With a raft of large platform providers including Salesforce, IFS, Oracle and Microsoft all now offering embedded field service solutions within their wider platforms is there still a market for specialist best-of-breed solution providers? We take a look at the arguments for both stand alone and integrated solutions….
Alongside the question of which type of scheduling engine is correct for your organisation (dynamic, assisted, optimised etc etc), there is also the additional consideration of whether you should opt for a solution that is stand-alone/best-of-breed or one which is fully integrated within your other core business solutions such as an ERP or CRM system?
There are valid arguments made for both sides and, as with every new introduction of technology within a business environment, careful consideration needs to be made as to what will fit best with your existing solutions and your future plans, as ultimately every organisation is unique and will have unique requirements.
However, let’s briefly look at the pros and cons of both stand-alone and integrated solutions.
The case for implementing a standalone/best–of-breed scheduling solution:
The first and perhaps most obvious of these is that the implementation of a standalone system is not necessarily tied into the complete overhaul of business-wide working processes – implementing a scheduling engine really should be viewed as a business not IT exercise.
This means that on a one off basis, implementation and training can generally be swifter than implementing a more encompassing solution such as an ERP.
“The one key area where traditionally best-of-breed solutions have been viewed as often being the more superior option has been in terms of degree of fit…”
The one key area where traditionally best-of-breed solutions have been viewed as often being the more superior option has been in terms of degree of fit.
Generally a best-of-breed solution will have been purchased to fit a particular requirement or need (i.e. mobile workforce scheduling in this instance) and you may well find that certain companies have developed a strong feel and understanding for specific industry verticals – meaning an implementation can often be as close to out-of-the box as possible if you find a company that has worked within your sector and therefore has a feel for some of the nuances of your market.
This leads us to another big benefit of choosing a standalone option in that there is a wider amount of choice available to you.
Firstly, many vendors that also offer their solution as a part of an integrated platform such as IFS or Oracle, will also offer their Field Service Management tools as standalone as well.
So when looking at a standalone option you are able to select across the entirety of the available marketplace, from the well known industry leaders through to smaller vertical specialist providers.
Of course such a wide range of choice can also be a challenge in it’s own right.
“It is important to understand their position in terms of business security – no matter how good their solution you will need some level of ongoing support, so you need to know they will be around for at least the amount of time you intend to use their solution for…”
The flip side of this is that of course with a stand-alone provider, in a worst case scenario there is always the fact that walking away from a solution that hasn’t delivered all that was promised is potentially less painful than if you have opted for an integrated solution that sits across a number of different divisions within your organisation.
The case for implementing integrated systems:
When we look at the benefits of integrated systems, again there are a number of key arguments as to why this approach has merits.
Perhaps the biggest and most important of these is the easy flow of data across different business units. In an age of Big Data, such seamless transition of data from one business division to another can help deliver a 360 degree view of a customer – something that is seen as the holy grail of business today.
“In an age of Big Data, such seamless transition of data from one business division to another can help deliver a 360 degree view of a customer – something that is seen as the holy grail of business today…”
Another perfect example of the importance of visibility across a platform could be that if an engineer arrives at a site where the client’s SLA period has expired. All too often such information can be overlooked resulting in that engineer’s work essentially being given away for free.
A second significant benefit of the integrated approach is that many companies will find adoption of new systems a lot easier at the end-user level due to familiarity of the tools.
Platforms that have various functionalities across different business units are likely to have a fundamental terminology, nomenclature, shared short cut buttons, and similar menu configurations etc.
This concept also, of course applies to the support IT departments are able to deliver.
It is far less demanding for an IT team to deliver support across one platform than various stand-alone solutions. Similarly it can also mean that support from the platform vendor is directed to one location, and often one specific account manager rather than having to have multiple vendor support channels in place.
Again such familiarity can improve issue resolution dramatically and this is also an important factor in terms of upgrading a system. With a selection of stand-alone solutions in place your IT department may face an unmanageable stream of continual updates and bug fixing patches, whether you are on a Cloud system or On Premise.
“With a platform approach, the vendor is likely to help ease the burden of so many updates by combining many system wide tweaks in each new iteration…”
One final consideration is that as mentioned above, whilst the implementation of one standalone solution may be swifter, the implementation of a business-wide system ultimately will be more efficient in terms of man-hours allocated to implementation in the longer term.
So in summary, whilst standalone may be more suitable in terms of degree of fit, a fully integrated package is ultimately likely to be more effective in terms of time, cost, resources, and project management in the mid-to long term.
However, a standalone approach does allow you to spread the cost and resources required for implementation and given the ability for scheduling engines to provide clear, tangible ROI within a generally short time frame, best-of-breed solutions could be the right option for those companies looking for direct improvements in the short term.