Field Service Management Software Survey 2014: Results so far…

May 15, 2014 • FeaturesmplsystemsresourcesSoftware and Appssoftware and apps

Field Service News is currently working in partnership with software provider mplsystems on a research project which looks to establish a clear picture of what software is being used in the field service industry, what is working well and what needs are not being met by the providers in the industry...

The survey itself looks at four key areas of field service software; scheduling, integration & interaction, reporting and looking forward. Already we are seeing some interesting trends appearing five of which we explore below…

1. A large amount of companies are still using some manual processes:

In fact just under half (49%) of the companies that have responded to date are still using manual systems to manage the dispatch of their field service engineers. With the benefits of using some form of scheduling automation well documented this number is perhaps surprisingly large.

However, when we look at the biggest concerns around implementing a new technology at least one reason is clear. Cost of implementation is the highest barrier for companies looking to develop their service management solution with 46% of companies citing this as a predominant concern when implementing a new technology.

When we consider that just over half  (51%) of respondent companies identified optimised scheduling as one of the three most critical areas for investment it would certainly appear that it is a case of when not if these companies will be moving away from manual scheduling solutions.

2.Ratio levels of technicians to dispatchers remain relatively low:

Not surprisingly given the amount of companies that are still using manual systems the ratios of dispatchers to engineers is generally quite low with 77% of companies having a maximum of 15 engineers per dispatcher.

With dynamic/optimised scheduling being claimed by some vendors to be able to handle more than 40 engineers per dispatcher it would appear that there is quite a dramatic opportunity for improving the overall productivity of service divisions.

This is further evidenced when we look at the ratios of those companies using an optimised scheduling system. 44% of these companies operate with a minimum of 16 field service staff per dispatcher with 22% working with between 26 and 40 field service staff per dispatcher.

These figures could be important for companies looking to move their business towards a profit centre, particularly when we consider that in many instances labour costs are greater than any other in a business, so having more of your workforce placed within positions that can directly impact upon revenues could be an essential step to making the transition.

3. Most companies though are pleased with the current systems

Despite the failings listed above it appears that most companies are currently satisfied with their existing scheduling solution with 45% of companies ranking their system as either Good or Excellent compared to 20% who identified their current solution was either poor or very poor.

Of the issues that were cited when we asked “What is you biggest issue with your current scheduling system?” interestingly ‘a lack of visibility’ was one of the most often highlighted problems for many companies. Again have a clear transparent visibility into the location and activities of a mobile workforce is absolutely key to being able to improve the efficiency of the field service unit.

Other common responses included incorrect estimations on time allocated to jobs, lack of flexibility and also integration problems with wider systems.

4. Companies still have to work with multiple systems to accommodate the full customer life cycle

In fact integration issues are magnified by the fact that the vast majority of companies have to work with more than one system to provide them with a full solution to cover the entire life cycle of their customers. 81% of the companies responding to our survey so far are working with multiple systems, with 20% of companies using 4 or more systems as part of their solution.

With visibility and transparency being key issues field service companies need to tackle to improve their efficiencies, it is a simple premise that the fewer different systems they can utilise will be beneficial.

Based on the current findings, it would appear that companies either need to look towards consolidating their existing systems by migrating to one of the many new generation systems such as that offered by mplsystems, which can offer an end to end solution or look to establish better integration with their existing systems via development of or investment in API’s etc.

5. Over a third of companies find integrating systems a problem

This issue is further highlighted when we asked, “Would you say you have an integrated end-to-end service management technology solution?”  With 38% of the companies responding stating “They have a number of different systems across different divisions making communication between departments tricky.”

With this figure rising to 44% of companies when we look at those without any form of automated scheduling, it would seem that many companies in the industry face a decision in how they can enhance their current field service operations, and serious considerations need to be made, with a forward looking approach that ensures the investment in technology compliments any planned changes to business culture and strategy.