By Bill Pollock, president and principal consulting analyst, Strategies For Growth
The concept of service lifecycle management (SLM) has been around for some time now; however, the tools and technologies used to actually make it work within the organization are still emerging and evolving. As SLM solutions continue to evolve, they also build upon themselves to provide users with more power and flexibility to manage their services operations than ever before.
The upside of this growth in empowerment is that if your organization has already implemented SLM, then it is already on the fast track toward being able to effectively manage its total base of capital equipment, mission-critical assets, and human capital. The downside is that if you are not already using SLM, you may be wasting precious time.
We define SLM as "a solution that supports the complete service lifecycle, from lead generation and project quotation, to service and billing, through asset retirement.” We further define SLM to encompass the integration and optimization of critical business processes including the contact center, field service, depot repair, logistics, professional services, and sales and marketing. We believe a comprehensive SLM suite also extends into portal, business intelligence, data analytics, dynamic scheduling, and mobile solutions; and must be applicable to services providers supporting customers in all vertical segments, and in all geographies.
While we have witnessed a great deal of growth in the acceptance of SLM over the past several years, many service organizations still find comfort in relying on their existing solutions essentially on an à la carte basis. That is, they may have a field service management (FSM) solution already in place, along with customer relationship management (CRM), services parts management (SPM), supply chain management (SCM), warranty management (WM), asset management (AM), and others. The problem is, if these individual solutions do not interact with one another, the organization will not be benefiting from the full value of their collective – once integrated – impact.
In an age where FSM, CRM, SPM, SCM, WM, AM and all of the other acronym-based solutions simply cannot cut it in and of themselves, only SLM addresses each of the factors that are important to services organizations for whom downtime is not an option, and resource utilization directly impacts financial performance. This is what SLM is designed to do, and an SLM solution is what progressive service organizations are now using to differentiate themselves.
The service market is constantly looking for proven solutions, based on practical business operations functionality, and powered by the latest technologies, to maximize their respective bottom lines. As such, the primary drivers behind the growing acceptance of SLM are also fairly universal – and quite compelling – as business managers across the board are essentially looking for the same things. Such as the ability to:
While other solutions like CRM, SCM, and so on may only address one, two, or more of these drivers, only SLM addresses them all. This is critical, as today’s organizations don’t have the time, resources, or money to build an effective service delivery model, piece- by-piece, on a non-interrelated basis, and hope to have it function as an all-encompassing solution.
SLM is a fluid, or dynamic, discipline. It is also an agile tool that can evolve with the trends in the market, the needs of the user, the integration of new technologies, and the evolving goals and objectives of the customer. Choosing the right SLM solution is critical; but so is the need to choose the right vendor, as well as the appropriate technologies to make it all work. It is not just another acronym – like CRM – to simply be tossed around interchangeably with customer service or satisfaction, asset or supply chain management, or any of the other “acronym” solutions and applications.
SLM is virtually a living, breathing entity that helps poorly run businesses run better, marginal businesses run more profitably, and well-run businesses excel in their markets as leaders in customer satisfaction and profitability. The concept itself is sound, the technology is readily available, the need is irrefutable, and all you need to move forward is the recognition that there is a SLM solution out there that meets your organization's specific – and often, unique – needs. By choosing the right solution, fully supported by the right vendor, and empowered by technology, your organization will certainly have a better chance of thriving in an increasingly complex and customer-focused business environment.