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How the Internet of Things (IoT) Is Transforming Field Service

Feb 17 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 683 Views • No Comments on How the Internet of Things (IoT) Is Transforming Field Service

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The Internet of Things has been positioned as the key technology that will lead to a true evolution of field service delivery. Bill Pollock, President of Strategies for GrowthSM looks at the challenges revealed in his latest benchmarking research and explains how IoT will help field service organisations meet these…

The Convergence of the IoT and Field Service Management (FSM)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not a new concept.

To a growing number of services managers, the two are inseparable as they have been integrally linked together for as long as they have been heading their organisation’s services operations.

This is especially true in an environment where an influx of millennials are rapidly replacing baby boomers in virtually all aspects of the services sector; where the “marriage” between Field Service Management (FSM) and the IoT is generally seen as a “given” with respect to providing the organisation with the ability to satisfy the total needs, requirements and expectations of their respective customers.

As such, this “marriage” is somewhat analogous to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or taking “tried and true” favourites like chocolate and peanut butter, integrating the two together, and coming up with something “new” that the marketplace simply cannot live without. The big difference, however, is that the IoT is much more than just a tasty morsel – it is transforming the very core of field service management.

“For most field service organisations FSM solutions are no longer “new” to the services industry…”

However, the IoT, in and of itself, cannot transform a poorly run Field Service Organisation (FSO) into an efficient operation; nor can it turn an unprofitable one into a cash cow.

However, it can clearly help to re-position an already well-run organisation for accelerated growth, heightened market position, improved effectiveness, improved customer satisfaction and increased profitability. For a growing number of FSOs, the greatest determinants of their commercial viability – and profitability – are the efficiency, functionality and effectiveness of their IoT-based Field Service Management (FSM) solution.

There’s FSM, and Then There’s the IoT-powered FSM

For most field service organisations (i.e., Gartner estimates roughly 75%) FSM solutions are no longer “new” to the services industry – they are a fact of life. What is still news, however, is how easy they now are to implement, as Cloud technology has essentially normalized the playing field so that FSOs of all types and sizes, and serving any geography, can benefit from its implementation.

The results of Strategies For GrowthSM‘s (SFGSM) 2016/17 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey report that the top opportunities, or benefits, cited by FSOs with respect to acquiring and integrating new technology (i.e., the IoT, among others) are:

  • 44% Ability to run a more efficient field service operation by eliminating silos
  • 39% Improve customer satisfaction
  • 35% Ability to provide customers with an end-to-end engagement relationship
  • 30% Establish a competitive advantage
  • 26% Improve field technician utilisation and productivity
  • 25% Reduce Total Cost of Operations (TCO)

The survey data also suggest that the opportunities and benefits significantly outweigh the challenges for a clear majority of FSOs – but, they still exist.

However, the IoT helps to make it all possible by allowing the new technology – in most cases – to easily integrate with existing FSM systems.

This is particularly true for FSOs whose FSM solutions are already built on a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, where the addition of field service management functionality may be as easy as simply adding a module to the existing system. This is an important factor – and it should be – for FSOs as they make their decision to acquire a specific FSM solution.

The SFGSM survey research also reveals that, for a near majority of FSOs, this decision is “impacted mostly” by:

  • 50% Prefer a solution that interfaces with CRM
  • 47% Prefer to work with a single provider of Field Service functionality
  • 47% Prefer a solution that is intuitive and easy to train on
  • 45% Integrating new technologies into existing FSM solution platform

Another 35% also prefer to invest in a solution that fosters collaboration between Sales and Service as a top decision-making factor.

What the Future Holds for the Convergence of the IoT and Field Service Management

The “future” of field service is already here!

“Like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, the market does not really care how the chocolate and the peanut butter are engineered into the final product; they just know that it tastes good, and the two ingredients work exceptionally well together”

Today’s IoT-powered FSM solutions already provide FSOs with the ability to monitor equipment remotely, and transmit data into the business’ database in real-time.

The greatest manifestations of this pervasive technology may be best described in the providing FSOs with the capabilities to:

  1. Collect whatever data that are needed to improve a process, or improve a product, based on its measured, monitored and tracked usage
  2. Switch to a lower-cost predictive model vs. the more traditional – and more expensive – preventative maintenance model
  3. Determine which services to offer to customers that the organisation cannot offer today (e.g., a next-level guarantee against downtime, which can be turned into a premium service, etc.)
  4. Sell, cross-sell and upsell new services, packaged as competitive differentiators
  5. Create a more effective KPI program that can measure, monitor and track both the still-relevant traditional KPIs, as well as the “new” KPIs that are being created through the use of the IoT

The IoT technology is readily available; the market demand is here; and the positive impact on the bottom line of an FSM solution, powered by the IoT, is quite compelling. Just like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, the market does not really care how the chocolate and the peanut butter are engineered into the final product; they just know that it tastes good, and the two ingredients work exceptionally well together – just like the Internet of Things and Field Service Management.

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