Kris Oldland, talks to the ever effervescent Carsten Groth, Technology Solutions Professional with Microsoft Field Service, to discuss what field service will look like in the not so distant future...
There are some people who have a such a clear passion for what they do it is palpably infectious, you can literally see the effect they have on those around them.
I find such people are usually a joy to talk to and so when I caught up with Carsten Groth, a Technology Solution Professional working with Microsoft, for the first time in a year or so (at the industry conference Field Service Europe) it was a true joy to see that there was an almost childlike excitement in his eyes.
He had just given a presentation discussing how and what Microsoft are terming connected field service and it is clear that it is a topic that seems to truly capture Groth’s natural passion for technology and harness it into something resembling true exhilaration.
It’s what makes him such a great ambassador for his company and such an engaging speaker. However, with Microsoft’s own field service focussed offering rapidly evolving and spreading it’s technological wings he seems to have cranked the passion all the way up to 11.
“There are complicated processes that need to be rethought, it’s like working in a big think tank around where is field service heading in 2020?” Is his first response when I ask him what developments are being focussed on in Microsoft’s Field Service team.
However, Groth is quite right to be excited by the new IoT enabled world we will all soon be occupying.
We often talk about revolutions in business but truly have we truly seen a revolution in field service on a par with what the near future promises to deliver.
If we are honest our industry that hasn’t massively changed even with the rise of mobile computing. Yet, what we are now seeing is true evolution, field service 2.0.
Now we have augmented and virtual reality in the mix as well as cloud services and of course IoT and these are all enablers to all these field services as well.
“The way we see it and the way Microsoft has started to think of field service, is in terms of what are the new field service enablers,” he begins.
“To begin there are the classical elements, things like the dispatching and scheduling elements and then there are also some influential parts coming from the mobile side of that, turning the mobile experience into more task oriented, check list oriented and more efficient UI oriented functionalities.”
“But now we have augmented and virtual reality in the mix as well as cloud services and of course IoT and these are all enablers to all these field services as well.”
And it is these enablers that are changing every part of both service providers and their customers thinking around field service. Although the introduction of new technologies, which lead to new processes, will also bring with them new challenges as well.
“When you think about an on-site service for a washing machine, in the past it may have taken 60 minutes and as a customer I would be billed for 60 minutes worth of work,” Groth explains.
“But now I see that the field service engineer has far more capabilities enabled by technology so am I still willing to be charged for 60 minutes when he is now doing the same job within 15 in minutes. Obviously I am not”
“If I then see a field service engineer struggling with that same task which I have just looked up online, a task I now know should take less than 15 minutes. Am I going to think it is fair for his company to be charging me an hours work when he should only be spending a quarter of an hour working?”
“By having all these influential cards we see that the customer has more influence and more impact than they have ever had in the past,” Groth adds.
It is a very valid point and it is absolutely vital that field service organisations understand that whilst technology will undoubtedly revolutionise our industry for the better in the coming years, it will also create new challenges that we must be prepared to face.
So how does this not so distant future look to Groth and his colleagues at Microsoft?
“We are driving forward from the term connected field service because we are talking about connected things that have an influence on field service. We are talking about IoT but not only that - also for example, sentiments coming from omni-channels.”
“For example, in my generation if I got stuck in an elevator then the first thing I would do would be to push the assistance button. But the generation following mine may be more inclined to pull out their phone and tell the world they are stuck in an elevator made by x,y or z. They’ll probably do this even before they think of pressing the emergency button to get rescued!”
Of course this type of thinking wouldn’t be at all possible without Cloud computing and the all encompassing, pervasive connectivity that it can deliver
Of course this type of thinking wouldn’t be at all possible without Cloud computing and the all encompassing, pervasive connectivity that it can deliver. Is this why we suddenly see Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, stepping heavily into the field service sector, once more? Is the future a world of integrated platforms with FSM systems being an integral part of a much wider operational ecosystem?
“I do think we’ll see a movement where we will see the niche players who are offering very specialised FSM software, who are focussed on specific productivity sets, having to step out of their niche,” Groth replies.
“I think they will need to move towards a broader set of thinking as they will only be able to enable the use case scenario if they take into account more things. It’s a bit like building a house.”
“If you’re designing a house as an architect you need to be way more efficient than just designing the shell of the house. You need to have all these different parameters around how are we building the house.”
“I think this is where we see the movement inside field service. It’s not only about thinking ‘I want to enable my field service engineer to do things more efficiently and more productively’. We now must think ‘I want to enable all the kind of things for on-site service as well as customer satisfaction.’”
The shift to servitization is one driver for technology but I think there are a lot of other influential parts enabled by technology. It is also based in part on a generational thing.
Does Groth see the current focus on servitization as being driven by the technology available or is the opposite true - and it is in fact a desire to servitize our businesses that is leading us to seek out technology solutions more aggressively?
“The shift to servitization is one driver for technology but I think there are a lot of other influential parts enabled by technology. It is also based in part on a generational thing. The younger generation playing around with all sorts of technologies and asking why they can’t use these in their day to day business?”
“For instance, we’ve had customers requesting to use WhatsApp for their chat mechanism for field service. We asked why do you specifically want to use WhatsApp? We do offer a solution that offers the same capabilities but it was a generational step up with this product line. They knew how to use it and were familiar with it, they didn’t need training and could just get on with it.”
Regardless of the drivers which as Groth points out are in fact numerous, the fact is that technology is playing an ever increasing role in field service management, and now more than ever before it is beginning to shape how we work and importantly also how we interact with our customers.
“As I said, there is this enablement where we get more knowledge on the side of the customer,’ he reflects.
“We need to think how does connected field service, how do vendors like Microsoft, help our customers empower their own customers.”
“This is actually what Microsoft does with our entire partner ecosystem. It’s the way we are thinking. How do we empower users, not businesses to do more and be more productive.”
“We are thinking how do we step out of the box of FSM only and we need to think about IoT from the consumer side and business side. Changing the way companies think about doing business with field service operational software.”