As Managing Director of the company that developed the world's first browser based service management software, Colin Brown of Tesseract is a bit of an expert when it comes to both SM software and the Cloud itself so we asked him to give us some...
ARCHIVE FOR THE ‘saas’ CATEGORY
As Managing Director of the company that developed the world's first browser based service management software, Colin Brown of Tesseract is a bit of an expert when it comes to both SM software and the Cloud itself so we asked him to give us some guidance on the SaaS model...
I’ve been asked by our dear editor to look at the SaaS model in delivering a service management application. SaaS or Software as a Service has been around many years but has recently entered the mainstream with the term “cloud”.
There is no doubt that many large software companies ignored SaaS, hoping it would go away, their business models based on big sales and complex, expensive IT infrastructures. Not small monthly amounts that SaaS proffers.
So without certain advancements - cost effective data centres, Internet and predominantly browser based software, SaaS would not exist. The cost would have been simply too high. There is no question that the SaaS model was born out of the right technology.
In 2005, Tesseract was in the vanguard of offering this as another option to deliver its service system. Salesforce.com has made SaaS more mainstream and now we see companies developing application software that is only available on SaaS and have a business model built around it. All of this in a short space of time.
From a service management perspective, the high cost of owning sophisticated software, which is a significant barrier, has been removed by SaaS. Now relatively small companies can now compete with larger rival as they can rent the same standard of software. This renting of the software reflects a huge shift in mind set by the developers. Historically, they would have been terrified of the software being copied and low value recurring revenue threatened their business model. However, most independent service companies have recurring revenue which actually fits neatly with “renting” the software.
This renting of the software reflects a huge shift in mind set by the developers
In large part, this is thanks to the hosted server a.k.a. The Cloud. SaaS data centres handle all the expensive, complex fire walls and demilitarized zones that keep information safe. We work with Rackspace in the US, the leading hosting and cloud global supplier, and Memset, an award winning UK supplier of hosting and cloud solutions. SaaS is also safer in that there are no systems in the office in case of disaster or power shortages. However, I think it is wise to invest in additional servers as back-up, giving a higher degree of resilience. This is something we offer at Tesseract.
The support offered under SaaS is also advantageous. Since access to the software is controlled by the supplier, all the software upgrades are installed and installed correctly (free of charge at Tesseract). Employees are no longer able to “play” with the data as it is hosted remotely, which reduces system errors.
However, it does not mean businesses are isolated from their systems, Most modern web products support Web services, including Tesseract, allowing connectivity to tracking solutions, accounts/erp packages, post code hosted solutions, hosted customer survey solutions and all new web-based services.
We have found that the service management industry is a diverse bunch with different requirements so we offer the ability to “Pick ‘n’ Mix”. Some customers take the rental and support option but would rather install the software on their own server; other customers require remote hosting and support but they prefer to buy the software and others want the whole SaaS package of hosting, rental and support. With all three options, the internet and/or an intranet are the delivery routes.
SaaS has really taken off in the US, more so than in the UK currently. All of our new business in the US is SaaS and we expect the UK to follow suit.
TomTom Telematics (formerly known as TomTom Business Solutions) now has 28,000 customers and 350,000 vehicles subscribed to its Software as a Service (SaaS) fleet management solution. This represents a 38 per cent year-on-year growth and...
TomTom Telematics (formerly known as TomTom Business Solutions) now has 28,000 customers and 350,000 vehicles subscribed to its Software as a Service (SaaS) fleet management solution. This represents a 38 per cent year-on-year growth and reaffirms its position as a market leader in Europe.
Its WEBFLEET platform provides real time vehicle tracking, driving information and reports about operational performance to fleet managers.
“The growth of WEBFLEET is founded upon its success in helping businesses operate more efficiently by turning large vehicle data volumes into actionable insights,” said Thomas Schmidt, Managing Director, TomTom Telematics.
“As the largest and fastest growing fleet management provider in Europe, we have a lot of experience in helping customers to use this data to manage and improve their overall vehicle operations.”
In a single day, these 350,000 managed vehicles make 1.75 million business and private trips and drive more than 60 million km, the equivalent of 1,500 times around the world.
The data centers, provided with the highest security and performance standard (ISO27001), process over 425 million messages and GPS positions per day or 25 billion new data points every quarter. At any moment, this data is immediately available to business customers in clear dashboards, live vehicle information or via detailed reports in order to decrease fuel, maintenance and insurance costs of the fleet of vehicles.
[quote style="boxed"]Click here for more features, news and resources from TomTom Telematics in the Field Service News Directory[/quote]
Having completed our survey on SaaS and Field Service which was run in association with Tesseract we are pleased to announce the winners of the prize draw were....
Having completed our survey on SaaS and Field Service which was run in association with Tesseract we are pleased to announce the winners of the prize draw were....
Danny Dart, Field Service Manager, JME Ltd
Paul Ramsbottom, Service Design Manager, Virgin Media Business
Richard Wilson, Operational Strategy Manager, Xerox
Congratulations to each of you, we will be contacting you shortly to arrange sending you your £50 Amazon Voucher!
If you haven't had a chance to see the findings of this research as yet then don't forget to download the white paper "SaaS and Field Service" To do so simply click this link.
If you would like to help us with our next survey which is exploring Software and Field Service in 2014 and be in with a chance of winning a £150 Amazon voucher then click here!
In theory field service would seem to be an industry that could benefit greatly from the cloud. The ability to give remote access to systems for mobile workers is obviously advantageous to an industry that by its very definition has a high...
In theory field service would seem to be an industry that could benefit greatly from the cloud. The ability to give remote access to systems for mobile workers is obviously advantageous to an industry that by its very definition has a high percentage of its workforce on the move.
But has the field service industry leapt into the cloud feet first, or is there still some reluctance until the technology proves itself robust enough to be trusted with service management systems?
Across the last few months Field Service News in partnership with Tesseract have undertaken a research project, which aims to take a measure of the appetite for Cloud based software and the Software as a Service distribution model within the field service industry.
On Premise versus Cloud in field service today:
The first major insight from the research is that despite Cloud and SaaS becoming more widely understood as a concept, as far as the headline numbers are concerned currently those companies that have placed there field service management systems in the Cloud remain in the minority. In fact currently 77% of companies are still using an On-Premise solution with just 23% having actually moved their field service software to a Cloud based platform.
At first glance this may seem somewhat of a surprise. We have been hearing things about the Cloud, good and bad, for quite a while now. Salesforce.Com the Grandaddy of the Cloud who pretty much single handily made a mockery of computing giants such as Oracle and SAP’s dismissive stance towards SaaS as a passing fad, are now a ripe old 15 years old. The cloud’s been around for long enough to take route by now hasn’t it? One argument could be that actually fifteen years isn’t that long, especially when we take into consideration that it took a few extra years for the first browser based service management solution to appear (Tesseract’s Service Centre 4.2 in 2001) and also as all service management software previously had been purchased on a pricey CAPEX model then the life cycles of these systems were understandably relatively long.
The shift to a new, emerging technology will likely be weighted towards a slower start in such an environment. Actually we can find further evidence of this when we look at exactly how long those companies who are currently using an On-Premise system have been using that system for. The vast majority (60%) have been using their current system fro at least three years so this would certainly seem to correlate with this theory. In fact just 18% of On Premise solutions are recent implementations (within one year). A slightly larger amount 22% of systems are between a year and three years old.
However, it is when we look at the next question we asked of those respondents using an On Premise system “Are you likely to consider a SaaS/Cloud solution when you next update your service management system” that we start to see some genuine evidence that the shift to the Cloud is starting to speed up. Of those companies currently using an On-Premise solution just over half 53% have stated that they are considering a move to a Cloud based solution in the future. With 47% stating that they will not consider the Cloud for their next iteration of field service management solution.
If this figure remains true and there is a conversion from those ‘considering’ the Cloud to those adopting the Cloud then within a period of perhaps three to five years, by when most companies will have moved onto next generation platforms, it is highly likely that we will see an almost 180º switch in the ratio of On Premise to Cloud systems being in place with SaaS becoming the dominant model for software distribution within the field service industry. Whilst the shift may be slow initially, it would seem that when it does happen it could be quite dramatic.
The benefits of Cloud in field service
So what exactly are the benefits of Cloud based service management software to merit such a dramatic shift? We asked those respondents that were already on a Cloud based system what were the reasons they chose to choose Cloud over an On-Premise solution, asking them to indicate if any of the following reasons were important to them. The benefits we listed were: more affordable pricing model, scalable solution, disaster recovery, easy remote access, speed of going live, less reliant on IT department.
The results were interesting in that perhaps they did not conform to what are often seen to be the key USPs of Cloud based solutions. Of these options easy remote access was the most popular reason cited with 61% of respondents indicating this was an important factor to them. The second most popular benefit was the fact that Cloud solutions are scalable with 54% of those surveyed ticking this option. Often the most heralded benefit of the SaaS distribution model is that it makes expensive solutions more affordable.
However, this was only the joint fourth most popular option tied with another benefit that we regularly see being championed i.e. the speed of going live. With just over a quarter of respondents (28%) indicating that these were important factors to them. When we look just at companies with the smallest category of mobile workforce (under 50 field engineers) we do see an increase to 35% of companies that cite affordability as an important reason for choosing SaaS, yet again it remains only the fourth most popular choice. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that whilst the fact that a SaaS model does of course offer a more affordable payment model, it appears that it is the other benefits that enable improved efficiency in the mobile workforce that mostly attracted these early adopters.
But what about the actual benefits that are being seen by those using a SaaS service management system? Beyond the hyperbole and marketing speak what are the benefits that genuine field service companies are experiencing in the real world?
So as to not to colour the results in anyway around this critical question we opted to leave the response to the question ‘What has been the biggest benefit to your company since moving to the cloud” as a open text response. This has given us a truer understanding of what the key benefits to Cloud based field service software were.
The most prominent benefit that stood out was the general performance of the systems themselves alongside the ease of updates. A quarter of all responses (25%) were grouped around the fact that by having a system that was easy to upgrade respondents found they were essentially getting a regularly improved and refined piece of software so performance levels remained above those that they had experienced previously. The other most significant benefit was in fact the cost which also was listed by 25% of the respondents. So whilst cost may not have been as high as anticipated as a reason to initially opt for a SaaS model, it would appear that once the decision had been made, the more manageable payment methods of SaaS did indeed shine out as a key benefit of the model. This would be particularly relevant for those companies whose service division operates its on P&L of course.
Speed was also a regularly used term word amongst the responses. In the main the reference was to the speed and ease of set up however the speed of information flow between field engineers and head office was also raised as a key benefit. Speed alongside the term ‘ease of use’ was both common terms that appeared in 13% of all responses. Other benefits that are worthy of mention are increased mobility, scalability and flexibility including being able to put multiple countries onto the same operating system easily and the easy accumulation of data via remote access in one source.
However, certainly the greatest acid test of how successful the Cloud has been in terms of delivering field service software to those that have taken this path is whether or not they would recommend a similar move to others. In this instance it would certainly appear that the implementation of Cloud for those field service companies that have made the move has been an overwhelming success with 90% of companies that are currently using a Cloud based field service management solutions stating they would recommend doing so. Such a majority is certainly a powerful statement to the positive impact of the Cloud for those field service companies that have been early adopters and embraced the technology.
Yet some many remain unconvinced
So it is evident that those who are working with a Cloud based solution seem to be satisfied having made the change and it also seems that many of those still using an On-Premise solution are actively considering a move to the cloud when the opportunity to upgrade there service management software next arises. Yet there is still a sizeable amount of companies (circa 30%) that are not considering the Cloud at all.
Why exactly is this and what fears do they have? We asked those respondents that indicated they would not be considering a Cloud based solution to identify the key reasons they did not feel comfortable with the cloud. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly the leading reason cited was Security. Front-page news stories about the lack of security in the Cloud continue to cast doubt it seems as 47% of companies that are not considering the Cloud still cite security as a key fear. Concerns around connectivity and issues integrating issues with existing legacy systems were also both common objectives with 34% and 37% of companies respectively indicating that these issues gave them cause for concern around a move towards the Cloud. What is interesting is when we compare these issues with those that are currently operating a Cloud based service management solution these fears do not necessarily match up to the reality. In fact when looking at the issues that those who are using the Cloud have actually encountered we actually see the reverse of the above.
The most common issue with the Cloud has proven to be connectivity issues, which 60% of companies using a Cloud based system have experienced problems with. The second most common issue is then integration with existing systems, which 40% of companies have faced. Security in fact ranks the lowest of the issues cited by companies using a Cloud system with only a quarter of companies having had any issues in this area whatsoever. Looking further at those companies that are not considering a Cloud solution, it is interesting to note that whilst the large majority (72%) have not implemented Cloud systems in any area of their business, a still sizeable 29% of companies did have at least one element of their business requirements based in the Cloud.
This initially seems odd as with a clear benefit of Cloud being ‘easy remote access’ it would seem a perfect bedfellow for the field service systems and therefore one might assume, one of the first systems to be moved into the Cloud. However, when we look at the reason given for why respondents felt Service Management software in particular should still be held On Premise the majority of respondents (70%) identify integration with existing systems as the main reason why they believe they need to keep their systems out of the Cloud. Essentially as service management systems are so core to company’s operational efficiencies, for some it simply isn’t worth the risk of moving to a system that cannot be easily integrated into wider business systems.
For those more conservative companies that would prefer to see a technology fully established and road tested before committing to it, connectivity issues between the Cloud and existing systems to still remain so it could be prudent to hold back for the near future, until these issues are fully resolved. However, of course the longer a company waits to take advantage of the benefits of a new technology, the greater risk they are in terms of falling behind the rest of the market in terms of efficiency and translating this into better service standards.
Conclusion - SaaS will eventually become the norm in field service
Whilst at the current time Cloud computing has yet to take a firm hold amongst the majority of field service companies, with most companies still using an On-Premise system, it would certainly seem that there is a definite shift towards the Cloud and the SaaS model and that shift is starting to gain momentum. If those companies that are currently considering a move to SaaS do actually make the transition, then within the next few years we could see a complete reversal in the ratio of companies operating On Premise systems versus those operating on Cloud based solutions, with Cloud becoming the dominant platform.
The benefits of Cloud are numerous and well suited to field service, with the ease of remote access being the key factor for companies either considering moving to the Cloud or those that have made the move already. Wider benefits such as the more affordable pricing structure of SaaS, the speed of implementation and less reliance on IT departments also of course are attractive factors to field service companies also. The biggest issue that has slowed the adoption of the Cloud in field service to date is the perception that security is a major issue for Cloud systems.
However, in reality this has not proved to be the case for those field service companies that are actually operating in the Cloud. Yet these doubts still remain and perhaps it is a matter of the technology having to continue to prove itself secure over a longer period of time for these to abate fully. At the same time the biggest issues felt by those using the Cloud are possibly likely to be resolved by surrounding technologies in the near future. Connectivity, which is the largest problem facing companies with a Cloud system for example will ultimately ebb away as serious issue as mobile internet standards continue to increase.
Within the UK for example all of the major providers are required to meet 90% 3G coverage of the UK as part of their contracts with UK Government by this summer. Currently the only provider to have fallen short of this target is Vodafone who offer 3G coverage to 88.5% of the UK. Of course with 4G now being rolled out this situation will only continue to improve.
When we consider that there is a building appetite for the Cloud in Field Service Industry, the key fear around the Cloud (security) is proving in reality a far less common issue than the perception would have us believe and that the most common issue being faced by those currently using the Cloud is potentially going to diminish naturally as internet coverage becomes ever more widespread it would seem that the Cloud is set to become an established platform for field service technology, and even ultimately become the most commonplace method.
Want to know more? Download the complete white paper based on this research for free by clicking this link
Field Service News has recently been undertaking a piece of research in partnership with Tesseract to assess the appetite for attempts to assess the appetite in the field service industry for moving software to the cloud and utilising a Software...
Field Service News has recently been undertaking a piece of research in partnership with Tesseract to assess the appetite for attempts to assess the appetite in the field service industry for moving software to the cloud and utilising a Software as a Service (SaaS) as a delivery mechanism for field service software.
With the survey closing at the end of the week we thought we would give you a sneak peak at the results so far and remind you one last time that you to can help us build the picture of the field service industry today.
The survey itself is a maximum of 12 questions long, should take no more than a few minutes to complete and all respondents will not only be given an exclusive copy of the report findings but also be entered into our prize draw to win one of three Fifty pound Amazon vouchers!
Click here to enter the survey now!
Some key findings of the survey so far include the fact that whilst there is an undoubted buzz around cloud solutions and the SaaS model the shift to cloud computing hasn’t really happened on a grand scale as yet with 77% of companies surveyed still using an on premise solution for their field service management software.
The old fear of security issues in the cloud still apparently looms large in the minds of those decision makers in the field service industry with almost half (48%) of companies that have not opted to move their field service management system to the cloud citing security as a key worry that is holding them back.
However, there are bigger obstacles holding back the shift to the cloud it would seem. Almost three quarters (74%) of the field service companies that participated within the research to date identified that a key reason for not choosing cloud models so far are that they foresee compatibility issues with their existing systems and software.
What would seem apparent is that whilst the shift to the cloud hasn’t taken hold as dramatically as some may have predicted quite yet, it does seem somewhat inevitable that their will be a continued and steady growth in companies moving across to a cloud based system within the next few years.
For a start we see that of those companies now utilising a cloud based solution almost two thirds (57%) have changed software systems within just three years. This would suggest that as companies refresh their field service system the majority are moving towards cloud based solutions.
This fact is further emphasised when we see that over half (54%) of those companies that are currently using an on-premise solution are actively considering moving to a cloud based solution already when they next upgrade their field service management system.
One of the biggest reasons for this shift is the easy remote access that the cloud offers. Over two thirds (68%) of those companies that are considering moving to a cloud based solution cited this as one of the key factors for doing so.
They may suffer some problems when making the move, depending on how quickly the technology continues to move forward. Currently just under two thirds (60%) of companies operating a SaaS system have experienced some problems with connectivity, which would be expected of a system that is reliant on internet strength across varying regions but of course this will become less and less of a problem as network coverage continues to expand both on the local and international level.
Yet our research predicts that those opting for a cloud based field service management system are almost guaranteed success as 100% of companies that have implemented a cloud based solution indicated that they would recommend moving from on premise to SaaS/cloud based field service management systems to others.
We are currently conducting a research project in partnership with Tesseract, which aims to establish exactly what you think about SaaS field service solutions. Having now reached the half waypoint of this project there are some interesting...
We are currently conducting a research project in partnership with Tesseract, which aims to establish exactly what you think about SaaS field service solutions. Having now reached the half waypoint of this project there are some interesting results already becoming prominent…
SaaS field service solutions still in the minority
Of the total respondents so far the overwhelming majority (83%) are currently still using an on premise solution as opposed to a SaaS field service solutions. However, of those still using an on-premise solution 62% have stated they were considering moving to a SaaS platform when they next upgrade their field service management software.
The key driver in this shift towards the cloud is the added mobility cloud solutions offer, with 66% of companies citing most easy remote access as a factor in why they are considering SaaS. Other common reasons were the scalability of SaaS solutions and the more affordable pricing structure of SaaS, which 59% and 51% of companies cited respectively.
Mythbuster – security is not an issue for SaaS field service solutions
The biggest fear around moving to a SaaS field service solution was security which 52% cited as a reason they would not choose SaaS. This is largely to be expected due to the often-high profile doubts raised about cloud security.
However, it would seem it is not substantiated by the facts. Of those companies operating a SaaS field service solution none cited security as an issue they had faced.
The biggest issues surrounding cloud based systems were in fact connectivity and communication with existing legacy systems. Exactly half of companies with a cloud solution had suffered from one or both of these issues. However, only 36% of companies cited either of these as a reason why they wouldn’t choose SaaS.
Of those who have chosen SaaS all have identified easy remote access as the key reason why they opted for SaaS. Scalability was the second most popular reason for opting for a SaaS solution which was cited by 75% of companies. A more affordable pricing model and built-in disaster recovery being the joint third popular reasons that 57% of companies listed.
Additional benefits of SaaS provided by respondents included increased functionality and availability, cost, flexibility, ease of upgrades and infrastructure and all countries being moved to the same platform.
It is interesting that for both companies either already on a SaaS field service solution or considering a SaaS field service solution that less reliance on the IT department was the least common factor in choosing the cloud.
Only 28% of companies already using a SaaS field service solution identified this as a reason for choosing SaaS whilst only 10% of companies considering a SaaS field service solution cited it as a reason for consideration.
Who’s in the DMU
Whilst it is certainly true that SaaS will reduce the strain on the IT department, it is clearly not a factor that most field service managers take into consideration.
However, what is clear is that when the CIO/IT Director etc is involved within the decision making process there is more likelihood of the company opting for a SaaS field service solution.
In fact the CIO or equivalent was involved in the decision making process in 71% of companies who had opted for SaaS field service solution and was the most common figure within the decision making unit (DMU) of such companies.
However, for companies who were still operating on an on premise solution the CIO or equivalent was only involved in 46% of cases with the CFO/FD being more prominent and being involved in the DMU in 56% of cases.
As you would expect in both instances the Field Service Manager was a prominent figure in the DMU being the second most common member in companies with SaaS and most common within those companies still operating an on premise solution.
Bringing in the mobile workforce
However it appears that there are two groups that are largely being omitted from the DMU yet who strategically could have a massive impact on the success of the implementation of any new platform whether it be on-premise or a SaaS field service solution.
One of the biggest obstacles often highlighted to a successful implementation of the technology is getting the buy–in of the mobile workforce.
It is a topic we have discussed on field service news a number of times and one regular suggestion by industry experts is to get representatives of the field staff to be part of the DMU for the latest field service solution you intend to deploy. However, in both groups (SaaS or on premise) less than 15% of companies sought to include representatives of their field staff in the process.
Also with the trend to move service departments away from being cost centres and towards profit centres it would surely be sensible to include a senior figure from the sales division into the conversation also. However, again the inclusion of a sales director or equivalent was a rare occurrence with no more than 7% of companies bringing the sales director into the process.
How does this shape up to your own situation? Is your company operating a SaaS field service solution? Are you considering a move to the cloud or do you think that you would always rather a platform that remains on premise instead of a SaaS field service solution?
If you haven’t taken part in the survey as yet then please do and help us build up a complete picture of the industry today.
As a thank you all respondents who complete the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three £50 Amazon vouchers!
We’ve talked much about software as a service on field service news over the last few months.
We’ve talked much about software as a service on field service news over the last few months.
We’ve explored whether the platform will become the great leveller in the field service industry as for the first time smaller, more agile companies are able to afford access to the sophisticated and powerful service management software systems that boast numerous benefits such as increasing efficiency, improving first time fix rates, and of course improving the level of service you can deliver to your customers. Not so long ago these systems were the domain of enterprise size companies solely.
The SaaS revolution changed that.
Then we delved further into the cloud and took with us some of the big questions that for many remained unanswered. The man we sought to give us the answers to these was both a service management software stalwart with over twenty five years experience designing service management software, but also somewhat of a visionary having been the first to develop a browser based service management solution way back in 2004. Incidentally, he was also the first to develop a system for Windows as well.
In case you missed it you can find this interview here in our first ever podcast, where we spoke to Colin Brown, Managing Director of Tesseract and we tackle the major concerns around SaaS such as connectivity issues, integration problems, security fears, why major companies such as SAP and Oracle were so slow to adopt the model, plus also looking in more detail at the benefits of the cloud and some really fascinating insight into how the industry has changed in the twenty five years Colin has been building service management software.
However, we have realised that to fully get a grip on how the field service industry is reacting to both the cloud in general and software as a service as a delivery model then there is one remaining person we need to hear from. You.
We want to understand how you the field service managers are working, or not working with SaaS. We want to know if it appeals to you or if it doesn’t. We want to know the reasons why and why not.
So we are undertaking a dedicated research project into SaaS and Field Service. The survey itself is intelligently designed to ask only the questions relevant to you specifically and will therefore take you no less than two minutes to complete.
We will be using this data to compile an exclusive white paper based on the results which will be sent to all respondents before it is published to the general public. Also as a means of thanking you for taking the time to give us you insight we are offering three £50(or local equivalent) Amazon vouchers which are provided by our partner in this project Tesseract Software. The winners of these vouchers will be picked at random when the survey closes.
So why not take two minutes out of your day, help us understand the industry better and give yourself a chance to win! Take the survey here
Field Service News is pleased to bring you the first in our new monthly series of podcasts. In this first instalment we speak to Colin Brown Managing Director of Tesseract Software. We ask Colin how the industry has changed since he first started Tesseract over a quarter of a century ago, how service management software has evolved and how the needs of service managers has changed dramatically over time as well.
With Tesseract having been one of the first Field Service companies to fully embrace a SaaS solution we also take the opportunity to put some big questions about the suitability of the cloud for field service software to him, including:
- Is the cloud/SaaS secure enough?
- How can I make sure that this new SaaS provider is legitimate?
- What about areas where there is no mobile internet?
- Is SaaS suitable for all types of company?
To hear the full interview and see how colin responds to these questions plus many more click the button below and complete the brief registration to download the podcast for free!
Download the full podcast now!
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been much heralded as a software delivery method that is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate. Often it is seen as being at the heart of business technology in the future. In the field service industry...
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been much heralded as a software delivery method that is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate. Often it is seen as being at the heart of business technology in the future. In the field service industry SaaS is already making a sizeable impression in the dynamics of the industry itself, moving the base of power away from enterprise level organisations who traditionally held the upper hand by utilising service technologies, which due to the often prohibitive costs aligned to on-premise solutions, were out of reach for their smaller competitors.
In this feature, we explore the rise of SaaS, why it is so suited to field service, the particular benefits for smaller companies and what its impact on the Field Service industry will be.
What is Software as a Service?
As a concept SaaS can actually trace it’s origins right back to the 1960’s when IBM and other mainframe providers established a service bureau business, sometimes referred to time-sharing or utility computing.
These services, which were designed for large organisations such as banks, would often include both database storage and computing power from worldwide data centres.
As we leap forward to the 1990’s when we saw the first real commercialisation and expansion of the Internet, we see the next precursor to SaaS, which was Application Service Providers (ASP’s). With the goal of reducing costs through central administration, ASPs began providing businesses with the service of hosting and managing specialised business applications.
SaaS is essentially extended from the concept of ASPs, but importantly harnesses the power of cloud infrastructure.
Indeed a common misconception is that SaaS and the Cloud are in fact one and the same however, this is not strictly correct.
SaaS is very simply, any software application that you operate which is not located on your premises. Whereas the cloud is the virtual infrastructure that the SaaS runs within, which in turn is housed on the vendor’s own data centres, or in many cases a data centre the vendor themselves ‘rents’ from an organisation such as Amazon Web Services.
Why field service is so suited to SaaS:
Whilst early applications of SaaS were predominantly either CRM or highly specific business niche products, it was only a matter of time before we saw a number of providers offering up SaaS solutions to the field service industry.
As SaaS systems are Internet based the ability to operate and access the software from various locations is a key fundamental inclusion of the system. Similarly as web protocols are becoming standardised, with the rise in device agnostic languages such as HTML 5 for example, SaaS solutions essentially allow users to access the entire application from any device - including smart phones and tablets.
It is this flexibility and mobility that SaaS solutions offer that make them such a perfect match for the field service industries and ideal for an organisation that operates a BYOD policy for it’s mobile workforce.
As such we have seen a number of vendors establish SaaS field service solutions. Including Tesseract Software, Connect2Field, Astea, ServiceMax, IFS and Click Software who all offer a variety of SaaS solutions to help field service companies improve the efficiency of their mobile workforces.
The benefits of SaaS to SMB’s
As well as the obvious benefits of having a central software solution that is accessible across numerous remote devices, that are specifically relevant to field service companies, SaaS solutions have more generic benefits also which are particularly beneficial to Smaller and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)
Perhaps the most obvious of these is the cost.
Whilst in the long term (i.e. across a three to five year period) a subscription model may actually prove to be more expensive, the ability to spread the costs (usually in either annual or monthly payments) is a particularly attractive route for smaller or even medium sized companies for whom cash flow remains an important factor.
Similarly the benefit of not having to have your IT team dedicate large amounts of their potentially limited resources on implementing, monitoring and maintaining a system is also particularly important for smaller sized companies.
With SaaS the software is maintained and updated by the provider reducing the burden on a companies IT significantly.
Another often cited benefit that is of particular importance to SMB’s is the lack of fixed term contract.
Often the service is provided on a rolling monthly basis or even a freemium model (where the basic functionality is provided for free and additional services are offered at a premium), which allows greater flexibility for a company to walk away.
Not being tied to a long contract for software that they may not necessarily need in a year or so’s time when their business needs change, is another attractive benefit for SMBs that SaaS offers.
What this means to the field service industry.
It has been suggested that the access to sophisticated service management solutions that were previously out of reach to non-enterprise level organisations, which SaaS delivers is potentially going to have a major impact on the dynamics of the industry.
For the first time, many smaller companies are now able to take advantage of the benefits of such systems including improving the efficiency of their mobile workforce, gaining visibility across their entire field service operation and reducing fuel costs.
Previously the cost of both implementing and maintaining an on premise field service management solution was simply too prohibitive for most smaller organisations, giving their larger competitors a clear advantage in terms of the level of service they could deliver and therefore the level of customer satisfaction they could achieve.
However, the introduction of SaaS solutions has levelled the playing field and perhaps even shifted the balance in favour of the smaller companies.
SMBs often have smaller overheads and can therefore gain greater profit margins for similar revenue levels . A result of this has led to reducing costs often being the traditional primary sales strategy adopted by SMBs when competing with larger companies , who are able to deliver superior service.
Today however, with companies of all sizes being able to offer similar levels of service through automating elements of their field service operation, smaller companies can take advantage of this ability to compete more fiercely on price whilst offering the same customer satisfaction levels as their bigger competitors. For perhaps the first time the power lies with smaller more agile companies.
The tables have turned slightly and it is largely down to the SaaS revolution.