Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM, takes a look at the biggest two tools being used for field service management and explore the merits of each…
In today’s business environment, too much attention is often focused on new technologies on the horizon, and whatever else might be “hot” in the blogs or other social media, rather than on the core attributes of substance and sustainability.
However, when it comes down to selecting the right Field Service Management (FSM) solution for your organisation, one thing remains very clear – it must “fit” your organisation with respect to functionality, application, accessibility, scalability and – of course – cost.
While some organisations may prefer an all-encompassing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution that addresses all areas within the company (e.g., manufacturing, engineering, distribution, sales, marketing, etc.) in addition to services, others may prefer to use a Best-of-Breed FSM solution that serves as a custom “fit” to its services operations.
Differentiators that Distinguish Best-of-Breed vs. ERP solutions:
There are many definitions of Best-of-Breed currently being used in the global services community, ranging from “best in segment”, to “best anywhere”, to “best currently available”, and so on.
However, much too often, “best in segment” may not necessarily reflect “Best Practices”; “best anywhere” may be too elusive, and “best currently available” may not be quite good enough. With so many alternative definitions, some organisations may eventually end up not quite knowing which “best” they should be aspiring to.
Further, what may be “best-of-breed” in the manufacturing sector may not even be relevant in the medical device sector, and vice versa.
The complexity of the concept of “best” as it pertains specifically to a field services organisation can cloud the ability of management to choose either the precise goals to target, or the appropriate technology solutions that will be required to attain them.
Research has shown that the ability to pick and choose the specific components to support an organisation’s FSM activities offers a much more tailored solution that is able to address all facets of this service-centric process.
That is not necessarily to say that an ERP solution will not, or cannot, support FSM – rather, that a robust, application-specific, Best-of-Breed solution may be able to do it better.
Further, many ERP solution providers go-to-market with messages that proclaim “everything your organisation needs to support its services activities”. However, the “everything” that is offered by some of these vendors may only follow the 80/20 rule; that is, providing only “80% of the FSM functionality required”, but delivered by a “brand name” company typically as an add-on to a more extensive – and expensive – ERP solution.
On the other hand, a Best-of-Breed FSM solution typically offers 100% – or close to it – of the specific functionality required by the field services organisation from a services-oriented solution provider that truly understands the user’s needs from the requisite functional specs; to the terminology and buzzwords to the requirements for installation and training; and ongoing technical and customer support.
In addition, Best-of-Breed solution providers in the services segment have typically supported clients in their field for decades, gaining a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the market space including who the key and niche players are (i.e., vendors and users), how customers’ service organisations operate, what specific functionalities are required (and available), how usage has been and will be evolving over time, and what the key pain points are for all parties involved.
Most of today’s Best-of-Breed vendors represent the ones that have been successful in differentiating themselves beyond the enterprise-wide capabilities of the ERP generalists and the 80/20 CRM vendors.
Evaluating and Comparing Best-of-Breed vs. ERP Alternatives
Just as “you cannot tell a book by its cover”, it is uncertain – and unwise – to try to assess a solution provider simply by its marketing collateral.
Just because they say they can do it all, does not necessarily mean they can – and just because they say they support the field services segment does not mean they are specialists in doing so.
Many organisations have found that the difference between a generalist and a specialist can make all the difference in the world.
That is why it is so important to make sure that when selecting an FSM solution provider, the organisation evaluates all vendors with the same high level of due diligence – that is, assessing and comparing all vendors using the same criteria, and holding them to the same standards whether they are ERP generalists, FSM Best-of-Breed specialists, or anything else in-between.
Whether Best-of-Breed or ERP is better for your organisation will ultimately be your call – however, the results of a thorough needs assessment and long list/short list evaluation of potential solutions (and vendors) will take you to the point where you can make the right decision.
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