In this third part of this series looking at the findings of our exclusive research report into field service software we focus on the future of field service software. You can read the first part of this series which looked at scheduling and integration and interaction here and the second part looking at management reporting here
In the final section of the survey we asked respondents to identify what they thought were the most important technologies likely to appear in service management software, where they believe their organisation should focus their investment and finally what the barriers were to implementing new technologies.
Perhaps the most revealing result of the entire survey was in this final section, specifically surrounding “the biggest concern when implementing a new technology” Surprisingly “Cost of implementation” is now only the second most common concern with “Legacy issues with former systems” becoming the industries greatest concern in 2014. The amount of companies that now cite this as their biggest concern when implementing a new technology has increased from just 22% in 2013 to 38% today.
This represents a potentially significant shift in the industry. In the last few years we have seen rapid developments in service management software, with key trends, such as the requirement for system wide integration as discussed earlier in this report, starting to emerge. The impact that the Software as a Service model has had on costs offers many companies the ability to invest in service management software, when in the not too distant past such an investment may have been beyond their reach.
Earlier this year in another research project conducted by Field Service News we saw that number increase to 38% of companies with a further 48% of companies stating they could possibly do so in the near future. However, the same report also highlighted that currently only 23% of companies have made the shift to a Cloud based environment for their service management software.
This would indicate that there is indeed a trend for companies to be migrating their service management software to Cloud based systems and it is an on-going process. If this is indeed the case then it would also explain why cost has become less of a concern whilst integration with existing legacy systems becomes a greater worry.
We also asked which emerging technologies would be likely to have an impact on field service software in the near future. The results whilst not surprising indicated how many in the industry seeing field service software evolve once again in the very near future. Over 45% of companies felt that Big Data, The Internet of Things and Connected Vehicles will all start appearing as options within field service management solutions within the next three years.
If each and all of these concepts live up to the massive hyperbole that surrounds them then it the way our industry operates will be fundamentally changed. At the same time 37% of companies also think that they wearable devices will become commonplace within the next three years also.
Whether this comes true is likely dependent on the success of Google's Glass product which offer the greatest promise, although the development of smart watches could potentially offer another wearable device that could be put to use in field service. Interestingly perhaps one of the technologies most established that could offer great benefits to certain field service verticals, namely 3D printing was only cited by 19% of companies as being likely to make an impact in field service.
However, this could be a reflection of the wide ranging industry verticals field service incorporates as much as a lack of faith in the technology. 3D printing will certainly be of more of a benefit to some industries (e.g. manufacturing) rather than others (e.g. retail). That said anecdotally there are are certainly those who have (an unfounded in most instances) lack of faith in 3D printing, we are reminded of echoes of the exaggerated fear of the security of the Cloud somewhat with 3D printing. It many ways the technology simply seems to much like science fiction to be fully trusted.
When we looked at the more immediate needs of the industry we saw some familiar patterns. Despite the questions we raised earlier in this report about the suitability of optimised scheduling for all companies, such systems appear to remain in demand amongst field service organisations.
Our final question in the survey was “In terms of investment, which of the following areas of technology do you think it the most critical for your company to remain competitive?” and we gave respondents 8 choices asking them to rank them in order of priority. The options were Route optimisation, optimised scheduling, integrated CRM, contact centre/help desk, mobile hardware, mobile software, logistics/spare parts management, and reporting/analytics tools.
The one technology that has perhaps now had its day is route optimisation. This scored as the lowest priority for 56% of companies
It is also interesting to note that whilst relatively few companies (7%) identified logistics/spare parts management systems as there number one priority, many companies identified it as either their second (27% of companies) or third (23% of companies) priority. This would indicate that whilst most companies do not see logistics/spare parts systems as the most burning issue, they do acknowledge that it is an area that they should invest in should funds become available.
The one technology that has perhaps now had its day is route optimisation. This scored as the lowest priority for 56% of companies. There are many reasons route optimisation is now no longer a significant area for investment, whether this is because it is included in many service management software packages or that the technology has been around long enough to reach to near market saturation - the fact is that most companies will now have some sort of route/navigation software already even if it is simply Google Maps and a BYOD.
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