Kris Oldland talks exclusively to Steve Mason, Chief Revenue Officer with FieldAware about the changing landscape of FSM software...
FieldAware is a brand that has been slowly building a presence as a rising star amongst field service management (FSM) software providers for the last few years now. However, across the last twelve months or so they seem to be distinctly focussing on pulling together a team with an enviable background and history within the sector - perhaps readying for a major assault on the market?
The addition of Tabitha Taylor-Higginson and Caroline Pennington (both from Trimble Field Service Management) has added a depth of industry knowledge and understanding of best-practice, go-to-market strategies on the communications side of the business, whilst new Chief Revenue Officer Steve Mason, has an eight year record with industry stalwarts ClickSoftware to his name - holding a variety of titles ranging from Vice President of Sales for the EMEA region to Vice President of Russia, CIS and Mobility - in short he is not only a man who has experience in successfully working with top-tier enterprise account sales, but also a strong knowledge of product development within FSM systems.
In short, it seems that within the last twelve months things have stepped up a gear for FieldAware in terms of how they intend to approach the market going forward.
“There has been a lot of momentum that has been building over time, but now it is beginning to become more visible as things are all coming together around the product, around the marketing and around our go-to-market strategy,” begins Mason as we touch on the subject.
“We are becoming more visible in the market, but in a controlled way. From the board’s perspective it has been building up the momentum and now they are bringing in key personnel that will drive the company into the next market environment.”
Controlled seems to be the key word here. There seems to have been a very clear plan from the senior team at FieldAware to get the product right, before then building the team that can firmly establish the company as a key player within the FSM software community.
Indeed, as Mason explains there was a lot of behind the scenes work in developing the product in order to be able to integrate easily with others that had to be completed before FieldAware could really begin to move forward into the enterprise.
“Whilst the company were operating primarily in the small to medium sector, we invested heavily in developing a mobile led, innovative solution that was built on an enterprise approach architecture. We wanted the ability to have a field force management solution, where we could have custom objects associated at multiple levels, so the application could through configuration be quickly tuned to the needs of different customers in different verticals.”
“To then expose that flexibility to all of the communications channels - so out through the API, into the integration layer out to the mobile and then out to the web, as you can appreciate it takes time to build that kind of product, but it was where we saw future.”
However, listening to Mason speak it is not just care and attention that FieldAware have put into the development of their product - he is keen to outline how they have taken a very different approach than some of the more traditional vendors in the market have done in the past.
“Our focus has been to develop a mobile application that is very intuitive and easy to use - everything we do is about intuitiveness and being thumb friendly. Successful solutions are always easily adopted because they’re so easy to use.”
“Everything we do is about intuitiveness and being thumb friendly. Successful solutions are always easily adopted because they’re so easy to use...”
“So we’ve really been focussing in from that perspective. We’ve been taking into consideration how millennials think when they are in the field and how do the older members of the workforce think whilst they are in the field too.
It’s a different approach from the traditional world of big optimisations that are focussed on macro management of a workforce and then driving that work out. In fact, it’s a very different approach.”
Indeed, this shift in thinking is perhaps mirrored in a number of different corners of the industry.
Whereas before the focus has been, both from a technology and a management point of view, about ensuring field service teams are working as efficiently as possible - i.e. on task such as processing the workload and optimising the work schedule, now with customer service rising to the forefront of most conversations about company wide KPIs, the focus is very much on empowering the field service engineer with the tools at his disposal to be able to delight customers on each and every visit.
“The workforce has changed,” comments Mason “even the way that people work and the relationships that there is between the field and those in the office, there is now an inherent trust. If someone has a smartphone then they are visible wherever they are.”
“So companies no longer need all the old tools that were there to micro manage, now it’s about empowerment and working in a trusted sense within the organisation. It is now effectively one department, rather than being field and back office - today everybody is mobile.”
“It is a changing market. It is rapidly changing mainly because customer service remains the critical differentiator for many organisations...”
“It is a changing market. It is rapidly changing mainly because customer service remains the critical differentiator for many organisations.” He concludes.
Indeed the landscape is ever changing (see Bill Pollock’s feature on page 22) and FieldAware find themselves in the interesting place of being able to compete with other FSM software vendors such as ClickSoftware or ServiceMax but also at the same time offering a solution that can also fully compliment such competitor systems due to their focus on integration.
But perhaps the greatest shift field service companies are having to deal with currently isn’t the ever evolving vendor landscape but more the shift within their own workforces - as Baby Boomers move on and Millennials take their place. But what role can technology play in alleviating the pain points of what is such a distinct changing of the guard?
“I would say that how a solution sits with Millennials in terms of functionality and usability should be one of the top priorities for field service directors because if you look at the Gartner view in terms of digitising the enterprise, they see adoption as the biggest barrier to success,” Mason comments.
“Applications like ours enable companies to effectively digitise the last mile - i.e. get all the work instructions, all the processes out to the workforce. They can use it online or offline depending on their connectivity, but is has to be intuitive.’
“It has to be intuitive for the traditional workers because they need to adopt it quickly, and it has to be an engaging tool for Millennials who want to work differently with modern, refreshing looking apps.”
“Adoption rates are critical for any digitisation strategies - so usability, whether it be for Millennials or Baby Boomers should be very high in the selection process.”
Of course one trusted route to speeding up adoption which we have discussed a number of times in various Field Service News articles is getting the involvement of some of the field service technicians in the selection process of any given new tool they will be using.
This is a trend that Mason admits he has seen growing in recent years with more and more field service organisations involving a selection of service technicians to give their insight into any potential new solution.
“We’re seeing a growing trend where the selection process will include some members of the field team,” Mason agrees. “What this does do is enable both us and the customer to accelerate the time to value because it allows the customer to see how the tool will work within their wider system, but also allows us to better understand the challenges we’ll have to work through in the project.” He concludes.
It is a sensible route and one that is quite indicative of the customer-centric approach that Mason and the team at FieldAware are taking. The question now remains can they build their own acceleration when it comes to gaining a significant role within the FSM landscape? The product is certainly up to par, and with the recent senior talent acquisitions, such as Mason, the team is shaping up very nicely too now.
So could 2017 potentially be FieldAware’s year? They are certainly getting them selves in the right place at the right time...