Is Data the Fundamental Building Block of 21st Century Field Service Management?

Jun 14, 2019 • FeaturesAugmented RealityCognito iQData AnalysticsFuture of FIeld ServiceGDPRMobile TechnologyVideowearablesCloud computingIoTDavid Bochenski

The world of field service and the world of technology have been intertwined for a long time now. In today's world of IoT, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning it could be put forwards that Data is not the fundamental building block of field service excellence. Field Service News and Cognito iQ have explored this concept in a new series and here in this first instalment David Bochenski, CTO Cognito iQ outlines how field service companies can the data within the organisation and why they should be doing so.

 


Want to know more? There is a video with Konica Minolta's Head of Direct Service, Ged Crannny outlining how they have revolutionised their business through data analytics available exclusively to fieldservicenews.com subscribers on the link below...


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The rate of change in technology in technology continues to accelerate and shows no sign of stopping. Whereas ten years ago it was broadly the case that the technology you used at work was superior to that which you might have had at home, the arrival of smartphones and the app stores that support those devices them, has fundamentally flipped that relationship. For most of us, and especially the digital native Millenial cohort feeling like the tools that they are given to use at work are pretty much from the dark ages compared to the phones, tablets and wearables they use at home. 
 
The abundance of end-user mobile devices has created a paradigm shift in user expectations for any company providing service into peoples homes or businesses. Customers now assume that within seconds, they should be able to request whatever they want, be it a service or product and track it on route to them instantly via their handheld devices. 
 
Being told these days by a provider that someone may arrive between 8 am and 6 pm and "by the way can you make sure someone will be around to let them in" is not even close to an acceptable level of service.
 
The disruptor companies have driven much of this change in expectations. People like Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo have been changing the game in their respective industries. Amazon, for example, has recently announced that they can deliver your package directly into the boot of your car without you even being there. 
 
"Being told these days by a provider that someone may arrive between 8 am and 6 pm and "by the way can you make sure someone will be around to let them in" is not even close to an acceptable level of service..."
 
The reason these 'Internet Age' companies have been able to fuel and satisfy this shift in expectations, is in part down to their ability to leverage Cloud technologies. In the case of Amazon, they have even pioneered those technologies themselves. Whereas just five years ago there was still legitimate debate about whether the Cloud would become a truly viable option, today this debate has been firmly settled in favour of the Cloud. 
 
Even the most risk-conscious sectors such as banking and finance are seeing Cloud native disruptors enter their market, with the FinTech sector thriving with companies like Monzo and Starling making the established banks sit up and take note. In fact, with the more stringent GDPR coming into force those companies who chose to move early into the Cloud are finding the compliance requirements that much simpler to implement than those still reliant on their own data centres and infrastructure. 
 
Having taken the leap into the Cloud, those companies that are willing to continue their investment now have access to world-class data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to further drive home their advantage.
 
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the established field service companies out there trying to keep up with the technological changes and ever-increasing challenges faced from disruptors. Let's not forget that these companies can be at the bleeding edge of technology adoption. After all, field service companies were putting mobile devices into the hands of their engineers and receiving real-time data live from the field long before Steve Jobs, and Apple had put the Internet in everyone's hands. 
 
I firmly believe there are emergent technological trends that will allow such companies to do so again and remain relevant in a digitally ubiquitous world. As well as providing exceptional user experience through their Cloud-based apps, the companies that are succeeding know how to use the data that is collected by these applications, to close the feedback loop and use that data to drive further improvements to their businesses. 
 
Now, of course, GDPR has been introduced in part to stop companies doing just that and to ensure that their users are given proper visibility, control and consent over their data - which is entirely right, but again I believe this actually presents an opportunity for the more established SME companies to 'win one back' over the start-ups.
 
"Field service companies were putting mobile devices into the hands of their engineers and receiving real-time data live from the field long before Steve Jobs, and Apple had put the Internet in everyone's hands.."
 
SMEs are more likely to be better placed to comply with the new GDPR requirements, having more likely already got ISO certified and are also probably more used to operating effectively within regulated and controlled markets. So the learning curve for such companies adapting to these regulations is less challenging than companies grappling with such legislation for the first time. 
 
There are also a few critical areas of technology where I can see innovative field service organisations being able to capitalise to deliver the next wave of innovation into our sector. 
 
The first of these is being able to make sense of the explosion of data now made readily available as more and more devices become Internet-enabled. The hype around IoT has, in my view, yet to be justified. But once you are in a position as an organisation to harvest data from your machinery directly into the Cloud, and then apply machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities on top of that data - you can start to gain real actionable insights into the fundamentals of your business that can allow you to gain significant advantages over your competition. 
 
The final part of the puzzle is now how to best close the feedback loop and leverage those insights back into the field in real-time. 
 
We are now seeing companies increasingly looking into how they move past the handheld mobile app into more advanced interface solutions. For example, advances in voice technology now mean an engineer can talk directly into their device rather than having to stop and enter information into the tablet. 
 
Augmented reality devices such as Google Glass, which were shunned by the consumer market are experiencing something of a renaissance within specific workplace settings including of course field service and are now capable of surveying the area and alerting engineers to impending health and safety risks. 
 
This approach can also deliver process based benefits in terms of a reduced time to train engineers on new skills and assets and to help resolve issues faster and more effectively. 
 
In summary, combining new types of user interfaces, voice gesture and AI, together with real-time streaming of IoT data and intelligent learning algorithms all running in the Cloud can unlock tremendous efficiencies for field service organisations and help them deliver the next level of service for their customers. 
 

Want to know more? There is a video with Konica Minolta's Head of Direct Service, Ged Crannny outlining how they have revolutionised their business through data analytics available exclusively to fieldservicenews.com subscribers on the link below...


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