Guest Column | February 19, 2019

Field Service Evolving To Overcome Challenges

By Spencer Gisser, Research Associate, Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices, VDC Research


Field service management (FSM) solutions are evolving to meet rapidly changing demands. Later this year, VDC Research will publish a research report on FSM solutions, focusing specifically on digitizing the “last mile” of field service workflows. Building on years of coverage of this market and discussions with leading FSM providers and technology decision makers, we bring our experience and insight to bear in discussing the market, technology, and key players. Our report will include detailed forecasts by region, in-depth discussion of FSM functionality, results from surveys of field service technology investment decision makers, detailed profiles of important FSM providers, and more. Below, we’ve outlined five of the central themes that emerged from our analysis of the competitive and evolving FSM market:

While traditional KPIs remain important, field service organizations are embracing customer-centric KPIs such as customer satisfaction and retention. Field service organizations see increased customer engagement as a key differentiator and as a central measure to secure revenue. As a result, customer engagement is quickly becoming a central tenet of field service organizations. In response, some field service management organizations have developed tools specifically for customer engagement.

Employee retention, recruitment, and knowledge transfer are more important than ever. In addition to competitive pressure, older technicians have been aging out of the workforce with few millennials taking their place. Accordingly, field service organizations have oriented themselves towards increasing the efficiency of each technician. FSM solutions can radically increase the number of jobs each technician can perform per day through improvements to scheduling, dispatch, and routing. Other technology can improve the efficiency of each job as well as decrease the number of repeat visits. Spare part management, smart checklists, a video repository, and other techniques can provide technicians with much-needed advantages. Additionally, some field service organizations have managed to retain older field service technicians in remote expert roles.

A clear ROI and value proposition remain key barriers for broader adoption of emerging technology such as smart glasses/augmented reality (AR) and the Internet of Things (IoT). The prevalence of these technologies remains low even though they can deliver major benefits and transform operations. The main barrier to adoption is that integrating these technologies is a cumbersome process that requires strong support from key stakeholders. The best implementations are when business units plan specific uses for advanced technology before comparing or piloting implementations. With a concrete goal established, organizations can build IoT and AR solutions to deliver rapid results.

Although a handful of companies now offer Product-as-a-Service, there could be a major step forward for this innovative business model. Under the Product-as-a-Service business model, field service organizations provide a contractual guarantee for use from equipment. For example, a printer manufacturer could provide printers and charge per page printed. Although this business model remains rare because it requires deep integration with IoT, Product-as-a-Service promises to convert service from a cost center to a profit center. For the most successful implementations of Product-as-a-Service, field service organizations leverage IoT to carefully manage how frequently equipment is repaired in order to reduce their costs.

As more FSM providers build advanced capabilities, some look to specialized functionality to maintain competitive differentiation. Some providers are creating distinct offerings and/or feature sets for third party service providers to support companies who opt against maintaining their own assets. Others offer solutions that cater to specific workflows and that integrate with certain kinds of specialized equipment. Although pursuing specialized functionality may only appeal to limited market segments, this strategy will secure niches and provide a competitive edge for field service management providers.

VDC will cover these themes and more in far greater detail in our upcoming report on field service management. Download our 2019 Research Outline to learn more.

Spencer Gisser is a market research and consulting professional within VDC’s Enterprise Mobility and Connected Devices practice, supporting both syndicated research and custom engagements.