A few years ago, companies started discussing ways to convert their IT departments from cost centers into revenue centers. Some companies were successful. Some companies gave up. And, some companies are still trying to find ways to make this happen.
A similar shift in thinking is now taking place at many companies that have field service departments. At these companies, however, the field service departments are revenue centers. They tend to be profitable – sometimes, highly profitable – albeit inefficiently run operations.
A convergence of circumstances has now placed the spotlight’s glare square on field service operations within companies. Internal manufacturing and inventory management processes have been automated and streamlined to such a point that significant efficiency and productivity gains are no longer realistic. The ERP (enterprise resource planning) deployments that led to many of the productivity gains are now more likely to be seen as infrastructure within a company than the applications they once were. During this same time period, customer service became a major differentiation point among companies. It was no longer permissible to schedule a service call for a given day. Instead, clients were looking for a field tech to arrive at a given hour.
ALL SIGNS POINT TO
FIELD SERVICE AUTOMATION
I moderated a panel discussion at the AFSM International S-Business last year, and the dialogue between the presenters and the audience was largely in sync. The participants acknowledged that their field service operations were no longer escaping the attention of the C-level executives within their companies. CFOs were attracted to the high-margin services offered by the centers. COOs wanted to evaluate the processes behind field service and how they could be improved. CMOs wanted to use field service wins in internal and external promotions. CEOs saw the value in all of these initiatives. In short, field service operations were no longer under the radar. They were squarely in the crosshairs.
If you want to increase efficiency and productivity in a given operation, it helps that the technology you might deploy is up to the task. In this case, the technological advancements have only validated the desire to improve and automate field service operations. Wireless networks that transmit both voice and data can be accessed from all but the most remote parts of the nation. For the extremely rural environments, satellite communication is always an option. A plethora of handheld units – ranging from rugged to semi-rugged to consumer grade – cover just about every field service app imaginable. Most of those mobile devices run on platforms that are familiar (e.g. Microsoft, Pal, BlackBerry). Software that tracks field service jobs and SLAs (service level agreements) are readily available from many vendors.
Wireless carriers have collectively done the job of building the infrastructure to support your operations. There is enough choice when it comes to hardware that this is no longer an issue. And, software vendors are delivering both enterprise-class and hosted apps from which to choose.
If you can find a high-margin business that is run inefficiently, you would have to like your chances for success. In some cases, that opportunity might be hidden within your company under the heading of field service operations.