As part of our ongoing series where we go beyond the industry headlines to dig deeper into the news that matters for field service management professionals, Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News talks to ServiceMax's Neil Barua and Stacey Epstein about the recent announcement of a deeper relationship with one time competitor Salesforce...
A Compelling Move by Two of the Big Names in Field Service Technology:
The last time I spent time with ServiceMax's Neil Barua and Stacey Epstein in person was nearly 18 months ago, where, in the desert heat of Palm Springs we shared a beer towards the end of a long day of discussions, presentations and interviews at the Field Service USA conference.
Fast forward to today, and the memory seems like a relic from a different time. Such casual catch-ups, indeed, even simple business conferences seem like a luxurious relic of another time. A time where we weren't restricted by a pandemic that no-one saw coming.
Yet, for all the pain, suffering and heartache COVID-19 has brought us, in the field service sector at least, in equal measure the pandemic has sharpened us, refined our offerings and pushed us singularly as an industry towards the adoption of what were, not too long ago, seen as best-in-class technologies, processes and strategies.
When a market is disrupted, we see innovation flourish. COVID-19 has been the most significant disruptor the world has ever seen.
"While others may want to talk about the great reset, I see what we are currently going through more akin to hitting the fast forward button..."
It feels like we are living in triple time at the moment. While others may want to talk about the great reset, I see what we are currently going through more akin to hitting the fast forward button (for those of us old enough to remember the halcyon days of analogue tape). In a major research project for which I am currently authoring the report, I see evidence of this. What we are seeing emerge around us in many ways is not the sudden emergence of new thinking and new technologies. It is the natural endpoint of a journey we have been on for a long, long time. We are just getting there a lot quicker than we ever thought we might, because, quite simply, we have to.
This sentiment is echoed in Neil Barua's words as we reconnect. "If you recall, when we last me 18 months ago, that was only the first week of my taking on the CEO role with ServiceMax although it feels like 6 years ago, a lot has happened since then."
It certainly has. The very world in which we all exist has changed. However, even without the backdrop of a global pandemic, you have a feeling this was going to be a big period of evolution for Barua and ServiceMax either way.
"I'm really proud of this team and what we have achieved since I've been here and candidly, the tail-winds of service transformation that you have been following for many years, if not decades, is now truly upon us and COVID, while the tragedy continues, has really driven the need for our customer base to adopt new tools to both be competitive and also to be able to serve the essential workers out there in a way that is modern that can support them out there on the frontline," Barua adds.
This is an important point. In our sector, we have always known that our field service engineers are the unsung heroes of our industry, long before the term 'essential workers' ever entered into our everyday lexicon. However, as that value is magnified even further, we must be able to offer our engineers the latest technologies. Technologies that not only allow them to do what they do best and keep the world working but to be able to do it safely and effectively.
"This announcement is the evolution of the reconnection with Salesforce that began back in February that is a far greater partnership..."
- Neil Barua, CEO ServiceMax
The role technology will play in allowing us to do that will, of course, be huge. So the recent announcement of a much deeper working partnership between two of the industry behemoths in ServiceMax and Salesforce was met with great fanfare. Add into the mix that we are now seeing Salesforce acquisition of ClickSoftware begin to bear fruit and we have something coming close to an FSM supergroup. There are a lot of very experienced, knowledgeable people now working alongside each other, pulling in the same direction. This can only be a good thing for the wider industry. To use a quote that I am particularly fond of, as JFK once said, 'a rising tide lifts all boats'.
"This announcement is the evolution of the reconnection with Salesforce that began back in February that is a far greater partnership," Barua explains. "We're taking a significant part of the eighty million dollars coming from Salesforce Ventures and began the continuous communication between the two companies to think about what more can we do beyond the transfer of money to make value for customers and to do more than what either company has ever done before.
"When we look at this market opportunity, Salesforce are really excited about the opportunity, it [FSM] is the fastest growing product in the history of Salesforce, we are also seeing extremely fast growth in our core busines and we decided to put our product teams together in collaboration," Barua added.
Yet, having seen the initial press statements from both organizations, and reading between the lines of those statements, which as with all such press announcements carry a slightly sanitized tone, polished by corporate communications departments, I couldn't escape the feeling that there was far more to the announced partnership than the standard industry collaboration.
"This is a time period where partnerships really matter, so we've reached across the aisle on both sides to make sure we do right by our customers..."
- Neil Barua, CEO, ServiceMax
Personally, knowing both companies and a number of the key players involved, I had a sense that this partnership ran far deeper than similar partnership announcements. This was more I felt than a formal agreement to share a go-to-market strategy. It seemed to be something far more engaged at the micro-level, rather than the usual surface-level macro approach.
I was keen to see if this truly was the case.
"We've brought together our R&D teams, our marketing teams and our sales teams and the announcement earlier this month, of ServiceMax Asset 360 for Salesforce, is an announcement of a really strategic partnership which unleashes the most complete field service solution in the market out there. It brings to the table the strengths that they bring to bear, particularly the appointment centric capabilities and all the platform technologies that they are evolving and building our asset-centric capabilities on that platform. Putting this together, there is no use case we cannot serve now. We now have execution in front of us to really take advantage of the strengths of both companies."
With this in mind, then it truly is a genuinely exciting proposition for the industry to see such a complete solution come to the fore. It is also perhaps the perfect example of a solution borne in 2020 – a year where in the face of all the adversity we have begun to understand the importance of true business partnerships. As Barua wisely comments "this is a time period where partnerships really matter, so we've reached across the aisle on both sides to make sure we do right by our customers."
Again, the cynical old journalist listening to soundbites about 'doing the right thing for customers' might just see a selection of play-book quotes ready to hand. Yet, there is an earnestness and excitement to the way Barua communicates that makes it hard to stay cynical. While undoubtedly like every great CEO, Barua knows what to say and how to say it, you also get a feeling that his words are built on a foundation of honesty and a belief in doing things the right way.
When I first met Barua, one observation I made was that there was a feeling of continuation from the preceding CEO's he had taken the mantle from. Initially being Dave Yarnold, and then during the GE period, Scott Berg.
That is not to say that under the stewardship of Barua the ServiceMax story isn't evolving, it most evidently is. However, the ethos that underpinned the organization's previous meteoric rise, a focus on understanding the challenges that their customers, and the field service sector at large face remains. That ethos has been key to ServiceMax's approach to building solutions to meet those customer needs which has remained consistent across the various chapters of this compelling story.
I also commented at the time, that I felt a large factor in maintaining a consistent ethos would be the return of Stacey Epstein, now CMO and Chief Experience Officer at ServiceMax to the fold.
Epstein was part of the early team at ServiceMax under Yarnold, who went on to become an impressive CEO in her own right, nurturing communications platform start-up Zinc to becoming an innovative tool that again addressed the needs of modern field service organizations.
"Integrated isn't even the right word, these solutions are all built on one data model leveraging all the same native objects... "
- Stacey Epstein, CMO & Chief Experience Officer, ServiceMax
ServiceMax's subsequent acquisition of Zinc was thus doubly important.
It not only brought another piece of the FSM puzzle into Servicemax's suite of solutions, but it also brought back another experienced voice and mind, one who understood the 'special sauce' that made ServiceMax such a success, back into their senior leadership team.
"I've been in this space for decades," Epstein reflects.
"Well before ServiceMax I was selling field service software for Clarify in the nineties. Field service has been around forever; probably people were going around in wagons and on horses to offer services for people! But I think technology has just continued to fuel the maturity of what field service teams can do. In the past everything was client-server, there was no such thing as mobile. So then it was all about optimizing and tracking parts.
"When ServiceMax came along, it was one of the first Cloud-based FSM solutions and the first vendor to offer a mobile solution. Then Salesforce started building, and Click had great scheduling, and now we have really combined all of this into one very integrated solution.
"In fact, integrated isn't even the right word, these solutions are all built on one data model leveraging all the same native objects." Epstein adds as she considers the point further.
"The things that companies were buying piecemeal before, they can now access on one platform, which will mean a much faster time to value for customers. There are more features out of the box, so there is less customization, and it puts our customers in the position to adopt the new things that come up, like ScopeAR's augmented reality tools, like Aquant's artificial intelligence tools and like the Zinc communication tools.
"If my core features and functionality, asset-centricity, resource -centricity, are all covered in a very robust platform integrated into my CRM then it is not a big step to leverage the cutting-edge tools that allow me to achieve a digital transformation.
"In some ways it is a maturity, but in another way is that it doesn't mean we are 'there' yet . In a sense it simply means that when new technologies emerge, companies are really ready to adopt."
This final point of Epstein's is a good reflection on the place that FSM technology has arrived at today. Much has been refined within recent years, the foundational building blocks of what we now perceive as an FSM platform are in place and proven to be robust and reliable. However, we are also entering a new era of FSM solutions, and thanks in no small part to the pandemic our arrival at this new point came sooner than the majority of us might have anticipated.
The next iteration of FSM will involve remote diagnostics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and more. However, without a cohesive platform to build upon these tools cannot live up to the value propositions they promise. We are entering a new phase of FSM technology, and the partnership of Salesforce and ServiceMax will see both companies play a leading role in shaping how technology in our industry is set to evolve.
- Read the initial announcement about the partnership @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/servicemax-announces-new-offering-asset-360-for-salesforce-bringing-asset-centric-capabilities-to-all-types-of-field-service-organizations
- Read news and articles about ServiceMax @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/hs-search-results?term=servicemax
- Read more about Digital Transformation in Field Service @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/digital-transformation
- Find out about the solutions ServiceMax offer field service companies @ https://www.servicemax.com/uk
- Follow ServiceMax on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/ServiceMax