Understanding what effective use of asset data looks like

Understanding what effective use of asset data looks like

Having established the most significant shifts in the industry from both the service provider and customer side that we have seen across the last eighteen months, in the next part of the study, we shifted our attention towards how field service companies were utilising data within their organisation…


We had entered into the study with the hypothesis that having seen the massive shift towards remote service delivery, indicated in several prior Field Service News Research studies across the last few years, our industry would become increasingly reliant on the effective utilisation of data analysis.


However, while we are all becoming more comfortable with discussions around and the application of technologies such as the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, and Big Data processing within a field service context, the reality is that we are still very much in the early stages of putting these technologies in place.


Digital transformation has been a commonly referenced buzz phrase both inside and beyond our industry for some time now. The common consensus of many technology-focused analysts is that the pandemic accelerated our journey through this digital revolution.


However, while we may have taken some significant strides across the last two years in this area when change is forced upon us by external disruption, it can take time for processes to be realigned. Often, we find a way forward that doesn’t necessarily involve optimally redesigning processes in such situations. In times of crisis, we just get to where we need to. Only after the dust settles and we have time for reflection can we begin to fine-tune our operations.


With this in mind, we felt it was critical to assess where we were as an industry concerning the effective use of data.


In our initial study, we asked our respondents if they believed the field service business unit receives enough data from their assets in the field into their systems of record to impact their field service operations positively. The responses showed an industry still somewhat in flux, with 43% of respondents stating that they do receive asset data and it is used effectively. In comparison, 57% of respondents said that while they receive asset data into their relevant systems of record, they felt it wasn’t being utilised effectively.


Of course, this question is just utilised to provide a barometer of an overarching feel for the industry. As Jeukens pointed out during the debrief, “my first counter-question would be ‘define effectiveness.’”


This is, of course, exactly why we engage in the three-staged approach within Field Service News Research studies, wherein we undertake quantitative research that allows us to assess the critical headline trends, then dig deeper into the meaning of those trends alongside subject matter experts through our debrief sessions, before returning to our respondents in a series of one-on- one interviews that allow us to extrapolate further meaning via a qualitative methodology.


Therefore, understanding why certain respondents felt that their application of data wasn’t effective was a central part of many of the follow-up interviews.


Across these discussions, we saw three common themes appearing. These were:


• Too much data to draw meaningful insight

• The wrong data being collected
• Data getting stuck in business silos.


Some of the comments around this line of questioning included:


“Our biggest challenge is not the collection of data; it is knowing what data can drive insight to allow us to plan better actions. Each asset in the field generates huge amounts of data which is all collected but realistically, the majority is just collected and left alone.


“I’m not even sure where we would start to fix that issue either, to be honest. It seems to be a big job that would benefit many different departments but is the classic case of everybody, somebody and nobody. Everybody thinks that somebody else should be doing it, so in the end, nobody does it!


“Ultimately, I think that we would need someone at the exec level to take ownership of our data strategy in general because I do agree with the study report that data is going to be critical for service organisations and frankly at the moment we don’t have the processes in place to use the vast amounts of data we collect in anything other than a very basic form.” – UK Service Director in the Manufacturing sector.


“I think our challenge as a business is identifying what data we need to be able to draw upon and making sure that is directed to the right place. I’d like to see us reach a point where we can establish a closed feedback loop between us as a service department and our R&D and development team – and I think that asset data really is the mechanism that will allow that to happen. However, what I need to know in terms of service operations, is different to what the guys in R&D need to know about asset performance.


“There is overlap across the two and this is the important part we need to do better. We need to make sure the insight we need in service operations is readily available to us, the insights the R&D team require is readily available to them, and then the insights that sit in the overlap in the centre should form the backbone of a common language discussion between our two business units so we can close that loop. That is certainly the goal we are working towards; however we are not there yet so I do think we can be a lot more effective in our use of asset data.” – European Group Service Director, Mining and Aggregates sector.


“For our business, I would say that in terms of getting the data we need as the service operations team, we are starting to get quite close to effective use of data. We have been moving much more towards a proactive model of service, and utilising asset data in our newer assets and even some retro-fitted older devices, has been a core part of that transition.


“However, the reason I stated I felt we weren’t utilising the data effectively is that currently, much of the data that we leverage within service operations could and should really be much more readily available to our service sales agents. They have access to rudimentary data, of course, like top-level asset history and warranty length etc.


“However, if they were able to look up, for example, the percentage of uptime that we have delivered throughout the service contract, that would enable them to build a much more compelling sales pitch. Currently, they have to go through too many hoops to get that information because they have to come to us for that level of information, and while we are always willing to help, that can add delays as we are busy with the day job!


“So I think if we could move the data from one business system to another with greater ease, really develop that 360 degree customer view, not just built around the customer data but also the asset data, then we could be moving to a whole new level of effectiveness.” – US National Service Lead, Manufacturing Sector.


Many of the responses reflected Jeukens’ commentary during the debrief session. “We have seen a lot of organisations setting up Big Data and IoT to process and collect asset data, and they have ended up with many data lakes because they focused on collecting the data and not so much how they want to use the data,” he explained.


“I think if you focus on the use, you can better define what is effective. However, by also defining use, you can define the persona, and this is in turn linked to the business silo. So if the use of collecting data is defined by service delivery personas, they will typically only invest in collecting the data that is valuable to them, and when they only collect the data that is valuable to them, there is very little sharing of the data beyond that silo.


“Only in an organisation where there is someone who can supersede the various silos and can look at data from a broader perspective could this be overcome.


“However, in such scenarios, you are often asking the service operation, and often it is the service technician collecting data in a ‘poor man’s IoT situation for somebody else in the organisation. As we know, man-hours are the key currency in service operations, so asking our technicians to spend time collecting data for a different department without any incentivisation is a tough ask. It is a tough business case to build.


“This is why you really need a strong personality within the organisation, who sits outside of the established business silos, if you really want to collect and leverage data in a cross-silo capacity.”

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