Are we ready for the 15 minute SLA?

May 04, 2016 • FeaturesFuture of FIeld ServiceIFS. IoT

As the industry wide adoption of IoT comes ever closer, now is the time for companies to focus on service-led processes and reducing SLAs or be at risk of falling behind their peers warns Tom Bowe, Global Field Service Specialist with IFS...

The 15 minute SLA may seem like an impossible task but in his presentation at Field Service Medical recently Tom Bowe, IFS, highlighted two separate examples of companies doing just that.

Further more it is just a stepping stone on the way to companies offering 100% uptime he believes.

The two great examples of companies hitting 15 minute SLAs Bowe cited were firstly IFS customers Cubic Transportation Systems who in San Francisco are hitting 15 minute SLAs on the local transportation system and are doing so with a 100% record.

Meanwhile on the other side of the country the NYPD are hitting 7 minutes response times for life threatening calls and 9 minutes for non life threatening calls which is quite frankly incredible.

Of course not every company can hit these heights but how close should your average company be trying to get towards these kinds of numbers?

“If you’re looking at it from a company perspective then it’s very much a road you need to take – a journey from where you are today to where you want to be in the future with a number of key points along the way.”

“If you’re looking at it from a company perspective then it’s very much a road you need to take – a journey from where you are today to where you want to be in the future with a number of key points along the way.” Bowe explains


“The goal should be to improve 20% a year. I don’t think it can be incremental, like 3% productivity per year. It’s more significant than that.”

“A total transformation is unnecessary, but I think you have to realise change is coming fast – the train has left the station. So where is it going to end up? Personally, I think it is going to be in realtime.”

So why does Bowe foresee such dramatic sea change?

Well like many in our industry he sees the impending arrival of the IoT as a seismic game changer within the way field service will operate.

“I believe equipment will be able to self-monitor themselves and leverage intelligence in the cloud to perform decision analysis and determine what actions to take, and to do that before any kind of serious failure.”

Bowe pauses just briefly to highlight the magnitude of the change.

“It’s going to take the SLAs and collapse them down to a fraction of what they are today. People are talking ‘predictive this’ and ‘proactive that’ and listening to the marketing wizards out there so expectations are already building."

“It’s going to take the SLAs and collapse them down to a fraction of what they are today. People are talking ‘predictive this’ and ‘proactive that’ and listening to the marketing wizards out there so expectations are already building."

“Whether or not a business changes in advance of this will determine how much pain their business will go through when it actually becomes mandatory for them to massively reduce their SLAs.”


Bowe speaks with a passion and it is clearly a topic he has given a lot of thought to.

But realistically how at risk are those companies who don’t adapt? How much is hyperbole?

“If you have a choice between two service providers where one is responsive in days and the other one is guaranteeing zero down-time and monitors it all the time…who wins? Imagine if a service provider could remove the customers’ concerns by saying, Hey, we’ve got you covered, we’re always watching, we’re always monitoring.  What if they didn’t have to worry about anything?” He replies wryly

“I think it is a complete game changer. People will make different choice for that level of service.”

One of the other big take aways from Bowe’s presentation was that whilst IoT is already beginning to happen, for those companies that begin to embrace the change it is bringing it is not just about getting sensors on all of your assets in the field.

“If we literally have to wait until everything is sensored up, we are talking about a decade from now.” Bowe explains.

“Companies can’t wait that long. They are going to be way behind competitors who have taken that first step.”

“That first step is changing your service business in evolutionary ways and incorporating the IoT elements, the theory of the case. So even though you don’t have a machine learning algorithm right now, that’s OK because you can still significantly improve by leveraging what you already know through past history and service maintenance.”

“How many service calls did you get (by product)? Don’t you already have condition reports on each piece of equipment and take the readings, record measurements, generate log files and create cases?”

“You probably have customer complaint records, and your field engineers enter notes like ‘there was a buzzing sound’ or ‘we had to reset a bunch of times,’ right? Well these are all key observations.”

"So you already have all this data, and as a software guy, it’s pretty easy to make some calculations and put together a score based upon your current existing knowledge.”

“If you go too far down a proprietary route when the standards do come into play you may be locked into that technology and have built processes in around that technology.”

"And that score can help you respond faster. Sure, maybe it’s rudimentary today, maybe it’s not even worth getting that excited about – but with the score and some new service processes around it, you can start evolving your business to fit the eventuality of the IoT model, which is then going to take that score and significantly amplify the meaning and importance of it.”


“The benefit short-term is that you’ve started to build the infrastructure, you’ve started to incorporate IoT into your business model and you start thinking around new service offerings.”

“It is important to get a head start and be in front of the wave.”

Indeed the way Bowe describes his thinking is almost like a prep-school for IoT, essentially creating an additional route for service companies to be adopting as they wait for the unified standards that will facilitate the mass adoption of IoT to arrive.

“At the end of the day it’s better to start sooner rather than later.” Bowe comments.

However, he also warns of jumping into the technology too quickly before the standards are settled.

“If you go too far down a proprietary route when the standards do come into play you may be locked into that technology and have built processes in around that technology.”

“Then it becomes problematic – you are stuck with a Betamax.”

So how does Bowe see these standards emerging?

“I think right now it is moving towards a utility. The big guys are investing heavily in dozens of IoT services. They are coming out with data lakes, event hubs and machine learning and underneath that is a massive amount of technology.”

“It’s going to be a utility because you can’t expect every company to have a bunch of PHDs in the back room trying to work this stuff out. So we’ve got to standardise in order to be efficient.”

"All too often we talk about IoT as though it has already arrived but in reality how far are we away from universal standards being adopted because these are the true final barriers to mass adoption?"

The normal model in the software industry is to build things in layers and you typically start with a few infrastructure providers that everyone can leverage which I think will be the large Cloud providers as soon as we have some standards.”


“IoT needs standards to help everyone with flexibility, re-use, enormous data volumes, analysis, cost efficiency and achieving the original objectives.”

“Without those standards we are kind of stuck in this proprietary high-cost model, which is not scalable. Without standards, IoT won’t become a life-changing type of technology.”

It’s an interesting point. All too often we talk about IoT as though it has already arrived but in reality how far are we away from universal standards being adopted because these are the true final barriers to mass adoption?

“I wish I could say that a solution is right around the corner, but there are still competing bodies and some very large organisations have gotten behind three or four different standards,” bemoans Bowe.

“But they’ve got to work it out, the opportunity is extraordinary and when they do IFS will be ready for it. I can’t wait.”



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