New research from the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School suggests that a focus on product as a platform and a clear understanding of the operational network can positively influence servitization efforts. Dr Kawaljeet Kapoor...
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New research from the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School suggests that a focus on product as a platform and a clear understanding of the operational network can positively influence servitization efforts. Dr Kawaljeet Kapoor explains…
Servitization is widely recognised in the manufacturing sector today for its potential to bring about sustainable business growth and realise benefit from society’s appetite for services. Servitization is generally understood as the process by which a manufacturing company transforms its business model and capabilities to compete through a combination of products and services, rather than just products alone. For manufacturers, achieving their servitization goals means going beyond their product-driven internal capabilities.
It requires them to move away from the traditional linear supply chain models, in favour of collaborative working with external partners, which can evolve into a network with multiple, interacting actors.In this setting, which we would call an ecosystem, platforms enable increased interactions and transactions between the multiple actors and partners, which were not necessarily a part of the initial supply chains.
There is a plethora of companies that successfully utilise platform strategies. Intel and Windows, for example, bring together third party companies and developers to create innovation platforms.
Others, such as Airbnb and Amazon, allow producers, consumers and organisations to find each other and enable a multitude of transactions with each other. Clearly, businesses across a range of industries are investing in platforms. However, examples from the manufacturing sector are far and few between.
An exploratory research project by The Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School, is looking to change that. The project focuses on understanding the servitization process in a manufacturing setting and investigates the influence platforms have on a manufacturer’s journey to servitization.
What do we mean by platform and ecosystem?
Simply put, a platform can be a product, service, or technology owned by a company that external innovators use as a foundation to develop new products, services or technologies. These newly developed offerings always complement a platform owner’s original offerings, which is why we call such offerings, the complements. By the same logic, we call the companies or people who develop such complements, the complementors.
For instance, on a Fire TV platform, Amazon is the platform owner, and the app developers are the complementors, who use the Fire TV stick as a foundation to develop a multitude of apps for the end-users. A platform, its complements and all network actors put together, is what we call a platform ecosystem. In a platform-based ecosystem, you can typically expect to see a platform owner, the complementors, and the end users as its key actors.
"Modularity makes enabling varied functionalities very simple. In a manufacturing setting, product offerings can be modularized and broken down into services associated with product spares, preventive maintenance, fleet management, and so on..."
These platforms can have varying architectural types. They can be of internal – closed nature, such as Makita’s cordless power tool platform, where all tools can only be powered by a battery developed in-house. They can be across a supply chain – partially open, examples of which can be found across all assembly industries. Both of these types aim at increasing offering variety without complicating internal structures.
They can also be external – open for all external innovators in an industry-level ecosystem setting. An example of this is IBM’s collaboration with Intel and Microsoft in the 1980s, which led to the development of the IBM PC, an open platform used by complementors to develop compatible software, such as Word and others.Irrespective of the types, these architectures are increasingly modular in nature, which means that platforms increase flexibility and reusability.
Complicated production processes are broken into smaller parts or modules that deliver an intended technological function in the overall system, and by doing so, enhance the core functionality of a platform. For example, Google Chrome is a search engine, and its extensions are ‘modules’ developed to offer extended functionalities like a calendar, dictionary or storage drive. In other words, when modules connect to a platform, they add new functionalities to include extended utilities and features.
Therefore, modularity makes enabling varied functionalities very simple. In a manufacturing setting, product offerings can be modularized and broken down into services associated with product spares, preventive maintenance, fleet management, and so on. In essence, manufacturing firms can configure multiple offerings using different combinations of the same modules.
Why the ecosystem view is important
The concept of platforms has been a topic of discussion for more than two decades. Both research and practice have shared fundamental insights on platform dynamics and how they work. But the focus on platforms alone is not enough – the ecosystem in which the platform operates is just as important. Understanding the ecosystem, identifying the different actors and understanding your own role will ultimately determine the platform’s success.
Taking a full view of the ecosystem will account for all actors involved and help manufacturers understand which actors can add the most value to the platform and deliver the service-led offerings intended in the first place - beyond.
Platforms in servitizing companies
The word platform is often associated with all things digital, such as a software component or an application. In fact, platforms are more than just a piece of software, particularly in a servitization-based setting. It would not be too far fetched to suggest that if a manufacturer is acting as a platform leader, then their platform will essentially be their ‘product’.
As they have ownership of the product, it is their decision if and how much of the product and/or its specifications can be shared with complementors to produce novel offerings. Let’s take Trucknology, MAN’s fleet management solution, as an example here. Looking for solutions to better manage fuel costs and truck uptime - their customers’ main pain points - commercial truck manufacturer MAN partnered with telematics company Microlise.
"Technology is only one of the many components that go into building an ecosystem, and there are social and architectural aspects that are key and deserve due recognition..."
Together, Microlise and MAN produced a rating system across a range of driver characteristics, such as harsh braking and harsh cornering. The result was the Microlise Tracking Unit (MTU3), which was installed in MAN trucks to feed back driver and vehicle performance data. Customers can now view driver reports, which help to better manage drivers and inform driver training. Drivers can also access the reports to assess their own performance and improve their skills based on accurate data.In this example, MAN represents the platform owner and Microlise represents the complementor, i.e. the external innovator.
The Microlise Tracking Unit is the complement, and because it can only be of value once installed onto the MAN truck, the truck as MAN’s original product offering has become the platform. Successful examples like MAN are evidence that in manufacturing, collaborating with an extended network of actors can derive benefits of maximum value from investments, as well as lasting relationships with the customer even after product sales.
Research on Platforms and Ecosystems
Yet, not many manufacturers have adopted this approach in their servitization strategies. Whilst the terms platform ecosystems, platform thinking, and platform approach are increasingly used in business and manufacturing, they are often used to describe technology alone. Our research suggests, however, that technology is only one of the many components that go into building an ecosystem, and there are social and architectural aspects that are key and deserve due recognition.
The aim of this research project is to explain how platform ecosystems influence manufacturers developing servitization-based offerings. The project is based on interviews with manufacturing companies on their way towards servitization. A key outcome of this research will be a guide to help servitizing firms position themselves across the different roles (platform leader, complementors, etc.), map dominant players and potential partners, in order to use their network dynamics strategically to pursue collaborative innovation.
Dr Kawaljeet Kapoor is a Research Fellow at The Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School.
When I joined Field Service News one word appeared more frequently in my browser and in-box than any others: servitization. Its resonance was affirmed by my Editor Kris Oldland; who, during one of our early induction meetings, explained the pivotal role it plays in modern manufacturing. Three months’ on, I flew to Stockholm, and then took a two-hour car journey to Linkoping where I was to attend a conference dedicated solely to the discipline.
So, it was during a coffee break I sat down with Tim Baines, Professor of Operation Strategy at the Aston Business School and a significant player in servitization’s evolution. I was pleased to have an audience with someone who could shed some light on an area that to a layman (me) can be slightly overwhelming. We both grabbed a coffee and one of the many excellent Swedish pastries on offer before finding a quiet corner to talk.
I started off (perhaps boldly) by explaining my slight surprise that a whole three-day conference on servitization existed; that universities have whole departments dedicated to its research – many of whom were here in Sweden presenting – and that academic papers on the subject are being circulated widely. “Business researchers observe industry,” Tim said, sipping his drink. “They’re looking for phenomena, which they are trying to conceptualize and describe and test their hypothesis and understanding. They ultimately arrive at a clinical description of what that phenomena is.”
The phenomena of servitization emerged from the marketing community in the 1980s, Tim tells me, with its first research work appearing in the European Management Journal. Sandra Vandermerwe and Juan Rada’s paper Servitization of Business: Adding Value by Adding Service was published in 1988 and the former is now credited with introducing the term ‘servitization’ to represent the addition of services to enhance a manufacturer’s commercial offerings.
However, the discipline went into incubation. That was until the 2000s when Tim, along with Andy Neely from Cambridge University and Raj Roy from Cranfield niversity respectively, were awarded a research grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to resurrect its study. “We all put a lot of effort into it,” Tim recalls. “If you look at the citations; the academic citations on servitization; look at the highest cited papers on servitization, it was really down to our collective work.”
Thanks in part to the funding, as well as the efforts of Tim and his fellow academics interest in the discipline flourished both academically and in practice. Demand for a specialist, academic event grew and eight years ago the Spring Servitization Conference was born; its eight years testament to its growth and popularity. Its first incarnation was a workshop of sorts laying out the basic principles of what the group wanted to achieve; essentially something that was crossdisciplinary within a tight-knit, specialised community.
Tim explains: “The conference is a platform for people to network, to meet each other, to share those ideas, those insights, and to learn from a few carefully chosen manufacturers how they’re seeing the world. I think what we will see in a few years’ time, we’ll have a stronger group coalescing around the key topics. Ultimately, this is a community which could very well define an
equivalent of Industry 4.0 or Industry 5.0.”
“Don’t be put-off by the word servitization... all manufacturers can gain some value through service...”
Industry 4.0 discussions were a key part of that morning’s presentations. Chairing a debate himself, Tim asked panelists if servitization was part of Industry 4.0 or vice-versa? Away from the conference hall I pushed him on his own thoughts. “Most manufacturing companies,” he said, “would associate Industry 4.0 with what’s going on inside the factory. Servitization invariably is what’s going on beyond the factory gate. In reality servitization predates industry 4.0. It will exist concurrently, and in a few years’ time will be still going on and industry 4.0 will have come and will have gone.”
Aligning with the conference’s theme, Delivering Services Growth in the Digital Era, Tim suggests firms feel more comfortable adopting servitization as digital offered a layer of security. “Digital is de-risking, enabling those more advanced services to be offered with lower risk,” he says. “It’s making it easier for manufacturers to do it.”
The other driver, Tim continued, is a broader societal shift around service consumption superseding product consumption. “If you think about servitization; it’s not a question in my mind whether companies will make more money from services or less money from services – that’s an outdated question, an outdated conversation. It’s really a case in the way that society is going. We are consuming more services where the appetite is for more sophisticated services.” Sustainability, another large societal issue is also being bearing down on the servitization sphere.
Tim is hopeful that servitization - and industry 4.0 - can ultimately negate the environmental impact of material-heavy supply chains. He referenced a presentation that morning from Cranfield University’s Tobias Benjamin Widmer, who talked about the de-materialisation of the chain; reducing the consumption of raw materials while still achieving a desired outcome.
From that, our conversation naturally turned to regulation and the influence of Government on sustainability initiatives. Firm polices around electric cars, for example, would Tim Says, have an impact on the supply chains. “If the incentives are there for electric cars, why would you have a diesel manufacturing plant? If you don’t have a diesel manufacturing plant, then your whole supply chain evaporates.”
“Here’s an interesting one,” he smiles. “The number of rotational components in a diesel engine car: about 1,500. In an electric car: about 22. Now what’s that going to do your material supply chain?”
We finish our drinks, aware of the slow movement of delegates at they file back into the conference room, themselves refreshed by caffeine and pastries. I shake hands with Tim and thank him for his time, and we both agree to keep in touch.
The next day, I send Tim an email asking if he could possibly spare a copy of his book he wrote with Howard Lightfoot, Made to Serve. The book is seen as an excellent primer into servitization, and I said as much Tim in my email; how it could enhance my learning on a topic that I was beginning to find rather intriguing.
The book arrived in my mailbox a few days’ later; a good-looking tome with a striking cover. A contemporary, simple image of three factories, the middle one with a striking red path leaving its front gate; fanning in perspective to the base of the cover. I read the book’s preface: “Don’t be put-off by the strange word of servitization,” part of it said, “all manufacturers can gain some value through service.”
I recalled the interview in Sweden, when Tim told me about the early days of servitization; when people queried the term, wondering how you spell it, asking if they would make money out of these advanced services. “Now, we don’t have these questions anymore,” Tim had said.
What is a relatively young area of research, servitization now seems to be an integral cog of a manufacturer’s approach to revenue. As Tim suggested, technology will evolve and eventually become exctinct (Industry 4.0, for example), but servitization, as a theory and practice, will continue to grow alongside and compliment manufacturing. In short, making money from selling spare parts is no longer the revenue stream it once was.
Located in Southern Sweden, Linköping is the country’s seventh largest city. However, its dwarfed in comparison to London and New York, yet its charming and dotted streets littered with shops and cafes give it a very welcoming feel.
A five-minute walk from my hotel nestles an exhibition centre, the venue for this year’s Spring Servitization Conference, and like the rest of Linkoping it has a certain charm to it. Compared to conference hubs like London’s Excel and Birmingham’s NES, this is an idyllic setting: set among a lush green park littered with benches, where workers sip coffee enjoying the sun before heading to the office, the only sound is a polite bicycle bell or a the low drone of a tram.
I settle at the back of the main conference room on day one of the event, sipping my own coffee and grazing on some excellent Swedish pastries while awaiting the opening address from Professors Tim Baines and Christian Kowalkowski.
“I’ve taken a back seat this year,” says Professor Baines addressing delegates. This is the eighth year of the annual conference and the Director of the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School has always played a key role in the content, but this year has ably passed the reins to Professor Kowalkowski from Linkoping University
“It’s an event that straddles disciplines and the [servitization] community,” Professor Baines says, extolling the conference’s benefits, “and is excellent to theory and research and relevant to application and practice.”
It’s a valid point: the event has always sought to bridge the gap between industry and application while creating a servitization community that can share ideas, best practice and findings. It remains the only event of its kind and its eighth year is testament to its development, where over 80 participants would come through the conference doors.
“It’s very important because we call come from different disciplines,” Professor Kowalkowski says, taking time out to grab a coffee with me during the first day. "Typically, we have a lot of academic conferences where you go to a conference belonging to a particular discipline, for example marketing or operations management, strategy or innovation or something else. This [servitization conference] is a multidisciplinary conference, so you can connect with other researchers from other disciplines. Because this is ultimately multi-disciplinary research, we are doing on servitization.”
Themed around ‘Delivering services growth in the digital era’, this year’s three-day event was structured, as always, round one single track of academic presentations, split into morning, mid-morning and afternoon sessions and each concluding with a panel debate discussing that session’s major points.
To meld industry and academia, Professor Kowalkowski was able to arrange a suite of excellent key-note speakers to begin each morning and afternoon session, including Ellen Molin, Head of Business Area Support and Services at SAAB and Magnus Savenas, VP Customer Care and Quality at Electrolux.
"It’s an event that straddles disciplines..."
To begin proceedings however, the conference welcomed speakers from Toyota Material Handling Europe (THME): Joakim Plate, Director Service Market and his colleague Patrick Carlsson, Senior Manager Business Development, Service Market.
TMHE the pair told us, carry out four million customer visits every year, with an impressive 96 per cent first-time fix-rate however, with connectivity (which Carlsson called a “game changer in service”) and other technology developments. They expect to improve these figures in the future.
Of course, the challenge lies in managing the rate of technology development, which the pair acknowledged, particularly in big data solutions and prediction models. A challenge into digitalization they’ve ratified by partnering with Microsoft.
Following the event, I caught up with both speakers to press them further on this link-up. “It’s two big brands working together for big future challenges,” Carlsson told me. “we have aligned to utilise technology going forward.”
“In more concrete terms,” Plate added, “they [Microsoft] have been a partner with is us throughout the process, initially by trying to predict how will a service technician in our industry work in five or six years’ time. With that starting point we were able to develop the new platform, which will be developed and deployed in several steps. So, we’ve only really just started the journey here.”
T-Stream, the TMHE digitalization platform for service runs on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud used by all its technicians to get access information in real time including online documentation, parts ordering, quote creations, planning, remote error code reading and GPS. These are collected in one user interface delivering engineers to assets before they have broken down.
I ask what takeaways the pair have gained attending and presenting at an academic conference focused on servitization. “For us, it’s about sharing our challenges with the academic world and to try and bridge the gap between the industry and the academic world,” Plate explains. “I think both parties have a lot to gain in working more closely together and for us it’s an opportunity to convey the challenges that we see, and to get input from the academic world. One area could be big-data handling, for instance.”
Michael Kato is Chief Digital Officer at commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania and made the short journey by train to deliver day one’s afternoon key note. Kato told delegates, fresh from an excellent sit-down lunch, about driving a digital strategy with a focus on customer service and service development, the heart of which, he explained, is to “walk extensively in your customer’s shoes”.
Having been in the role for two years, I asked Kato what challenges he found, culturally, in integrating a digital strategy into a well ingrained core business of a company that has 52,000 employees. “I viewed it like an adventure,” he says smiling.
“We had to establish the values we’re after and what are the levers for higher customer value. We needed to formulate an awareness of what we wanted to do and then prioritise it. It’s taken nearly a year and a half to work out how can we drive digital in business both in a long and medium-term way, because it’s massively complex.”
And academically, what did Kato gain from attending the conference in Linkoping? “I think it is of big value,” he says. “From my point of view, you have to understand what you want to take out of it. So, it might be a framework giving a higher clarity on things that you need to focus on. It might be of viewing different capabilities or it might be understanding the complexities of driving change that you might not have reflected on.
“Many companies have problems on getting progress on different areas, they know what they need to do but they don’t know why they’re not getting there.”
Of course, academic presentations make-up most of the conference content and universities across Europe explored strands around SMEs, Industry 4.0 and advanced services. Generally, delegates saw how the digital side of servitization can be turned into actual value creation for customers and suppliers alike.
On this, Chris Raddats, a Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Liverpool attending and presenting, told me that the conference shines a light on the potential of digitilisation for manufacturing servicing. “The Spring Servitization Conference provides a unique opportunity to discuss servitization from both practical and academic perspectives,” he told me at the evening’s drinks reception.
“This year’s conference was particularly interesting as it focused on digitalisation, a phenomenon that is disrupting many industries and one that could profoundly change how manufacturers develop and deliver services.”
It was during this drinks gathering that I met Lina Sunden, a young PHD student from the Lulea University of Technology in Sweden. Lina had a poster on display at the event, which she was due to present on the third day. She was looking forward to the prospect and excited to be part of this event. She told me that a specialist servitization event like the SSC was important as it focused on a discipline that may get lost in other conferences, something which inspires her throughout her academic pursuits.
It’s this coming together of like-minded academics that makes the SCC such an important gathering. Not only bridging the gap between academia and practice, the event offers a place for scholars whose research can be overlooked. However, the potential value that servitization brings to manufacturing, particularly when viewed through digitilisation could be hugely significant.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.
“The world once seemed simple; manufacturers made things and services companies did things for us. Today, increasing numbers of manufacturers compete through a portfolio of integrated products and services.”
This is how Professor Tim Baines, someone I consider to be something of a mentor to me as well as a friend, and who also happens to be one of the worlds leading academics within the field of servitization once described servitization to me, having been asked to do so in basic terms that I as a lay person could comprehend.
Of course servitization is much more than simply adding services to existing products within a few large multi-national companies as Professor Baines went on to explain. “It’s about viewing the manufacturer as a service provider that sets out to improve the processes of its customers through a business model, rather than product-based, innovation. The manufacturer exploits its design and production competencies to deliver improvements in efficiency and effectiveness to the customer.”
In context of the traditional product-centric viewpoint of manufacturers, this is of course a radical and seismic shift. A fact that Baines himself can never be accused of underplaying, often referring to us as living through the fourth industrial paradigm - the previous three coming via mechanisation and steam power, followed by the mass production line, and then computing and automation.
The fourth paradigm that we are currently adapting to is a world of cyber-physical products. Or to put it in more familiar terms perhaps, a world of IoT and connected assets. If you have spent anything more than 5 minutes talking about servitization, then you will most likely already know that as the inventors of ‘powerby-the-hour’ some 57 years ago, Rolls Royce are something of a Poster Boy for the movement.
But wait! I here you cry. If Rolls Royce managed to pioneer their own brand of servitization so long ago, when we hadn’t even established an internet, let alone one built literally just for ‘things’, then how can you say IoT is fundamental to servitization? It is of course a hugely valid point.
Servitization has been demonstrably proven to be possible prior to the age of IoT. However, there are a few core factors shared amongst Rolls Royce and the other early pioneers of servitization such as Caterpillar, Alstom, and MAN UK. Firstly, there is a layer of innovation within their leadership and organisational DNA. This is true of all pioneers, some companies are prepared to take the greater risks and push boundaries past what is the current normal. However, in many cases, those servitization pioneers also had strong other revenue streams that gave them the opportunity to fail if needs be without sinking the whole business.
It is certainly a luxury that not all companies have but cross sector organisations such as Swiss heavy manufacturing giant ABB, have proven to be an excellent example of how to leverage reputation, cross industry learnings but also how having the additional breathing space of being a multi-vertical, mutli national organisation allowed them to drive their own servitization strategies.
But the one thing that almost all of these companies in the early vanguard of servitization also shared, was that they were relatively advanced in telematics and that they could see not only the potential value of the data they were able to take from their assets but also, more importantly how they could take that data and build it into meaningful insights for their customers.
Crucially, they understood they could utilise the information on how their assets were performing to help guide their customers to a far more effective understanding of their challenges, and then step in to offer further, more complex solutions that were specifically in line with their customers’ desired outcomes. They were able to take the data and become integral partners within their customers’ business ecosystems rather than just one of many transactional relationships - and whilst I am by no means an expert on the topic myself, I’ve spent enough time with Professor Baines and many of his academic peers over the last few years to understand that this is at the core of why servitization is such an attractive proposition for supplier and customer alike.
Deeper relationships provide greater output, stability and effectiveness for the customer and deeper customer loyalty, greater profits and longer term contracts for the supplier. And now as the IoT, and even more importantly it’s enterprise equivalent the Industrial Internet, begin to mature into something more meaningful than connected toasters, and as we begin to see companies start to at least acknowledge, if not yet truly harness the potential of IoT, what we are seeing is the democratization of servitization.
"Servitization has been demonstrably proven to be possible prior to the age of IoT..."
It is no longer just those companies who can afford to be innovative, that can now embrace servitization. It is not just those companies who already have access to, or deep enough pockets to be able to invest in connected assets that can explore the numerous advantages of adopting an advanced services strategy. It is also not just manufacturers either. In fact, the rapid rise of IoT has enabled many smaller, third party service providers to capitalise on gaps within original equipment manufacturers, or in some cases even utility providers, service offerings.
This has allowed them to carve out service-centric businesses that were frankly, missed opportunites for the slow to react enterprise organisations whose sector they disrupted. For example, there is the French start-up who were able to make significant inroads into the Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) hospitality sector by offering to fit their clients gas tanks with cheap but effective sensors so they could offer guarantees of uptime instead of the old model of a restaurant always buying surplus to avoid running out of gas mid shift. Or the company that provided sensors for heavy industrial bins, which allowed them to disrupt the refuse collection in their local market by offering a collection service based on need rather than schedule - again a start up that utilised outsourcing, innovation and IoT to disrupt an established market. Or the third party service provider that specialises in coffee vending machines that was able to create an additional revenue stream for their organisation by identifying buying trends within specific store locations and translating that data into insights for their customers who could in turn leverage local population preferences with focused promotional campaigns.
Each of these examples, were driven by use of and an understanding of how IoT can offer additional value to the end customer. Each of the above examples is also a demonstration of a company identifying the additional revenue for advanced services beyond the traditional scope of the service provider.
The essence here is that they are all based on an understanding of the desired outcomes of their customers. So whilst field service companies should absolutely be looking to explore how best they can improve the efficiency of their service delivery through IoT, the real gold is in understanding how you can improve your effectiveness in helping you customers achieve their goals.
That is in a nutshell is servitization and that is exactly where the greatest value of the IoT will surely exist.
Over the last three years there has been a huge emphasis on the need to invest in technology to stay ahead and be the disruptor.
As many leaders struggle to move towards the enticing digital visions being painted, we have seen a more nuanced approach emerge. We perceive that leaders are switching their emphasis back to creating a solution focused culture where people have the imagination and customer focus to create and deliver new value offered by digital technologies.
In the coming years we believe we will see companies focusing on three areas in the growth journey:
1. Digital Servitization: the notion of digitising the back-office processes and enabling data capture in the product infrastructure to enable new value through services
2. Data Analytics capabilities: Turning the data into insights through being able to turn Business Problems and opportunities into Data Solutions that leverage their company unique knowledge.
3. Trusted Advisor Mindset: Having the trust of customers and the communication skills to turn intangible data into valuable actions that drive growth.
Now more than at any other time, businesses are focused on how to use shifts in technology to reduce costs and find new value propositions. But understanding how it all fits has proven more elusive to business leaders. Those that are making most progress have broken the Digital Transformation process into more meaningful chunks. They typically have two areas of focus:
1. Installed-Base Digitalisation:
Designing the products and supporting operational infrastructures that generate data, so that it can be collected, analysed and then monetized through service-based business models. Generally, investments have been made in:
- Technology that enhances the product and company infrastructure to enable Digital Support, such as remote data collection, diagnostics or predictive maintenance.
- Capabilities and technologies in the organisation that enables Data Analytics, such machine learning, visual analytics and business intelligence technologies.
2. Back-Office Digitalisation:
The tools we use to manage our business back office which sustain and improve margins /profits. Examples might be Service Management solutions, CRM and ERP. Generally, there are two aspects to consider in terms of system and process development:
- Technology that enhances the product and company infrastructure to enable Digital Support, such as remote data collection, diagnostics or predictive maintenance.
- Capabilities and technologies in the organisation that enables Data Analytics, such machine learning, visual analytics and business intelligence technologies.
Only when companies have reached a level of maturity in both Back-Office Digitalisation and Installed-Base Digitalisation, are they ready to, explore new business models such outcome based or subscription based services.
Data Analytics Capability - Business problem before Data Solution
The use of sophisticated Data Analytics technologies to gain insights into processes and product performance is slowly becoming part of management thinking. But again, progress is slow as many leaders are intimidated by the jargon and lack of understanding of the business case. We have found successful companies have followed these three steps:
1. Articulate the business problem to solve and why (Value)
Before investing in digital technologies, the most successful companies have a clear idea of the business problem to solve and the value it can potentially bring. Often there is some experimentation/prototyping that may occur to build knowledge of the business problem and confirm value. They look wider than their own business processes or customers processes, the hand-offs between the different stakeholders in their value chain. Often, they will use ecosystem analysis, the value iceberg principal or points-of-selling approaches to identify value opportunities.
2. Define the Data Problem
The next challenge is how to turn the business problem into a business data hypothesis. This would describe an expected or speculated relationship that we hope to determine through the analysis of data. For example, the hypothesis for a predictive maintenance solution might be: ‘We can identify the failure patterns for hydraulic system as well as general machine performance using pressure, oil contamination, temperature and humidity data from the PLC, such that we can predict failures and recommend corrective actions.
Why is this important? Data Scientists cannot tell you patterns that interest you without knowing the area of interest! Hence converting the business problem into a hypothesis is a key part of the process and applying the scientific method which is question led and iterative. But the hypothesis does not have to be correct.
It is very likely that it will change as more knowledge is gained about the data being analysed or definition of the business problem evolves. One must expect a certain amount of iteration from business problem to data problem as our knowledge expands, and this in turn helps deliver optimal business value. It is critical to be very clear about the business problem and the data required to understand it.
3. Pilot before Scale Up
Now that the data problem is defined, managers can understand where they may have organisational and infrastructure gaps for their project, and from this be able to identify the first steps of their roadmap to a data solution. It is important that these early steps include a pilot of the solution. The goal is to quickly understand if our solution is likely to be successful, and the actions to be taken to scale up across the organization.
"Over the last three years there has been a huge emphasis on the need to invest in technology to stay ahead..."
Often in business we take it for granted that we have all the capabilities in house. However, in today’s world, where the use of technology is rapidly evolving, it is very easy to become ‘out of date’ from both a business mindset as well as technology capability.
To help leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses, Si2 have worked with The Data Analysis Bureau to develop a short 10 minute maturity self-assessment which will you help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as you move from Business Problem to Data Solution.
There are just 10 questions and you will get personalised feedback as to your situation and what you can do. Use this link to access the assessment.
Trusted Advisor Mindset
The biggest enabler of the ‘digital’ ideas we have discussed is not so much the technology but the mindset of your people. The Trusted Advisor mindset is more than just being able to talk to the customer, solve problems and sell ideas. It is a whole attitude where we focus on solutions, continuously moving customers towards their goals whether they be internal or external.
This is the type of mindset that has leapt onto the potential offered by digitisation, long before it entered the language of today’s business. Trusted Advisors have clarity on their role and an understanding of how to talk to customers so that they achieve a WIN, WIN, WIN:
• A Win for the customer so that every conversation they have moves them closer to their goal
• A Win for the company to develop customer loyalty and profitability
• A Win for themselves so they feel great about their job
What makes a Trusted Advisor different? At the very minimum they are good customer problem solvers. What starts to differentiate them from others is their ability to have meaningful conversations with customers that always seem to move towards solutions. They are able to provide options together with the benefits for various decision the customer might make.
They normally have a high level of personal maturity in that they do not try to tell customers what to THINK. Instead they influence them by what they SAY and DO, and because they consistently deliver, customers trust their advice. As the notion of a Trusted Advisor is widely used across sales & service, the job context is extremely important.
For example, in field service and technical support the Trusted Advisor role is more about providing options than closing deals. Whereas in sales it is more about how we build rapport and credibility within a consultative selling process.
Clearly understanding the context in which the Trusted Advisor mindset is being developed is vitally important to successful adoption. Service leaders who want to improve how their teams communicate with customers, might consider having the following conversations with their own people:
• Clarify what you mean by a Trusted Advisor and the role they play in your organisation. In particular the customer needs and what makes them successful, as well as your companies business goals. This is where distinguishing the difference between selling and advising will be absolutely critical to your success;
• Develop a Mindset where every conversation we have with customers moves them a step closer to their goal. It may not be the complete solution, but it is a step in the right direction no matter how bad and uncomfortable the situation is. This very basic philosophy is key to training your people to deal with conflict, as well encourage them to have dynamic and collaborative relationships through solution orientated language;
• Provide Tools and methods that allow us to actively listen, to talk more effectively, to manage conflict and resolve difficult customer situations. These tools are critical to helping us to prepare ourselves to be a Trusted Advisor in what can be challenging and stressful situations;
• Practice in real-life scenarios with your team to see how they react under stress. We are constantly amazed at how confident many service people are about talking to customers in a training environment, yet it all falls apart in a customer situation.
• Refresh: Developing how your team interacts with customers is not a one-off event and needs to be constantly mentored and coached.
Digital People Increasingly we anticipate that Service organisations will take a more balanced approach to Digital. Yes, they will invest in the technology, but they will do so with a clearer idea of the value they are trying to capture. They will understand that the key to new business models will be to have automated their back-office processes as well as how to capture and action data from the product infrastructure. They will increasingly focus on developing a solution orientated innovative culture which is the key to leveraging the opportunities offered by new technologies and paradigms of thinking.
Nick Frank is Managing Partner at Si2 Partners. If you would like to talk more about any of the topics discussed in this article you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the latest Field Service Podcast, Jan Van Veen discusses why manufacturers unable to innovate their business model risk falling behind their competitors.
In the latest Field Service Podcast, Jan Van Veen discusses why manufacturers unable to innovate their business model risk falling behind their competitors.
In this special episode, Deputy Editor Mark Glover, speaks to moreMomentum's Jan van Veen who urges firms to take advantage of servitization and digitilastion and avoid stagnant business as usual behaviours.
Click here for material complimenting Jan's podcast including diagrams and charts. You can also contact Jan about any of the content raised in this recording and to find out how to get involved in Jan's new book, mentioned in the podcast, then click here.
The growing digital transformation is blurring industry boundaries and altering established positions of firms. While manufacturers are investing strategically in data collection, analytics capabilities, and in cloud-based platforms, many firms remain concerned about how to best address digital disruption and enable digitalization.
Last year, General Electric cut expenses by more than 25% at its digital unit responsible for Predix, its software platform for data collection and analysis, which previously has been hailed as a revolutionary driver for Industry 4.0. This move highlights the difficulties involved in adopting digital technology in an industrial business.
Having worked with B2B firms in diverse industries on designing and implementing service-growth p84 strategies, we have seen both highly successful and unsuccessful cases of what we call ‘digital servitization.’ Why do firms with a proven track record of running successful field service organizations struggle with implementing digitallyenabled services?
Before looking at some key challenges, let us first define what we mean by digital servitization. As a start, we need to distinguish between digitization, which means turning analog data into digital data, and digitalization, which refers to the use of digital technology to change the business model. A tech-savvy firm with a product-centric mindset may have little difficulty in implementing digitization, as when record companies moved from selling LPs to CDs. However, rather than embracing the new digital opportunities that changed the way we interact with music, most record companies then clung on to a product-centric business logic of selling CDs. Instead of developing business models based on Internet distribution they promoted new physical media like the Super Audio CD.
Ironically, their defensive stance—manifested in such things as copy protected CDs—forced many people to illegal downloading in order to conveniently access MP3 music, thereby undermining their product-centric model even further. Digital servitization, then, refers to the utilization of digital technologies for shifting altogether from a product-centric to a service-centric business model. Of course, digitally-enabled services are not new; for example, Rolls- Royce’s archetypal solution TotalCare began in 1997 and BT Industries (since 2000 part of Toyota Material Handling) created its software system BT Compass in 1993, to help its customers improve their performance.
Likewise, leading bearings manufacturer SKF started early on remote monitoring bearings usage data flowing 24/7 from industrial customer’s equipment installed around the globe. Digital technology, however, can be a double-edged sword. For example, many manufacturers have been carried away by the technical possibilities of telematics without having a clear service business model in mind. Rather than crafting a compelling value proposition based on enhanced customer performance, it was tempting to give the service away for free with the hope that customers eventually would discover the value of data access and be willing to pay for it.
There are however at least three problems with such a technologycentric approach. First, as the connected installed base grows and the costs of collecting and managing data increase year over year, it becomes more and more difficult to defend the model unless service sales start to materialize. Second, giving services away for free always reduce the perceived value of the offering in the eyes of the customer. Why should they pay for something that was previously free of charge and that competitors may still be treating as
a commodity and giving away?
"The growing digital transformation is blurring industry boundaries and altering established positions of firms..."
Third, customers typically do not have the time nor the skills to thoroughly analyze data collected and take appropriate corrective actions. The real value of data and analytics lies in a company’s ability to identify and implement adequate changes. By collecting and analyzing data across multiple customers, a supplier may know more about the customers’ equipment and operations then they know themselves.
Benchmarking performance across industry applications and customers thus provides attractive opportunities for new advanced advisory services. The digital dimension of service growth requires purposeful and coordinated effort. As we know, while manufacturing and conventional R&D activities can be centrally managed to achieve efficiency and standardization, services require increased local responsiveness and closer customer relationships. During digital servitization, however, the central organization must take a more proactive leading role to ensure platform consistency and data quality, to provide the requisite data science skills, to support local units, and to address cyber security issues.
The 2017 large-scale cyberattack (NotPetya) on Danish shipping giant Møller-Maersk, which shut down offices worldwide, illustrates the dangers of inadequately managing the latter issue. Viewing data as “the new oil” is a frequent claim these days. Like oil, data is a source of power. It is a resource used to fuel transformative technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics. However, unlike oil, data also has other properties.
We are currently seeing a shift from scarcity of information (data) to abundance of it. Data can be replicated and distributed as marginal cost, and competitive advantage can be achieved by bringing together new datasets, enabling new services. But this also creates new tensions between companies regarding the issues of generation, collection, and utilization of data. If a customer is generating massive amounts of data collected by a supplier, then once processed, it can be used for better serving also the customer’s competitors. In other cases, we are seeing completely new entrants emerging and collecting data on behalf of their clients.
Digitalization is beginning to have a profound impact on even the most stable businesses. Customers increasingly expect a single provider to integrate individual components and products into a system, and that they will do so through one digital interface.
Whether the platform provider is one of the established OEMs, or a new software entrant, often does not matter to customers. Competition may come from unexpected sources, as for example when one of the leading international standards organizations in the marine industry recently moved into platform-based services. Oftentimes, the most formidable threat comes from disruptive innovators outside the traditional industry boundaries.
An executive in a leading incumbent firm stressed that her main concern was not the competition from any established player. Instead, what kept her awake at night was the prospect of Amazon entering—and reshaping—the market. While many share the concerns of being overrun by new competitors, the threat is most imminent to those firms that lack service leadership and a clear roadmap for service growth. To conclude, no firm can afford avoid strategically investing in digitalization.
However, as firms compete in the digital arena, there is a risk that focus shifts too much away from service and customer centricity to new digital initiatives and units. Ten years ago, many executives sang the praises of servitization. Today, digitalization is the poster child for business transformation. Given the rapid pace of innovation, it may be tempting to launch new concepts as soon as the technology is available, rather than waiting until the they have been properly piloted and customer insights gained.
To reap the benefits, firms also need to understand back-end and front-end interactions, investing in both back-end development for enhanced efficiency and better-informed decision-making, and front-end initiatives to enable new services and closer customer integration. Correctly designed and implemented, digital servitization provides benefits for companies, networks, and society at large. Successfully seizing digital opportunities, however, requires more, not less, service and customer centricity than before.
Dr. Christian Kowalkowski is Professor of Industrial Marketing at Linköping University, Sweden, and the author of Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing Your B2B Service and Solution Business. Find out more on www.ServiceStrategyInAction.com.
Dr. h.c. Wolfgang Ulaga is Senior Affiliate Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. He is the author of Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing Your B2B Service and Solution Business. He also authored Data Monetization: A Practical Roadmap for Framing, Pricing, and Selling Your B2B Digital Offers.