoured with Inspecta when its CCO Timo Okkonen spoke at the event.
“Timo has such a great story to tell. Inspecta is an interesting company and what it’s trying to do using ServiceMax is so interesting. It now has 1,600 users of ServiceMax but it’s using the software for company transformation. The thing I love about his story is that it’s not just about service it’s a tool for collaboration, for employees to talk, to share important information. It’s really cool to see what different folks are doing with the platform.”
Service as a software
Transformation is a recurring theme. Yarnold’s suggestion that software as a service is becoming service as a software seems to fit with the Inspecta case study. He believes ServiceMax has found itself at the heart of this changing landscape, partly by design but also partly as a result of being in the right place at the right time.
So does he see the company as a disruptor, ripping up the rule book?
We can take these grand ideas around IoT and make them usable, creating understandable user cases for IoT.
What would that be, I asked?
“Quite simply it’s a machine talking to a machine, and when the machine says something is wrong, you take that data, dispatch a technician and fix the machine before the customer even knows there is a problem, eliminating unplanned downtime. We can help here and play a very disruptive role. We have the right tools to do that.” Banking on IoT makes sense and for service it’s an obvious fit.
ServiceMax had even rolled out Kevin Ashton, the guy credited for coining the term the Internet of Things to talk at the event and drive home the point. But isn’t everyone thinking along these lines? And what makes ServiceMax so different?
“We’ve been looking at IoT for several years now, going back to when it was referred to as M2M – seemed like a good idea then but now it’s a better idea because it’s called IoT right? So we were always clear that we didn’t want to solve the data problem – all that data coming off of sensors, we didn’t want to get involved with sorting out the big data. We figured others would do that. We wanted to distil the data into something useful for service organisations. Our platform is geared to ultimately be agnostic, taking smart distilled data and to use in a service environment. This is where service becomes more strategic.”
ServiceMax has partnered with PTC to deliver the IoT bit, leaving it to focus on the service angle. Yarnold admits it’s still early days but you get the sense that this is a pivotal moment for the company and the industry as a whole.
Does Yarnold see a shifting role for field service technicians?
We think that the Chief Service Officer should be a C level position…
We had 30 plus CSOs in a room and the liveliest discussion was on this – do your service people sell or serve and how best to generate revenues? Do you provide incentives to sell and potentially break the trust they have with customers?
Customers do trust their service techs. I’ve been in meeting s where customers have turned to the field service tech and asked, “should I buy this product?” There is a lot of power and trust here so you have to be careful.”
Are any companies doing this now?
“A lot of companies have armed the service teams with soft skills; they don’t call them sales skills. I think that some of the more forward thinking ServiceMax users have put some tools in place to coach field service people in what to look for, how to look for competitive equipment, for example, to identify a potential upsell opportunity and putting lead generation buttons in the system. It’s a delicate balance.”
Too delicate? Will it last?
“Service people are wary of pushing field teams towards selling too hard but they also seem excited by the fact they are relevant and generating revenue. Now service is not just considered a cost centre. Service people are getting involved in growth discussions.”