By Brian Albright, Field Technologies
For field service organizations, automating manual processes using field service management (FSM) solutions is generally a good thing – but only as long as the solution actually addresses the inefficiencies the company is facing. Unsuccessful technology deployments often involve deploying solutions that don’t fix the FSOs actual problem, or that were built to solve problems they didn’t have in the first place.
Researchers at Gartner and cloud-based automation solution provider FieldAware teamed up on a new report that outlines the types of FSM solutions available, their respective benefits, and what field service tasks they are were designed to improve.
FSOs need that guidance to ensure they get the most out of their investments. According to the report, 75 percent of organizations with more than 50 field technicians will own at least one field service solution by 2018, but they will miss 20 percent of the potential benefits because of “incomplete integration or deployment.”
In the report, Garner has helpfully broken down the field service automation market into six basic categories based on functionality in an effort to help guide field service organizations in their software selection efforts and “see where best to put their investment, based on the outcomes they need to achieve.”
The six categories include:
Demand Management: These solutions allow FSOs to gather all work order demand in on place, including parts, tools, and skills, as well as demand signals generated by customers, connected assets, and field technicians themselves. These solutions tie demand to contract entitlements or preferences, SLAs, and warranty coverage
Work Planning: These systems simplify work order prioritization and automate scheduling optimization by using advanced algorithms and machine learning. The software can improve workforce optimization by predicting potential shortages caused by overtime cost, time off, traffic conditions and other constraints. It also takes into account customer preferences, SLA commitments, and regulatory requirements, along with ensuring the availability of required parts.
Technician Enablement: This is software that can help technicians find equipment or other assets at a customer location, access repair histories, and view instructions for completing a repair. Technicians can also access support resources for diagnostics, source parts, initiate contract adjustments, and scope out new work orders. These solutions depend heavily on the use of mobile technologies, and require a much more active role for the technician in customer and work management.
Work Order Debrief: This is probably the most familiar FSM solution, and combined with work planning makes up the heart of many work order/field service management solutions.
These systems reduce manual entry by replacing paper work orders and enabling technicians to capture work financials and next steps in real time. Technicians use a mobile device to record time, expenses, parts and tasks completed. In some cases, they can also collect customer signatures and payments, and take photos or videos to document their work.
Operations: These solutions are more focused on back-office activities, and enable office staff to manage contracts, entitlements, billing and warranty. The software also manages the process of recording equipment maintenance histories and documenting coverages and planned maintenance tasks.
Analytics and Integration: Analysis is an increasingly important component, as it not only gives FSOs the ability to gauge the success of their technology deployments, but also helps identify and correct potential service problems, such as lagging productivity, parts ordering delays, or SLA compliance problems. Metrics typically include technician productivity (based on completed work orders), first-time fix rates, billable hours, mean time to repair, attach rate, SLA achievement rate, etc.