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Industry leaders: John Cooper, Sony Professional Solutions, Europe. Managing complexity: Part 2

Sep 1 • Features, Interview, resources, Software and Apps • 3351 Views • No Comments on Industry leaders: John Cooper, Sony Professional Solutions, Europe. Managing complexity: Part 2

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In Part One of this interview in our Industry Leaders series, John Cooper, Head of IT and Workflow Solutions in Sony’s Professional Solutions unit in Europe explained why he and his colleagues needed to revisit their existing service infrastructure and replace a 15-year-old legacy system with something better suited to the growing complexity of their service organisation.

In Part 2, he talks to FSN’s Kris Oldand about how he and his team reviewed both off-the-shelf systems and customised solutions to determine which was fit-for-purpose, their reasons for making the choice they did and the impact on the service operation.

“We had a remedy based solution that actually had its routes dating back almost 15 years believe it or not,” Cooper begins. “It was initially designed for specific service offerings we had which were very much one-to-one. One customer , one product. So a kind of classic repair-related issue. They’d call the help desk, raise a remedy ticket, we’d determine if a repair was required, we’d pull the units back and we’d issue replacements;  a nice simple system.”

“Of course now we are in a situation where we have technology that sits across multiple partners of Sony, plus hardware and software vendors,  and we look after it all. It may be multi-site, it may even have multiple SLAs within contracts.” Cooper explains.

We realised the bits that really mattered to our customers were the bits that we were finding it hardest to do.

So despite having updated and improved their existing system across the years, its core purpose was as a backend system, and it lacked the reporting functionality and dashboards that it was becoming more and more apparent Cooper and his team required.  “We got to the point that we realised the bits that really mattered to our customers were the bits that we were finding it hardest to do.”

As the need for a more modern service management system became apparent Cooper and his colleagues had some clear expectations of what they wanted. “We thought about this issue of the ecosystem and how do we get everybody involved. Pretty quickly we came to the decision that what we needed to do was get something that sat within the Salesforce world; our sales and marketing organisation use Salesforce – it’s a standard platform in Sony,” he explains

Bespoke or fit-for-purpose?

I was very wary about bespoking because it gets you a solution for today and,  if you’re clever,  maybe for the next two or three years

However the next decision was whether to opt for a ‘fit-for-purpose’ solution or create something bespoke. Something Cooper clearly gave great consideration to:   “We had two other big choices – do we bespoke something or do we look for something that is fit for purpose,” he begins.  “In the past I didn’t see much in ‘fit-for-purpose’ solutions that I felt actually really understood something as complex as what we wanted to do. At the same time I was very wary about bespoking because it gets you a solution for today and,  if you’re clever,  maybe for the next two or three years. I didn’t want my team to be thinking what to do next about IT, I wanted them to be thinking about making the customers happy.”

“So we looked around and we found ServiceMax amongst a number of systems that we had already looked at. I just thought: this is a system that has really been thought through by service professionals, people who really understand what happens. It’s not just a standard set of processes.”

“Despite it being an off the shelf package there is such as degree of configurability that you can work how you want to work. There is such a good degree of best practice built in it pushes you down a path of best practice and I’m a big fan of that.”

 Dual benefits

Of course there are numerous benefits to a next generation service management system such as ServiceMax, including easy Salesforce integration, breaking down many of the data silos that can exist within an organisation.

And perhaps the most important of these is the ease of access to reporting which Sony had found lacking in their previous solution.  This is of course indicative of how business is done today and a common expectation of Sony’s customers, so it was a key necessity for Sony when implementing their new system.

However, given the changing nature of Sony’s business with both a shift towards a more service-orientated business structure and also, through the use of remote diagnostics tools, a move towards a much more proactive and preventative service offering, such reporting tools also provide an important second function  – namely,  being able to report on all of the service value Sony are delivering that may otherwise potentially not get noticed or acknowledged.

If you’re not careful the only time people hear about service is when there is bad news

“Sometimes we can have a conversation with customers and they’ll say well we’re not really aware of you doing that much for us.” Cooper explains.  “And that’s a facet of us keeping processes and systems nice and clean in such a way that systems continue to run. So the desire for us to want to demonstrate all the good stuff we’ve done is really strong.”

“The flip side of course is that no service organisation is perfect and sometimes when things go wrong the first person that hears about it is someone senior on the customer’s side and then the second person that hears about it is the account manager.  So if you’re not careful the only time people hear about service is when there is bad news and the reality is that 99% of the stuff is going wonderfully but there is not any awareness of this.”

In fact Cooper believes such easy access to reports and dashboards, is as powerful tool for his account managers as it is for his service managers.  “One of the other drivers for us in this quest for the right sort of system was something that keeps the whole ecosystem aware of what’s going on and what we are doing for the end customer.”

“We have this dream of the account managers turning up at customer sites and being completely clued in with all the stuff that’s happened in a nice simple to understand graphical way. So they don’t need to get into technical complexity but they know what we’ve done for the customers, they know of any live issues and they’re not going to get ambushed with you’ve got this problem or that problem.”

And Cooper sees this as perhaps one of the biggest changes in service today.  “That sort of thinking wasn’t there many years ago in our industry but now it’s becoming imperative, ” he asserts.  “Our feeling is that that service will really help us differentiate ourselves with our customers. Our goal at the end of the day is we want customers to come back to us and keep renewing service contracts and then when their technology gets to the point where there is something better for them out there they come back and buy from Sony.”

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