Digitalisation needs to be about the process not the technology…

Nov 08, 2018 • FeaturesAsteaFuture of FIeld ServicedigitalisationEnterprise Mobilityfield servicefield service managementfield service technologyService ManagementJohn HuntService Management Technology

John Hunt outlines why when it comes to digitalisation, the focus should be on the end goals, not the technology...

There is a common thread being pulled by executive boards across the globe at the moment both in the field service sector and far beyond.

That is, of course, digitalisation.

In my role here at Astea, it’s a topic that our customers and new prospects are keen to talk to us about – almost every company I’ve spoken to in the last 12 months has broached it in one form or another.

However, there is a fundamental point I believe is often being overlooked by companies as they dive head first into weaving the digitalisation thread into their strategy – that is that digitalisation itself should be seen as an on-going process continuously woven in your field service tapestry rather than a one-time project, or a mere stitch in time.


An opportunity to redefine workflows

To start, let’s look at what digitalisation shouldn’t be.

Digitalisation shouldn’t be simply taking all of the previous steps your field service engineers used to undertake manually with good old pen and paper and dumping them onto a mobile device. Digitalising their workflow is an opportunity to re-evaluate some of these processes, re-order some things, maybe even remove others entirely all in the spirit of making your customer ambassadors happier and more efficient and effective. That happiness, efficiency, and effectiveness translates into better top and bottom line performance and most importantly, happier and more loyal customers.


"Those companies that get the most success from the implementation of a Field Service Management (FSM) solution are those who bring a selection of their engineers into the implementation process..."


Invariably, those companies that get the most success from an implementation of a Field Service Management (FSM) solution are those who bring a selection of their engineers into the implementation process. Just like product marketers use focus groups of prospective customers to fine-tune their product offering to maximise demand, so should you leverage a similar approach with your customer ambassadors, also known as the engineers. For example, by speaking with your engineers to understand what elements of your FSM system’s mobile app they use the most frequently, you can ensure that access to the relevant parts of the solution need are easily surfaced within the app.

The same of course also goes for your scheduling solution – digitalisation should be an opportunity to put the information your team needs at their fingertips, quickly and seamlessly to improve both service triage and first-time-fix rates. So who better to ask what information should be where than the folks on the front line that need access to such information each and every day? The happiness through efficiency and effectiveness you will weave throughout the services organisation will pay big dividends not only in the traditional operational sense but also in employee retention and the all-important increased customer loyalty.


A journey of continuous improvement.

The concept of continuous improvement is one that many field service professionals are fully aware of, yet all too often it doesn’t get factored into discussions around digitalisation.

Facebook is famously always in ‘beta’ when it comes to its development, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend such a fluid approach to something as mission-critical as field service operations, digitalisation certainly allows us the opportunity to tweak things here and there to find those sometimes hidden incremental improvements that can yield seemingly small efficiencies that stack up hugely in the overall picture.

For example, I recall speaking with one service director earlier this year who explained to me that by implementing a simple keystroke study of his dispatch staff across 3 months they were able to identify some simple yet effective changes to the menu structure of their system which brought some frequently used options to the front of the solution when they were previously tucked away behind a couple of sub-menus.

On an individual basis these changes sped up the dispatcher’s role by just a few seconds each time. However, the overall net benefit to the service organisation was millions of dollars per year as those seconds began to add up across the entire workforce just like a snowball accumulating more and more snow as it rolls down the mountain.

Digitalisation allows us to not only make these changes quickly and easily across a large user base but also to understand how, why and where these changes should be made.


Build processes today with an eye on tomorrow.

One final piece of advice I would give to companies embarking on their own digitalisation journey is remember you don’t always need to boil the ocean; digitalisation should be an iterative process.

For example, IoT is the hot topic in field service right now and rightly so as it is set to play a huge role in the future of service delivery. Yet, for many companies a full IoT rollout is cost prohibitive and requires a gargantuan feat of logistical planning.


"I’d suggest you don’t even need one asset connected before you start building in the processes of identifying key data you wish to collect – what is to stop your engineers noting certain key data points when performing maintenance?"


However, do you need to have every asset in your install base connected before you can start pulling data for analysis to dig out some key trends and insights that could be of value to your organisation and perhaps even more importantly to your customers? Of course not!

In fact, I’d suggest you don’t even need one asset connected before you start building in the processes of identifying key data you wish to collect – what is to stop your engineers noting certain key data points when performing maintenance? You can build the processes and collect the data that would form the backbone of a digitalisation strategy before a single asset is connected, and then introduce automation for these new processes across a much more manageable timeframe.

In doing so you will have already begun to think beyond the realms of what is possible today and begun to consider what can we build now that will improve our service delivery tomorrow.

And this at its heart is what good digitalisation strategy should be all about. There are already some masterpiece tapestries with shiny digitalisation threads prominently featured in the field service world today reaping big rewards with their own teams and customers; these will continue to grow and outpace the industry. The best time to have begun your work of art was yesterday. The second best time is today, so gather your thread and your team to design it and start weaving!

John Hunt, is Managing Director, EMEA, Astea, 


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