By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
The latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management report states that through 2020, 80 percent of organizations with more than 75 field technicians will miss more than 20 percent of planned efficiency gains from field automation due to incomplete integration or deployment. Based on the conversations I have with field service leaders and the bevy of challenges they face in successfully deploying field automation, this statistic doesn’t surprise me. But that 80 percent doesn’t need to include you. Let me share with you some missteps to field automation success that your peers have filled me in on during interviews over the years. Here are four largely avoidable reasons your field automation initiative will fail.
#1: Not Properly Prioritizing Objectives
Today’s field service software solutions are impressive. The array of features and functionality most provide can cause a company to easily get off track of accomplishing their primary goals, because you can get excited about “all of the cool things!” you can do before you even get started. Focus! Start by prioritizing your objectives for the project in order of what will have the biggest impact on your business. Start there – start small. One step at a time. Master that step, and then add a new feature or functionality. If you create a well thought-out plan from the beginning and tackle it in order, you will see real progress and your success will snowball. Two major problems occur: a company doesn’t have a good plan, tries to implement it all at once, and fails. Or, a company starts off small focused on that one big pain point and then never moves on to anything else. Find the middle ground and prioritize your business needs.
#2: A Nonexistent Or Ineffective Pilot
Do you know how many companies I talk to that don’t do a pilot? Too many. It astounds me. A pilot is an essential step to ensuring your field service software deployment will be successful. A pilot gives you an opportunity to really work out the kinks of the solution, to work with your solution provider to intimately understand the product and what it can do for your business. It gives you a chance to introduce the technology to your frontline workers and get them excited about it, so that the pilot group can help foster adoption as you roll out. If you skip a pilot, or do it half-heartedly, then it shouldn’t be a surprise when your rollout fails or stalls out. Take the opportunity to learn, and to teach – and your full-scale rollout will go much smoother and have a far better chance of having the impact you want.
#3: Failing To Foster Employee Acceptance
I’d be curious to know of that percentage of companies that have stalled out or failed projects, when did they begin communicating with their employees about their initiative? The earlier the better. Employee acceptance is critical to completing a successful implementation. You can select the greatest of softwares, but if you don’t take steps to foster employee acceptance, it will never accomplish the goals you’ve set forth. As you’re prioritizing your business objectives and creating a plan for what you want your solution to accomplish, get feedback from your frontline employees. As you evaluate solutions, get the technology in their hands and ask for – and listen to – their feedback. Once a solution is selected, pilot and engage them through that process. As you roll out, communicate clearly and consistently. Develop a solid training program. Give your employees plenty of opportunities and methods to ask questions. The more invested they are in what you’re looking to do, the better your results will be.
#4: Dropping The Ball On Follow Through
Remember that well-prioritize list of business objectives you created in step one? Well, another common reason companies don’t derive full value from their technology investments is because they complete the first step and then never revisit that list. They settle for the “good enough” instead of working toward “great.” They get caught up in the day to day struggles, and make excuses for not making the time to take their project to that next level. Don’t let that be you! Let today’s competitive landscape compel you to master step one, and keep driving to accomplish steps two, three, four, and so on.