Across April and May of this year (2014) Field Service News in partnership with mplsystems undertook a research project to assess the current usage of field service software...
The survey was split into four categories. Scheduling systems, integration and interaction, management reporting and future options. In total we spoke to over 120 field service companies of differing sizes and differing industries. These were predominantly UK based although there were respondents from all over the world including Europe, America, Africa and Asia.
Whilst Service Management software as a whole is about far more than scheduling there is no doubt that it often dominates conversation. This is likely due to the sizeable improvements in efficiency that scheduling software can deliver. In fact companies that were using any sort of scheduling software, be it batch, automated or optimised, showed considerable improvements in the efficiency of their dispatch units with 39% of companies using scheduling software having a ratio of more than 16 engineers per dispatcher.
This figure reduces to just 8% when we look at companies who still operate with manual dispatch systems. In fact of those companies operating without scheduling software virtually half of them (49%) are only able to manage a ratio of 5 engineers per dispatcher at best.
With developments in mobile technology opening up opportunities for field staff to establish new revenue streams (whether directly or indirectly), the greater the ratio of engineers to dispatchers, the more a company’s labour resources are placed in positions which could potentially generate revenue.
With companies shifting away from manual based scheduling and starting to utilise scheduling software, the question of how well that software is performing takes on even greater importance.
The majority of companies (46%) identified their current scheduling system as average, with both extremes (excellent and very poor) being the least common response at 7% each. 14% of respondents identified that they felt their systems were poor, whilst 27% rated their scheduling system as good.
Taking a broader view this does indicate that 80% of scheduling systems being used are operating at an acceptable level of average or better, although it would also indicate that there is plenty of room for improvement as well
Integration and interaction:
There has been much talk of late around end to end service management solutions, whereby all systems across the customer lifecycle such as CRM, Service Management Software, and Asset Management Software are fully integrated with each another, offering full transparency across multiple divisions of a company. This in turn creates greater opportunities for improving customer satisfaction levels, improving efficiency and establishing new revenue streams within a business.
Specialist field service software has been available for some thirty years now, and as the industry has evolved a number of differing elements of service management software has developed such as scheduling, routing, and asset management software etc. In fact a fifth of companies are still working with five or more software providers.
With so many different products in the mix its little wonder that there are issues with integration in field service companies.
Well over a third of companies (38%) are still facing issues with integration stating “We have a number of different systems across different divisions and it makes communications between departments tricky”. This represents a sizeable section of the industry that has the potential to improve the overall efficiency and productivity of their field service operations.
Given that the integration of systems is not fully ubiquitous across the industry, it is important to see how companies ensure that their service management software supports their business processes. The most common means of ensuring this is through customisation by software providers, with 34% of companies taking this path.
With competition amongst software providers high within what is a relatively niche sector, it is such additional layers of customisation that can make a difference when implementing a new service management software system.
Yet conversely almost a quarter of companies (23%) admit to having to fit the way they work around their software.
This represents a real issue, if a company has to change their processes to accommodate their software then there may be a danger of efficiency bleed, in which case the surely the software isn’t fit for purpose? This serves to further highlight the importance of ensuring that you choose software provider wisely. Perhaps the cheaper ‘off the shelf’ solution doesn’t always offer the best value in the long term?
In part two of this feature we will look at what of management reporting software is being used and what fears companies have when adopting new systems.
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