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Ten big field service trends to watch in 2016 (part four)

Feb 29 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 2275 Views • No Comments on Ten big field service trends to watch in 2016 (part four)

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Welcome to the fourth part of this series exploring some of the big trends to expect in 2016 within the field service sector, written by Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News.

 So far we’ve explored servitization in part one, IoT and AR in part two Smart Glasses and Rugged Computing in part three…

 This time around we look at a stalwart of field service technology in optimised scheduling and why it is more important than ever, the growing importance of user interfaces and one of the most hotly anticipated topics in fleet management – the connected car and how it will change telematics forever…

Improved scheduling will become a huge part of the equation for those selecting FSM software this year…

For all of the excitement around technologies such as AR and Smart Glasses in being able to reduce the need for field service companies to send their engineers to the far flung corners of the globe, the truth remains that for the majority of field service companies, for the time being at least, the holy grail of operations remains the age old mantra of ‘getting the right engineer, to the right job, with the right parts on-time, every time.’

Such a competitive market place makes for an environment where innovation and product development is set to thrive.

As such scheduling tools remain a vital ingredient in the field service management cookbook and this fact hasn’t been overlooked by many of the key players in the FSM software space.

With ServicePower having invested heavily in both R&D and the acquisition of intellectual property in this space and the recent roll-out of their new solution NexusTM, they are anticipated to take an aggressive approach to the market, whilst scheduling remains a core functionality of a number of significant players within the space including IFS, ClickSoftware and Astea.

Such a competitive market place makes for an environment where innovation and product development is set to thrive.

For field service companies seeking to either update their solutions or take the plunge and invest for the first time in a solution then having a variety of options is of course a major bonus and given the potential savings that dynamic scheduling engines can deliver, the refinement of such tools, making them more effective and easier to implement, is great news.

Connected vehicles and Telematics-as a-Service will challenge the traditional fleet technology sector

With the advent of the connected vehicle, the telematics industry was in danger of cannibalising itself as specialist providers began working with OEMs to provide in built systems.

On the one hand this was perhaps no bad thing and just the natural evolution of the sector.

Indeed there have been some exciting collaborations spearheaded by companies such as Telogis, who through a number of shrewd partnerships with the likes of Volvo and Ford have seen their technology placed at the heart of many next-generation commercial vehicles.

On the face of it such agreements are win-win-win.

With the advent of the connected vehicle, the telematics industry was in danger of cannibalising itself as specialist providers began working with OEMs to provide in built systems.

Great for the OEMs as they seek to outpace their competitors in terms of on-board technology, great for Telogis who have access to a much wider market and great for those field service companies who are seeking a complete turnkey solution.

But the flip side of course is that such partnerships also limit the choices available to those companies that either want to explore their options further or have existing systems that they don’t want to move away from.

Another approach to building a telematics solution was unveiled by Dutch Telematics giant TomTom at their developers’ conference in Amsterdam last year when they unveiled the .connect platform.

With three separate APIs encouraging as much integration as possible the development of the .connect platform was a masterstroke by a company that had already reinvented themselves once in the face of a declining routing and tracking market as it placed them as a telematics platform firmly at the centre of a suite of 3rd party apps that the field service company could select to define a telematics solution that was bespoke to their own specific needs.

Essentially by modelling their approach along the lines of Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play or Saleforce’s Appexchange, TomTom have paved the way for new thinking in the telematics space and have thrown down a gauntlet for the rest of the industry.

A seamless User Experience will become a prerequisite for field service companies and their clients alike

In September last year I spoke to Marne Martin, CEO of ServicePower shortly before the launch of their new FSM software Nexus FS.

They had clearly spent some significant time working on the User Interface (UI) in the face of the growing impact of consumerisation on business software. “The key is taking what we’ve done with some of the new technology, and then making sure we have integrated a great user experience throughout the other applications, modernising the UI, but not losing all the functionality that we have built over the last twenty years.” Martin commented and as we look ahead to what 2016 holds in store her words continue to ring true.

Consumerisation remains a vital trend, and one which FSM software providers will overlook at their peril.

Indeed, whilst in terms of the physical devices our field engineers are using, we may well be seeing the gradual shift back away from consumer devices to more industrial grade, rugged devices, when it comes to the user experience, consumerisation remains a vital trend, and one which FSM software providers will overlook at their peril.

But it’s not just about aesthetics, there is a very simple reason why field service companies should expect the apps they deploy for their field engineers to look as good and feel as intuitive as the apps they use in their personal lives.

To cut to the chase, the more instant familiarity an end user will feel with an app, the faster they will take to using it, which means the faster a company will fee the promised benefits of that apps deployment.

Indeed ServicePower are not alone in having put a significant amount of importance on the look and feel of their latest software.

One of the big bits of feedback from the IFS World Conference was that the company had spent a significant amount of time in ensuring their UI had a modern, elegant feel to it and that those efforts didn’t go unnoticed amongst the attendees.

It is not just within the apps used by field service engineers where UI is of growing importance.

Similarly when Solarvista launched the latest iteration of their own product, not only was there an extensive overhaul of the product itself, but it launched with a distinctly new look and feel that added a further gloss to what was a major product update.

However, it is not just within the apps used by field service engineers where UI is of growing importance.

Many field service companies are beginning to offer apps to their own customers also and whether these apps are communications channels, knowledge banks or even tools for monitoring assets within the field, increasingly digital interaction far outweighs human interaction for many companies and delivering a positive user experience through these mediums is as important to a companies relationships with their customers as face to face contact.

Look out for the final part of this series coming soon which will focus on why knowledge sharing and easy reporting are the two operations that all field service managers should be demanding in 2016.

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