Across our recent series of features exploring the findings of an exclusive Field Service News Research project run in partnership with FieldAware, we have seen the sudden emergence of widespread adoption of remote service capabilities and the rapid acceleration of advanced services be evidenced by the data. The other key area that we have seen dominate the conversations amongst senior service executives in the last decade is digital transformation. Anecdotally, most of us would assume that we would see a similar trend of acceleration with regards to service organisations digitalisation programs – but has this actually been the case?
The study reveals that just under two thirds (64%) of respondent companies were already in the process of undergoing some aspect of digital transformation prior to the pandemic which would fit with the industry narrative. However, of these companies a further two-thirds (65%) have stated that their digital transformation programs have been accelerated since Covid-19 which is compelling evidence that the pandemic has truly been a major driver towards the adoption of the next-generation of field service management solutions that have emerged as part of the digital transformation revolution.
However, digital transformation is a broad church. When building out the study we also wanted to identify whether there had also been a shift in focus amongst service companies with regards to the elements of their digital transformation that had now taken the highest priority.
This was indeed the case with over two thirds (71%) of respondents stating that they have had to change their priorities in terms of processes and technologies that they believe are essential for their organisation to improve service delivery as a result of the pandemic.
Overwhelmingly, the most important of these new priorities is remote diagnostics tools which well over half of companies (59%) stated they were currently implementing or looking to implement.
“While there is a clear need for investment in digital transformation, there is a challenging dichotomy emerging….”
What could be an interesting predictor of another shift we may begin to see emerge in the service sector is the significant focus on customer portals/self-help solutions. These were, in fact, the second most sought after technology cited which just under half of respondents (49%) were implementing/actively seeking to implement. We discussed earlier in the report whether the shift towards remote service delivery tools could see the emergence of a new approach to tiered service delivery. Could it be that a very light transactional or subscription-based self-help service offering could become the de facto first rung on the service offering ladder?
The third most important technology cited was Workforce Management Solutions which are also proving to be important with well over a third of companies (38%) looking at implementing such technologies.
With the majority of companies already now having at least some semblance of an FSM solution, it will be interesting to see if this is the shift towards third-generation systems that we have seen emerge in recent months or whether it is a shift away from using more generic CRM/ERP type tools to a more dedicated set of best-in-class tools designed with field service in mind. Again, this is an area we will be exploring further in the follow up paper based on detailed respondent interviews.
While there is a clear need for investment in digital transformation, there is a challenging dichotomy emerging. Despite the study revealing a strong requirement for investment in field service management technologies less than a quarter of companies (23%) have increased the budget available to do so, while just under a third (32%) of companies have had their budget decreased.
However, respondents of both positions seem to think that this budget reset will be more permanent than temporary with 73% stating they think this level of investment will become standard moving forward. This could suggest that many companies may be caught in the headlights as they see the need for investment yet freeze at the onset of an ongoing economic downturn.
This is a challenge that simply needs to be overcome one way or another.
Whether it be diverting funds to meet the investment needs or adapting to a more simplified service model something will have to give. The challenge being what could keep the business buoyant in the short-term, maybe the very thing that causes it to sink further down the line.
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The full paper is available in the premium resource library.