Written by 12:00 am Feature, Service Strategy

Are We Innovating Enough to Keep Pace with the Requirements of the New Normal?

Everyone is in accord that whatever the ‘new normal’ we will find ourselves in as we move out of the lockdown, will be a very different world to what came before. With a massive challenge ahead of us to get the economic recovery back on track, we have to rebuild and perhaps more importantly rethink our old processes collectively. The question is, are we able to innovate quickly enough to do so?

For some of the members of this iteration of the Think Tank, the level of innovation we are all considering needs to be bigger, bolder and faster. Indeed, it is in times of great crisis we often see the greatest leaps forward.

This was neatly summarised by Rajat Kakar, Executive Service Leadership, EMEA, IBM who stated. “Introducing remote services is not being the innovator; most of the colleagues here sitting in this ThinkTank, are already offering remote support services,”

“That is a business model of most of the companies, it is not innovation,” Kakar stated.

However, not all organisations are on the same page, especially when it comes to embracing digital transformation, which is largely believed to be the fundamental underpinning required for such innovation.

“Innovation is a great thing, but you’d be surprised how many people are using tools such as remote services or not using them as the case may be,” replied Kieran Notter, VP Global Customer Transformation, ServiceMax

“When we all attend the industry conferences, everybody talks about what nirvana looks like; everybody talks about self-healing products; everybody talks about AI, AR, etc.

“However, you’d be surprised how many companies that we see as market leaders that don’t have the ability to do this or don’t have these tools in place.

“A question we need to consider, is whether the information that you’re gleaning from your systems in service operations and your knowledge of how you’ve worked your past is this getting back to your design teams to see if you can help drive development and product innovation?”

It is an important question that Notter asks.

“What is difficult to copy is culture. What is difficult to replicate is how we train and build expertise and keep and retain and engage our teams…”

– Alec Pinto, Leica BioSystems

For innovation to truly flow through an organisation there must be a seamless movement of data, and more importantly insight across all aspects of the business. However, even with a technology platform to build upon, and silos broken down so data can flow easily to where it is needed, there still always remains one other key ingredient for service innovation – people.

“When you’re talking about product and the innovation that we in the service operation bring to product, one of the critical things that our customers also pay for is the relationship that they have with service engineers,” commented Alec Pinto, Regional Service Manager DACH & High Growth Markets, Leica Biosystems

“We’re all moving towards a place where we talk about the commoditization of services, everything that we can copy from the competition will be copied, and that will drive the price down.

“However, what is difficult to copy is culture. What is difficult to replicate is how we train and build expertise and keep and retain and engage our teams. That’s going to be how we innovate, and the level at which we do that is going to be the difference from one organization to another.”

One thing the group could all agree on was that the true innovations that we will see emerge today, will be firmly based around understanding where the value of the service organisation lies when it comes to driving the customer’s business forward tomorrow.

“We must also look at other ways in which we can add value to our clients, to their value creation process and their business…”

– Jan van Veen, MoreMomentum

As Jan van Veen, Founder, More Momentum explained, “I think there’s another trend or thing to keep in mind in the discussion around innovation. As soon as we see our products become more of a commodity, or at least with little differentiation, probably maintenance, break-fix services and even remote service will have the same kind of tendency, at some point later.

“In the end, the same thing will happen and even more if it’s in the remote area. We will start designing our products or machines differently, so clients can easier maintain them with the support of remote support from our company. So, we must also look at other ways in which we can add value to our clients, to their value creation process and their business.”

The important aspect here is that understand how we as service providers can solve asset maintenance or resolve asset failure is likely to no longer be enough.

“It’s not only how they manage their assets or how they expect their vendors to manage the assets,” continues Van Veen. “It’s also looking at how they manage their operations, how they manage their people, how they manage their energy or fuel consumption or materials usage and so on.

“I think manufacturers have an excellent opportunity to be more relevant in that domain. Still, it means that you’re also shifting or adding some consultancy service or outsourcing services or support services around improving these performance areas. Then we’re doing something on top of pure product related service, and it becomes more business-related services.

“This is also an area where we can have a lot of innovation, and that will be data-driven as well.”

There is a bright potential future for service providers and a once in a lifetime opportunity to build this now. However, we must think beyond the confines and limitations of past expectations to realise it.

All members of the Field Service Think Tanks are speaking from their own personal opinions which are not necessarily reflective of the organisations they work for. 

Want to know more? There is an Executive Briefing from this Field Service Think Tank Session which is available in the premium content library.