Leadent CEO, Alastair Clifford-Jones tackles the tricky issue of ageing technology...
Many organisations that have implemented field service management solutions now face a dilemma. Recent advances in technology platforms, software and hardware, have caused these organisations, that had previously enjoyed a competitive advantage, to risk being left behind. And it’s not just the advancement of technology that is driving this, the focus for many field service organisations has changed due to consumers’ ever-increasing expectations, and the deregulation of some industries.
Given the pressure on organisations to provide a better customer experience, many assume the solution is to replace or upgrade ageing technology; especially considering that the replacement could be a Cloud or SaaS-based solution that would shift the costs into an OPEX bucket. Whilst this might be seen as a silver bullet, the truth is more complicated.
When organisations first considered field service management systems they were trying move away from the Chaotic Survival state
To become a Supply Led business required a limited change in technology, and more of an organisational change as it is much more about breaking down silos within a business.
However, transforming into a Demand Led organisation requires significant investment, and a completely different way of thinking. This is where organisations need to be truly digitally enabled with multi-channel customer touch-points.
So, what’s the right direction for organisations?
It depends. There are several aspects to be considered.
The first is not just what technology you have, but how well it’s been implemented into the business; are processes understood and adhered to? Does the business model match both the objectives, and process model?
Often organisations believe technology is at the root of their problems – if they could just have faster software or more flexible configuration life would be so much simpler. In reality it’s often the way technology has been implemented and this isn’t just about customisation or configuration, it’s about embedding process and mindset change into the business. Even in today’s world, there are far too many technology-driven implementations that are not owned or controlled by the business.
The second is deciding where the business needs to be. In the diagram above, it is clear the ‘best’ position is on the right-hand side, but this is primarily driven by consumers. If your customers don’t need you to be this type of business, there is no point trying to position yourself there. But don’t kid yourself, this would make you the exception, not the norm.
Your business’s starting point, and where you need it to be will give you an indication of the gap that needs to be closed to deliver competitive advantage. This then begins to formulate a basis for the decision to upgrade or replace technology. But, as ever, there are a number of ways to close this gap, with many requiring some technology, but how do you make the right decision?
The options are:
- Drive more value from a current deployment
- Implement point solutions to add functionality
- Upgrade an existing solution
- Replace the current system
Getting more Value from a Current Deployment
Many implementations have failed to deliver the anticipated value. It’s not that businesses are over optimistic when the business case is developed, but more that they don’t take the opportunity to truly transform. The field service management solution is seen as an operational tool and implemented in a silo.
This silo thinking has resulted in the lack of an integrated view of the end-to-end customer journey.
Getting more from a current deployment is all about the end-to-end customer journey. Often greater value can be achieved from just having an integrated view, which means looking at processes and how the organisation matches this view.
In my experience, there is always more value that can be generated from a current deployment. But the big question is, is it ever enough to meet current and future requirements?
Implementing Point Solutions
If the scheduling and dispatch solution is working well, and an organisation is just trying to improve the customer experience, there is no reason why the existing solution cannot be enhanced by implementing greater functionality via integration with other software such as online booking or customer communications.
This way a customer can get the ‘digital experience’ with minimal disruption to operations. Given integration capabilities and the proliferation of APIs, it is much easier in today’s world to integrate a point solution with current platforms. The main gripe for customers is the lack of information from the organisation. If you keep your customers informed via appropriate channels - a web or mobile app, or even a lowly text message, it can dramatically enhance customer experience.
In addition to improving the customer experience, it alsomakes operational sense. The business case for delivering better customer information can often be satisfied by the reduction in calls to call centres alone.
Upgrade an Existing System
Upgrades come in many forms. Vendors are working hard to shift customers from on-premise solutions to their new cloud variants. While the existing cloud vendors are innovating and adding functionality to stay out in front. Often the decision to upgrade is with the supplier in that support will usually be withdrawn for non-upgraded systems, for example, where the cloud option becomes the only option.
Where the organisation has an option to upgrade to get enhanced technological capabilities, it is very important to understand the impact it will have on the people and processes. In my experience, upgrades often fail because the processes have not be realigned, or the teams have not been properly informed or trained.
Organisations that have really benefited from enhanced functionality have conducted a full impact analysis on the processes and realigned their businesses appropriately to make best use of new capabilities.
Replacing a Current System
To many organisations, replacing a system fills them with dread as the initial implementation was a particularly expensive and painful experience but, in reality, much of the hard work has already been done. Much of that pain was in moving from a manual system to auto-scheduling and mobile dispatch. This was a change management exercise, and isn’t a reason not to replace. In fact, if it was done well, it’d be shame not to further capitalise on that investment.
Of course, there are benefits of replacing a current system beyond those of better functionality, for instance, some new systems offer much greater business flexibility.
Of course, there are benefits of replacing a current system beyond those of better functionality, for instance, some new systems offer much greater business flexibility. For example, the way different providers treat capacity can offer greater benefits; where many assign an engineer at the time of appointment, some now look at the overall capacity and perform the assignment on the day. For the majority of businesses and use cases, this increases efficiency.
If we are looking at moving organisations to the right on the maturity model it’s essential to have an integrated approach to the end-to-end customer experience, which may be constrained by that organisation’s field service management solution.
Don’t Get Left Behind!
As we’ve seen, moving towards a truly Demand Led model for field service can be achieved via a number of different paths. Where your organisation sits within the maturity model and how much focus is placed on the customer journey will dictate the path you need to take.
But in all cases, it is imperative to make those decisions with a critical eye on your own maturity and the end-to-end customer experience in mind. Failure to do so risks leaving the business trailing in the wake of those who do.
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