By Alastair Clifford-Jones, CEO of Leadent Solutions
Many organizations that have implemented field service management (FSM) solutions now have a dilemma. Recent advances in technology — in terms of platforms, software, and hardware — have caused these organizations that had originally gained a competitive advantage, to risk being left behind. It’s not just the advancement of technology; the focus for many field service organizations has changed due to consumers ever-increasing expectations, and the deregulation of certain industries.
Given the pressure to provide a better customer experience, many assume the solution is to replace or upgrade aging technology; especially considering that the replacement could be a cloud or SaaS-based solution that would put the costs into an OPEX bucket. While this might be seen as a silver bullet, the decision is multi-dimensional.
When organizations first considered FSM systems they were trying move away from the “chaotic survival” state in which costs are high and processes are disparate and manual. Business cases were predicated on an improvement in operational efficiency by ensuring the right job was given to the right operative, with the right skills to meet customer service levels at an optimum cost.
To become a supply-led business requires a limited change in technology, and more of an organizational change as it is much more about breaking down silos within a business. However, becoming a demand-led organization requires significant investment, and a completely different way of thinking. This is where organisations need to be truly digitally-enabled with multi-channel customer touch points.
Is Your Technology Or Your Processes The Problem?
So, what’s the right direction for your organization? Unfortunately, it depends. There are several aspects to be considered.
The first is not just what technology you have, but how well it’s been implemented; are processes being adhered to? Does the business model match both the objectives, and process model? Often organizations believe the technology is the problem but, in reality it’s often the way the technology has been implemented. Even in today’s world, there are far too many technology-driven implementations that are not owned and controlled by the organization.
The second is deciding where your business needs to be on a spectrum of optimization. This will largely depend on what your customers are demanding of you.
Your business’s starting point versus where you need to go will give you an indication of the gap that needs to close to drive your business’ competitive advantage. This then begins to formulate a basis for the decision to upgrade or replace technology. But, as ever, there are a number of ways to close this gap, so what’s the right decision?
Your options include:
Getting More Value From Your Current FSM Deployment
Many implementations have failed to deliver the value anticipated. It’s not that businesses are over-optimistic when the business case is developed, but more that they don’t take the opportunity to truly transform. The FSM solution is seen as an operational tool and implemented in a silo. This silo thinking has resulted in the lack of an integrated view of the end-to-end customer journey. In reality, this is not because the business failed in the implementation, but more that efficiency was the focus at the time.
Getting more from your current deployment is all about considering the end-to-end customer journey. Often greater value can be achieved from just having an integrated view, which means looking at processes and how the organization matches this view.
In my experience, there is always more value that can be generated from a current deployment. But the big question is, is it enough to meet current and future requirements?
Implementing Point Solutions
If the scheduling and dispatch solution is working well, and an organization is just trying to improve the customer experience, there is no reason why the existing solution cannot be enhanced by implementing greater functionality such as online booking, etc. This way a customer can get the ‘digital experience’ with minimal disruption to operations. Given integration layers and open APIs, it is much easier in today’s world to integrate a point solution to current platforms.
The main gripe from customers is the lack of information they receive from the service organization. If you keep your customers informed via a mobile app it will dramatically enhance customer experience. In addition to improving the customer experience, it also makes operational sense. The business case for implementing better customer information can be predicated on reducing calls to call centers alone.
Upgrade Your Existing FSM System
There is a myriad of upgrades constantly available; from a pure-play technology upgrade to much more enhanced functionality. Often the decision to upgrade is with the supplier in that support will usually be withdrawn for non-upgraded systems. Where the organization has an option to upgrade to get enhanced technological capabilities, it is very important to understand the impact it will have on the people and processes. In my experience, upgrades often fail as the processes have not been realigned, or the teams have not been properly informed or trained.
Organizations that have really benefited from enhanced functionality have conducted a full impact analysis on the processes, and realigned their businesses appropriately.
Replacing Your Current FSM System
To many organizations, replacing a FSM system fills them with dread as the initial implementation was a particularly painful experience, but in reality, much of the hard work has been done. The pain was moving from a manual system to automated scheduling and mobile dispatch. This was a change management exercise, and isn’t a reason not to replace.
Additionally, moving to a cloud or SaaS-based system will not require the capital outlay which was required in the past, but should an organization choose to go cloud-based, the overall IT landscape and architecture needs to be considered.
Of course, there are benefits of replacing a current system beyond just greater functionality; some new systems offer greater flexibility for instance. For example, the way different providers treat capacity can offer greater benefits; where many assign an engineer at the time of appointment, some now look at the overall capacity and do the assigning on the day. This increases efficiency.
If we are looking at organizations that demand the utmost optimization, that is achieved through having an integrated approach to the end-to-end customer experience. Your current FSM solution may constrain you from achieving this goal, in which case a replacement should be considered.
Ultimately, the decision to upgrade or not will be evident from a business’ overall objectives, and its customers’ needs. The most important fact to remember, however, is that upgrading is not always the right decision when so much more can be achieved with a current system. But in all cases, it is imperative to make those decisions with the end-to-end customer experience in mind. Failure to do so will leave businesses trailing in the wake of those who meet and exceed their customers’ expectations.