Magazine Article | October 26, 2012

3 Field Service Management Trends You Can't Ignore

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Tom Devroy, VP of sales, IFS North America,

Are you up to speed on what roles mobility, scheduling optimization, and SaaS could be playing in your organization?

Field service management (FSM) operations are under unprecedented pressure from competitors and from increasingly demanding customers. There are three current trends in the world of field service which you can choose to ignore at your peril:

  • Mobility
  • Scheduling optimization
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Technology used by those in a field service management function must allow you to adapt to these trends. Let’s take a look at the software implications of each.

Mobility In Demand
Due to pervasive and rapidly advancing consumer technology, managers and field technicians expect to be able to interact with FSM software they use to manage their businesses using mobile devices, including smartphones.

Whether they are accessing their FSM software applications on a mobile device or on a laptop or desktop computer, users are expecting the same tools and the same functionality. Mobile FSM software must be more than a browser-based app; it needs to be a native app designed for the platform that can use the native features of the device to, for instance, read QR codes or bar codes for part consumption. The device’s GPS services may be used for locating a part in the service supply chain or an engineer in the field.

Scheduling Optimization Is Crucial
This requires a mobile solution engineered to work seamlessly with the back office FSM software application. But it also requires a high degree of real-time scheduling optimization.

The reason scheduling optimization is so important is easy enough to understand. There are, after all, two drivers for cost in any service organization: labor and parts. On the labor side, a scheduling optimization engine can ensure that you dispatch a technician with the right skill level and the right certification in time to meet warranty commitments, SLAs, or other contractual commitments. It can also reduce cost by making sure you are not, for instance, sending a journeyman to a call that an apprentice can manage, just so long as the apprentice has the right skill set to work on the call.

Scheduling optimization can produce benefits in reducing overtime costs and windshield time or identifying if the technician assigned has the right parts for the job so you avoid repeat visits.

SaaS Isn’t Just For Small Businesses
In some cases, software can be more easily provisioned — for technical and organizational reasons — as a service. SaaS really means that, instead of buying a perpetual license to use the software, you are renting it on a monthly basis. There is, in the market, a misconception that software as a service is only attractive to small to medium enterprises. A smaller business likely doesn’t have an extensive IT capability, and it may not make sense for it to host its own IT infrastructure. This is one type of company that, in line with the conventional wisdom about SaaS, is attracted to this licensing model.

But we also see interest in SaaS among large enterprises that cannot afford to wait for corporate IT planning cycles to address urgent organizational or customer needs. These companies typically expect all of the functionality that they would normally get from an on-premise solution. But they want to treat it as an expense item for a given department operation rather than as a capital expense. In so doing, they are avoiding an operating cost, which allows them to bypass burdensome approval processes.