Field Service Management (FSM) Software stalwarts ClickSoftware held their annual users conference in the leafy town of Richmond, Greater London earlier this month. Field Service News’, Editor-in-Chief, Kris Oldland was there to find out what the latest updates were and what the Roadmap for innovation looks like for the FSM software providers...
The location for this year’s ClickConnect users conference, the Richmond Hill Hotel, sitting at the top of the picturesque and historic town of Richmond, nestled on the Greater London border with Surrey, was in some ways a perfect metaphor for our hosts ClickSoftware, and their own position in the Field Service Management (FSM) software provider sector.
Richmond itself is in striking distance away (just 30 minutes by train) from the bright lights of the City of London, itself at the heart of European technology investment and innovation. Yet at the same time, it retains a slightly more refined, more distinguished reputation than other boroughs in Greater London. It’s certainly not cheap either (the average semi detached house price in Richmond is over £1 million) but then cheaper doesn’t always equate to better value. You know what you are getting in Richmond, you know the type of company you will keep. You’re hedging a bet by backing a market leader - and for many years the same could be said of ClickSoftware.
Indeed, ClickSoftware’s position as the leading player within the FSM market for many years was almost unquestionable, especially amongst the enterprise and those clients who had large, complicated scheduling challenges within their field workforce.
You’re hedging a bet by backing a market leader - and for many years the same could be said of ClickSoftware.
Add to this that there had been a recent change of ownership, with Tom Heiser taking the reins as CEO, following on from a private equity takeover, and there is an extra level of attention and a need to impress their core user base that would perhaps be less evident in some of their previous user conferences.
How ClickSoftware approached their own development plans and how it was portrayed at this event, was potentially a huge fork in the road.
Get it right, and they could continue to build on their rock solid reputation as an industry leader, get it wrong however, and it could leave them exposed just when the competition is hotting up.
After an engaging opening keynote by Heiser (which set the tone for an upbeat performance by the ClickSoftware team across the two days) it was straight into the nitty gritty - what developments had been added to the newly launched Field Service Edge, ClickSoftware’s Cloud only offering, as well as what was available for the older generations of ClickSoftware.
And it was in this session that they needed to genuinely impress. They did.
Across the next hour and a half Sassi Idan, SVP Products and Solutions gave us the overview of the latest developments that were either already available or would be available within the next two months.
Of course there were some obligatory discussions around integration but then we would expect any new release to feature easy integration and dedicated APIs.
The new solution ClickSoftware have brought to the table does appear to be pretty damn slick - offering clear visibility into work orders across the whole of the service supply chain
The new solution ClickSoftware have brought to the table does appear to be pretty damn slick - offering clear visibility into work orders across the whole of the service supply chain - something that can be a real frustration in particular for OEMs and their customers when service calls fall down between the cracks.
The set up of new contractors was also not only very fluid and simple, but the pricing on this solution is job based rather than licence based which could very well avoid tension between OEM and third party contractors as to who should have to pay for the licence. Smart thinking.
Another strong introduction was the announcement of an improved crew management solution, which allows for optimisation of work groups bringing together the right skills and location mix. This optimisation tool of course sits right at the heart of ClickSoftware’s traditional strength as a scheduling tool, but still the clean interface and intuitive UI that allows for manual control whilst still benefiting from AI provided suggestions for either fixed or dynamic crews was impressive.
However, it was when attention turned to the mobile app that a gentle shift in ClickSoftware’s approach to development was most visibly brought to the fore.
The new ClickMobile solution appears to have been clearly designed with the engineer’s workflow always in mind. Simple, yet intelligent additions such as camera integration and signature capture combined into a slick solution that includes the ability to send a PDF of the job details with full documentation of the work completed, directly to the customer straight from the app. It is little details like this that can really help the engineer to shine whilst on site.
Staying with mobility, ClickSoftware have also formed an interesting partnership with fleet management provider GreenRoad. The upshot is an integrated driver behaviour tool much in the vein of Telogis’ Coach or Microlise’s Clear, which provides in car guidance on how the vehicle is being driven via a mobile app. Whilst the app itself doesn’t break any particularly new ground, it offers good functionality and it’s inclusion in the wider ClickSoftware suite is a welcome addition that brings the focus of driver behaviour firmly into the FSM category.
The most impressive introduction of the day was still to come in the shape of a new Augmented Reality (AR) solution.
The solution, which is provided by FieldBit, again isn’t perhaps the slickest field service AR app we’ve seen - certainly similar tools from the likes of Scope AR, Help Lightning, and XM Reality all have greater depth of functionality than what was displayed during the live demonstration, but the fact that ClickSoftware’s AR tool is directly accessible from the job page in the ClickMobile app, which of course integrates seamlessly with the other elements of ClickSoftware’s suite of tools is a huge, huge benefit.
In fact, on reflection I think this is what left me walking out of that first session so impressed.
ClickSoftware have clearly been paying attention to the emerging industry trends, and whilst the various new elements introduced may not be best-of-breed, they’ve been brought together in an intelligently thought out system that can improve service delivery in a number of different areas. The product really is a lot, lot more than the sum of it’s parts.
Of course, all of this information was delivered within the first few hours, and across the next two days there were a number of interesting sessions including a series of round-tables and some interesting and diverse case studies including an excellent presentation from Garry Nash, of Costain CH2M which demonstrated some quite frankly incredible project management.
Other highlights included a great overview of Cloud infrastructure from Ian Massingham, Chief Evangelist, AWS and also Marina Stedman, Global Field Marketing Director, ClickSoftware gave an excellent if all too brief round up of a variety of research projects they had partnered on (including our own recent research into the use of Cloud as a FSM platform), which was both well delivered and genuinely insightful.
However, at a user conference such as this, whilst presentations, round-tables and even gala dinners and cocktail making classes, are an enjoyable side-show, really it’s all about the main event - which will always be what is new in the product.
And here they’ve done well. There will be competitors hot on their heels - it’s an incredibly competitive market right now, but here in Richmond, ClickSoftware showed they aren’t going to just step aside and let someone else take over the leaders baton anytime soon.