Guest Column | August 7, 2018

Service Lifecycle Management Vs. Field Service Management: What Does Your Business Need?

By Bill Pollock, President and Principal Consulting Analyst, Strategies for Growth

Service Lifecycle Management

The concept of Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) has been around for some time now; however, the platforms to actually make it happen are still relatively new. Not only that, they are continually evolving, and building upon themselves to provide users with more power and flexibility to manage their services operations.

The upside gained if your organization has already implemented an SLM solution is that it will find itself on the fast track toward being able to effectively manage its total base of capital equipment, mission-critical assets, and human capital. The downside, however, is that if you have not yet embraced the concept, you may be wasting precious time.

While we have seen a great deal of growth in the acceptance of SLM in the past several years, we still see many disparities in how different vendors have defined and built their respective offerings. For example, there are many vendors that claim to offer complete suites CRM, SCM, ERP, and asset management functionality; but only a few can fully deliver on their claim. However, we believe, that through the use of a credible, comprehensive, and modular model that effectively integrates state-of-the-art technologies to support the most critical business applications, there are SLM solutions available that can deliver what it takes to effectively run a services organization.

In an age where CRM, SCM, ERP, asset management 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 user 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 the most progressive types of services organizations are using to differentiate themselves from the also-rans.

At SFG, 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, dynamic scheduling, and mobile solutions; and must be applicable to services providers supporting customers in all vertical segments, and in all geographies.

The main benefits that may be realized through the implementation of an SLM solution are actually quite universal – and quite compelling – as services managers across-the-board are essentially looking for the same things. Things like the ability to:

  • Streamline and automate their business processes
  • Compress the contract-to-cash cycle
  • Identify incremental cross-sell and upsell opportunities to drive add-on revenue generation
  • Collapse and consolidate non-value-added workflows
  • Enhance resource utilization and reduce downtime
  • Coordinate the efforts of their sales, marketing and service organizations (i.e., no more silos)
  • Improve compliance with SLAs, service contracts, and warranties
  • Synchronize every customer touch point for increased customer satisfaction

While other disciplines like CRM, ERP, SCM, or asset management may only address one or two, or more, of these drivers, only SLM addresses them all – and this is critical, as no organizations in today's business economy have either the time, resources, or money that would allow them 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. Only SLM affords them this opportunity.

SLM represents a comprehensive and effective solution for its users because it also opens the door to other complementary technologies that make it even more powerful. For example, coupled with remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance technology, an SLM solution can proactively monitor an organization’s deployed assets in the field to detect operational performance issues, and provide its service personnel with real-time diagnostic data, as well as the ability to use it on the fly.

The inherent capabilities of SLM ensure that the right technician will always be at the right place, at the right time, with all of the customer-and product-specific information and parts they require to resolve any open customer support issues. A field service management (FSM) solution alone cannot totally support all the needs of the customer; however, an SLM solution, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) can provide a total solution.

All of these technologies – as well as those that are still evolving within the services sector (e.g., augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning) – must not only be embraced, but incorporated into SLM functionality in order for it to provide a total solution. What has worked in the past, based on the technologies of the past, can no longer be expected to work effectively in the future. That is why only a technology-based SLM solution can be truly counted on to provide services organizations with what they need to both get the job done, while satisfying customers and strengthening their bottom lines.

SLM is almost 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 acknowledged 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 an 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.