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What technology will drive field service evolution the furthest? Part Two

Nov 2 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 2750 Views • No Comments on What technology will drive field service evolution the furthest? Part Two

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In the first part of this feature we looked at the ever growing importance of technology in field service and asked if Big Data or Enterprise Mobility will prove to be the key technology that drives field service forward. Now in part two Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief puts forward the case for Cloud computing and the Internet of Things… 

There is no doubt that Big Data will have a huge impact on field service like it will on almost every vertical. However, then there is the Cloud, a technology almost that a whilst again gradually becoming pervasive within the world of industry, is almost perfectly suited for the often unique demands faced by field service organisations.

Certainly the rapid rise of field service software provider ServiceMax is clear evidence of the industry’s need for and appetite for cloud based field service management systems. The ServiceMax story is one of dramatic and rapid success.

In an industry where the combination of huge amounts of coding to develop a product robust enough to be deemed suitable for ‘mission critical’ operational control sits against relatively low costs per user (in comparison to other IT led products) it is almost impossible for new vendors to penetrate the space. Yet ServiceMax have not only done so but have rapidly established themselves as a leading player within the market within a space of even years.

Indeed ServiceMax’s phenomenal growth is in part tied to their strong relationship with Cloud pioneer Salesforce.

In an interview with Field Service News, ServiceMax COO, Scot Berg commented “If you think of what it would have taken for us to launch a data centre and secure it, to build all the platform capabilities and redundancy, also that some of our first 12 customers were in the Middle East and Europe and there we were with two founders selling everything themselves out of northern California… how could that be right?”

“All because of the global reach and the global acceptance level of the Salesforce.com platform. So yes it was very important early on.”

However, whilst their relationship with Salesforce.Com undoubtedly opened doors for the California company, the truth is the appetite for Cloud as a platform for field service management systems was clearly there and not being fully exploited.

As with mobile computing there is a strong argument to be made for the Cloud being the technology to have had the biggest impact on field service in recent times.

 Our own recent research into the Cloud highlights this also with 86% of field service companies either being on, or considering a move to the Cloud for their next iteration of their field service management software.

So again as with mobile computing there is a strong argument to be made for the Cloud being the technology to have had the biggest impact on field service in recent times.

However, perhaps the most sensible viewpoint would be that it is the emergence of all three of these technologies at the same time that is the true driving factor behind the development of new field service management solutions that are driving ever greater efficiencies and productivity levels amongst field service companies. Indeed the most sophisticated current field service management systems all boast inclusion and utilisation of Big Data, Enterprise Mobility and Cloud computing.

Yet there is one other technology that has the potential to surpass the impact of all three of the above combined.

For while Big Data, Cloud and Enterprise Mobility have allowed field service companies to optimise their work-flows, it is the Internet of Things, that has the potential to completely realign those workflows, changing the dynamics of field service forever.

The often cited holy grail for field service companies is ‘the first time fix’ and as more and more devices in industry become connected (Gartner predicts 25BN connected devices by 2020) the impact of IoT on Field Service will be truly massive.

connected devices allow field service companies to move away from the costly traditional break-fix model of the past and into a far more efficient preventative maintenance model.

Why? Well, connected devices allow field service companies to move away from the costly traditional break-fix model of the past and into a far more efficient preventative maintenance model.

Yet unlike, preventative maintenance plans of ‘dumb’ or non-connected devices, which require often unnecessary scheduled checks by a field service engineer, preventative maintenance of connected devices will mean that not only will engineers only be sent out to provide maintenance when a fault is detected but they will, in the main be sent out to that particular job with an understanding of what the fault is, and with the tools or parts they need to complete the job.

With data being provided by the device itself to indicate that a fault is developing, the engineer can not only arrive armed in advance with the knowledge of what that fault is, but also will in many cases be able to rectify the fault before it escalates to a point where the device reaches critical malfunction that stops it from carrying out it’s function.

So not only will field service companies be able to direct their engineers to the most critical jobs, not only will the engineers spend less time resolving each job (with first time fix rates soaring) but also crucially companies will be able to deliver far greater up time to their customers.

This in turn can lead companies to adopting an outcome based solutions approach, whereby they are no longer selling a product and then the maintenance of that product, but selling a solution. There are of course numerous examples of companies adopting this business model, perhaps the most famous of all being Rolls Royce’s Power by The Hour contact whereby they no longer charge a flat fee for a jumbo jet engine, but instead charge for every hour one of their customers’ planes is in flight.

Whilst the big three of Cloud, Enterprise Mobility and Big Data have helped field service reach new heights of efficiency in the form of modern field service management solutions, IoT truly has the potential to redefine the way our businesses operate on a fundamental level

This is of course a seismic shift in business thinking and one that puts field service at the very heart of businesses operations if it is to be successfully deployed. Yet through the advent of IoT it is becoming a more and more plausible and attractive route – one of the key arguments for moving to what is referred to as a Servitization business model is greater profits.

So whilst the big three of Cloud, Enterprise Mobility and Big Data have helped field service reach new heights of efficiency in the form of modern field service management solutions, IoT truly has the potential to redefine the way our businesses operate on a fundamental level, and it’s impact will not only improve field service operations, but also place that at the centre of this new industry paradigm.

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