How an enterprise-class service management software vendor embraces the new world of cloud and devices whilst keeping existing customers happy.
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How an enterprise-class service management software vendor embraces the new world of cloud and devices whilst keeping existing customers happy.
It’s fair to say that we are living in times where the rate of change in information technology is faster than at any time in the past. Internet connectivity is becoming ubiquitous. People own multiple devices… phone, tablet, laptop, PC etc. They expect ‘apps’ now, not just applications (apps being instantly available software the installs in a click). And cloud computing promises to drive costs down and availability up.
Great. But… what about the investment made already in the existing systems? What about keeping data secure? What about all those customisations that we spent a lot of time perfecting?
The future is indeed exciting but how on earth do we get there without significant disruption (not least the costs)?
At Solarvista, we have been developing our software application suite for 25 years and through that time, it’s been through several sea-changes (DOS, Windows, mobile etc.). As a software developer, we knew that we were facing another sea-change and that this one could be bigger than all the previous ones. We also knew that the last sea-changes were not always easy for our customers.
So, the question was, how do we develop our products to embrace new technology without forcing our customers through ‘hoops and hurdles’ to get there?
We established a dedicated team to research the options. After nine months hard work, we had a design solution that would enable our customers to keep their existing investment in Solarvista intact, yet allow them to move forward progressively. In fact, our solution also had a great side effect… system integration to third party systems. This side effect is actually something that we have really embraced at Solarvista now and intend this to be one of our key unique selling points (USPs).
With all this change ahead, we also decided that we needed a new fresh brand identity. Our ‘old’ identity had been in place since 2000, so was 14 years old. And it was looking tired. It was, too multi-coloured. It didn’t suit the digital age. We couldn’t fit into a Twitter icon for example. We needed a new brand that was fresh, digital ready and an image that we could design into our applications so users knew instantly they were “in Solarvista”.
The resulting journey has been a big one.
Product-wise, we now have two new whole product categories, having spent the last 20 years with just one! That’s a 200% increase in product base in less than three years! A modern airliner has approximately 750K lines of code. We’ve added 1.5 million in one product category alone!
Brand-wise, we have a fresh, new identity that’s ready for the new age and capable of reflecting our technologies. An ‘S’ made up of dots reflects the move upwards into the sky. And always purple and orange. It’s applied throughout our products and in all our communications of course. This has been no small feat… its involved updating thousands of pages of information and hundreds of web pages.
The first of our new product categories is Solarvista NET. This technology solves the problem of connecting existing systems together without the need for coding and development. In particular, it’s based around Service Oriented Architecture (“SOA”), a proven design used by the very largest systems in the world, including famous social media sites. This significantly reduces cost, time and risk (something that’s always high in system integration).
The second of our new product categories is Solarvista LIVE. To deliver new applications that can operate securely out there in the cloud requires a security model that’s rock solid and proven. That security model is claims-based federated security. You can’t build secure apps without building this in from the start and it being there in every piece of code at the base level. Adding it in afterwards doesn’t cut it.
Solarvista LIVE will initially surface as a new style of mobile app that connects via Solarvista NET and enables full use of Solarvista 8. It also allows Solarvista LIVE apps to be used on other systems, even in scenarios where our flagship solution isn’t even in place. All of this delivered via a cloud-based account that managed for you by us, thus removing the overhead of managing remote servers.
Many systems out there are not true SaaS. They are often web servers hosted in a data centre. Whist this “appears” the same; it isn’t. It’s not scalable; can be vulnerable to attack, and not the most cost effective. Solarvista LIVE is true SaaS. It is delivered in small pieces. So much so that you can just buy what you need and no more/no less. A good example is our non-SaaS product for mobile, Mobile Worker. In the Solarvista LIVE, this one product is broken down into 20 smaller pieces, meaning you can just buy say, 2 or 3 pieces of it to start with. Then 2 or 3 more at a later date. You don’t need to buy the whole application.
We’re excited about the future and look forward to taking all our customers forward as well as attracting new customers in new markets.
Solarvista will be demonstrating their new software at this years Service Management Expo, where you will also find Paul Adams giving a presentation in the Field Service Solutions Theatre hosted by Field Service News.
To get a free exhibition pass for all three days simply click this link and enter Field Service News in the promotional code box
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
ServicePower a market leader in field service management, have recently announced a new agreement with ServiceMax, the only global, completely native Force . com field service application in the industry. Another collaboration which could see...
ServicePower a market leader in field service management, have recently announced a new agreement with ServiceMax, the only global, completely native Force . com field service application in the industry. Another collaboration which could see users of both systems benefit...
The agreement sees ServiceMax integrating ServicePower’s patented schedule optimisation product, ServiceScheduling, which is acknowledged by many as being one of the leading leading optimisation technologies for large workforces, into OptiMax, ServiceMax’s workforce optimisation module available on the Force.com AppExchange.
This integrated solution will enable the companies to provide a unified, sole vendor field management solution to a wide array of field service organisations, working across both geographies and industries such as medical devices, oil and gas, and utilities where customers are noted to be looking for the Salesforce CRM alongside highly developed optimisation capabilities.
Commenting on the agreement, Marne Martin, CEO of ServicePower stated:
“Our relationship with ServiceMax creates a unique competitive offering in the field management industry, capitalising on the strength of our patented optimisation technology, and the breadth of the Force.com platform on which ServiceMax has built its 100% native solution. As a single vendor solution for global field service organisations, we can provide clients productivity and efficiency improvements, in addition to Force.com’s CRM features through Optimax. While increasing our penetration of the Force.com customer ecosystem, the partnership also expands our sales footprint to new geographies around the globe.”
CEO of ServiceMax.Dave Yarnold added:
“Our integration with ServicePower enhances the ServiceMax platform with industry recognised optimisation technology, further extending our ability to provide an end to end, field service management solution to the Force.com ecosystem, and beyond.”
Background: Exel Computer Systems
The developing service industry requires improved quality through constant adaption.
Background: Exel Computer Systems
The developing service industry requires improved quality through constant adaption.
Exel Computer Systems has brought increasingly sophisticated technology into the Service Management arena providing Software and expertise. There is no doubt that with skilled support, this technology will drive significant innovation into thought-leading organisations such as Triton Showers, who are prepared to open their minds to new ways of working and effectively use technological innovation. More than ten years ago Triton Showers realised that to be successful as a service-led business they had to be more agile and ready to adapt to the rapidly changing industry environment they faced.
To derive significant success from technological developments requires more than good luck, and unless companies are prepared to invest sufficient money, time and energy into getting it right, success will not follow. Most importantly the need to invest in the right staff, with the right training, equipment and business tools. But just as important is the need to join forces with a supplier who has made significant investment in developing leading-edge Service Software and can show innovation in the solution. Providing such an excellent product to a skilled workforce can bring to the industry leading edge skills, cost effective and excellent delivery, and set standards in the Industry.
Background: Triton Showers
Triton Showers has been producing high quality products since its inception in 1975, and is now one of the largest and best known in the field in the UK. In that time the company has invested in technological solutions and unwaveringly on recruiting high calibre staff to provide their customers with the best customer service possible. In addition to their success in future-proofing the technological aspects of their software solution by working closely with their software supplier and partner, they have been able to take advantage of the growing familiarity and acceptance of the technology by all their staff across the business, to help their staff understand the needs and skills required of their new roles.
Like many other businesses over this time, Triton Showers has had to cope with a number of key changes including a shift from client-based solutions to browser-based, and from hardware-specific solutions into platform and product-independent solutions. Exel Computer Systems has incorporated all of these into their Eagle Field Service solution, taking in their stride the acceleration of technological development, the rapid and significant convergence of 'Mobile Communications', 'Browser-based software' and 'The Cloud' to keep abreast of technology, devices and software solutions across their customer's business. Triton Showers has grasped the opportunity to work with a very modern leading-edge supplier, critical in this complex environment to ensure the quality of the solution and the speed of implementation.
Preparing for the Journey
The service industry has developed markedly over the last 10 years, and Triton Showers has been at the forefront of this development; introducing a sophisticated call-centre supported by the latest scheduling and despatching software, as well as a comprehensive financial package. In the last three years, investing in developing and securing a powerful solution provided and supported by their highly skilled partner Exel, they have significantly updated their software solution onto one of the most modern platforms.
Most recently, Triton Showers have invested in mobile CRM and customer self-help mechanisms, as it has become obvious that the customer wants to use this form of communication. The key customer requirements across the industry are:
- immediate response time
- 24x7 access to self help to resolve issues themselves
- access to an engineer on line or in a forum or chat room
What has been Key to Triton Shower's success?
Working closely with Exel has provided them with a partner that has not only supplied the required Software to take the business into the future, but helped them to identify the most important profit levers within their business:
- Move from cost-cutting to technology-driven process improvement and focus on customers
- Recognise that culture change within the organisation and across society is having more impact than specific technology devices, as the devices become more readily assimilated into the day-to-day environment
- Staff understanding the changes they have to make in their role as a result of the latest software and hardware solution
- Helping their staff at all levels to work differently, to deal with the local environment within the changing big picture.
Introducing a new software solution and associated hardware requires process change, so from the start there was a requirement that support staff understand the changes necessary in their role. The staff needed to accept that processes would be different and it was beneficial to get the processes stable and tested as soon as possible within the new solution: They would have to see the big picture of the business process as well as demonstrate a local understanding.
Triton Showers has also recognised that the consumer market in which they work has changed its attitude towards the sovereignty of the customer, and that a significant shift of mind-set within the customer requires Triton Showers to work very differently, at all levels, to maintain control.
Historically, the quality of service was delivered contractually through service level agreements, ensuring the supplier would deliver within certain parameters. The agreement would be with the individual customer and not normally visible to anyone else, with the advent of Facebook, Linked-in and Twitter this situation has changed completely, and producing a very confused picture engendering significant potential for mis-communication, putting considerable pressure onto the supplier. Included with this is the ability for the customer to broadcast their opinion of the service they have received.
The supplier has to have much better access to the customer experience through varied and reliable sources of information, including mobile CRM, so that data can be automatically collected by the hardware and software carried by the engineer, freeing the engineer to focus on fixing the customer, confident that all the data is captured correctly. The engineer has to be trained and given the responsibility to gather customer information, through effective listening and good questioning. The engineer cannot allocate any more time to the customer, so information gathering has to be done during the fix (including up-grading customer value, providing new value and understanding issues facing the customer, their changing needs and if possible consulting on the customer’s processes to better serve them next time).
Supplier support and added value
Working closely and confidently with their software supplier, Triton Showers were able to significantly develop their customer interaction process to facilitate the capture of required information, to build up a picture of the customer in order to better respond to their needs and reduce the cost of provision while improving the quality. In addition Eagle Field Service provided effective future-proofing to:
- Accommodate changes in technology, particularly the impact of mobile connectivity
- Deal with the growing impact of Social Media in the Business to Consumer (B2C) environment
- Ensure that Triton Showers work-force were more comfortable with the modern platform format that Eagle could provide, in particular delivering a mobile CRM capability
- Develop the solution with Exel to provide an on-going, workable and stable solution
Service Manager, Graham Neve, has found working with the Exel team has considerably broadened the business calibre of his service team. Working with Exel helped the staff at all levels in the business to understand the changes required in their role as a result of the solution, improving the way they communicate with the customer.
He believes Triton Showers are in a much stronger position thanks to their implementation of Eagle Field Service and the support received from Exel.
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.
Engineer productivity doubles with FLS VISITOUR scheduling and FLS Mobile solution
Engineer productivity doubles with FLS VISITOUR scheduling and FLS Mobile solution
Sky Deutschland is the leading pay TV company in Germany and Austria with over 3.5 million subscribers.
Sky offers live sports, current films, award-winning TV series, kids programs, and documentaries as well as outstanding innovations and an awarded customer service. One way to access this high quality content is via satellite.
Sky provides a service for on-site installation through its own technical support team and also approved partners. In 2011, with objectives to improve service and efficiency, Sky Deutschland made the switch from regional to centralized scheduling and chose FLS VISITOUR and FLS MOBILE to optimise its appointment and route planning.
With FLS VISTOUR, the time required to book appointments has been cut by half. The intelligent planning algorithm reacts within seconds resulting in the optimal scheduling of technicians.
"We are very pleased with FLS. Due to the combination of FLS VISITOUR and FLS MOBILE new processes and organisational structure were implemented. As a result, our technicians are able to complete twice as many jobs per day than before. Customer satisfaction has increased, showing that 93 % of customers now rate the service with grade 1 and 2." Lydia Otto, Sky’s Director of Field Service
When the Spice Girls arrived on the scene some 18 years ago (has it really been that long?) they predicted that what we wanted, what we really, really wanted was a Zigazgaarrr (whatever the hell that is). To be frank, that prediction hasn't come...
When the Spice Girls arrived on the scene some 18 years ago (has it really been that long?) they predicted that what we wanted, what we really, really wanted was a Zigazgaarrr (whatever the hell that is). To be frank, that prediction hasn't come to much fruition. However, Feed Henry CEO Cathal McGloin's assertion that multiple OS and a choice of devices is what we really, really want (in field service at least) carries a bit more weight and may 'spice' up field workers' mobile experience...
In the beginning
Traditionally, field service teams have been equipped with rugged mobile devices, running some flavour of Microsoft's compact operating systems (generally either Windows CE or Windows Mobile), to allow engineers to tick off work orders and update inventory. Defacto wireless devices have been rugged, heavy notebooks or tablets, with limited functions and based on proprietary or embedded technologies.
As field service employees have enjoyed their own consumer smartphones and tablets, their expectations of workplace mobility have changed. Industrial handhelds appear archaic next to the latest Android or iOS smart devices. This is driving a shift towards acceptance of consumer mobile devices as the new rugged industrial mobile handheld. Attendees at the Field Service Europe Conference held in Amsterdam last October, were polled on their investment plans for workforce management and mobility. In the resulting 2014 European Services & Trends report, 43 per cent of decision makers reported that they were allocating budget to providing tablets to their field service teams, while 33 per cent reported that they were investing in smartphones.
It’s a hard knocks life
Despite being more expensive, Windows ruggedised devices had the edge over smart devices from Nokia, BlackBerry, Samsung and Apple, because their operating systems could not support field service apps such as Cognito and SAP. In addition, Microsoft devices were well-supported by an array of peripherals such as handheld printers, scanners and bar code readers. However, Microsoft failed to gain traction with Windows Phone, its successor to Windows Mobile, opening the door to Android, iOS and Blackberry to step in to the market. In terms of app development for smart devices, cross-platform solutions and toolkits have made app development faster, more affordable and easier, while also enabling apps that run on multiple OS platforms. While the newer smartphones and tablets provide attractive user interfaces and much richer functionality, some level of ruggedness is necessary to avoid downtime caused by battery life and the harsh working environments that field service employees operate in. Some organisations have addressed this by using rugged covers for consumer devices. VDC Research analyst, David Krebs, has highlighted problems with the ruggedisation of smartphones and tablets using simple covers. He points to their lack of robustness when field service employees are working in damp and dusty environments; problems when employees try to operate swipe screens while wearing protective gloves; poor battery life and device failures caused by vibration, knocks and temperature extremes. Conversely, ABI research found that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a smartphone-based mobile field service strategy was up to 85% less than alternative rugged device deployments. These savings come from the smartphones' lower hardware costs, as well as increases in efficiency, owing to their connectivity, usability and portability, not to mention the lower cost and greater flexibility of app development.
Best of both worlds
When asked, most field service employees want the appearance and ease of use of consumer devices, combined with the robustness, stability and battery life of a traditional field service device, running apps that help them to work more efficiently. What we have to remember is that not every field service employee is working in a damp, dusty tunnel. Different roles demand different devices. In the same report 66 per cent of respondents stated that their organisations now view field service as a profit centre rather than a cost centre. As a result, we are starting to see enterprise demand for apps that can work across different devices and multiple operating systems, so that field service employees can select the devices that make them most productive.
Enterprisation of consumer devices in field service
We have worked with logistics, rail infrastructure and construction companies, that are starting to adopt new robust devices from Panasonic, CAT, Samsung, powered by Android. Even Apple devices are starting to make an appearance. These Android and iOS devices have a much larger pool of app developers and ISVs to feed them, as well as the availability of more modern software toolkits to accelerate the app development, deployment and update cycles. Legacy Windows apps appear very limited when compared to the latest field service apps being written for these smart devices. Typically, these enterprises have field service departments employing hundreds or thousands of skilled people, performing a variety of roles. Working with an enterprise mobile application platform provider like FeedHenry, these organisations are able to rapidly develop, deploy and maintain a range of sophisticated apps, tailored to a range of job roles within their field service departments. These apps can be managed on premise, or cloud-side, regardless of the devices selected by their engineers, quantity surveyors, foremen, crane drivers, radio and radar specialists and electricians.
Ask field service employees what they really want
From speaking to our own customers, the critical considerations for a sound field service mobile strategy are:
- Seek input from actual end users before specifying device type and app functionality. The trend is towards a multiple OS environment, so plan for this in terms of sustainability and portability.
- Select open standards so as to increase the available pool of developers, access to developer toolkits, code re-use,while avoiding vendor lock-in
- It’s not just about creating an app. Consider the whole app lifecycle and how this is managed. Apps, by their nature, require frequent updates and upgrades so choosing an infrastructure that supports this will quickly pay off.
- Evaluate your enterprise data capture and backend system integration requirements The ability to unleash data efficiently, securely and seamlessly to the device is critical.
- Consider the durability and environmental conditions that the devices will have to withstand. Protective cases help but do not always address the full spectrum of device durability issues such as exposure to extreme temperatures, dust and vibration. However, expect that innovations will give consumer devices a better fit for these harsh environments.
ABI Research has found that the primary benefits that drove lower TCO for ruggedised smartphones were improved worker productivity and lower device costs. Productivity benefits were achieved through the longer battery life of smartphones, integrated mobile voice and data connectivity and the ability to push application updates over the air. Smartphone device costs are as much as eight times less than rugged devices. Even considering the higher replacement rate for smartphones, ABI has found that lower lifetime hardware costs are a key driver for companies choosing smartphones over rugged handhelds for their mobile field force applications.
Back to the Future
According to a recent report into mobile workers’ device preferences, undertaken by Aruba networks, 45 per cent reported that they want to be able to connect and communicate with the business from their cars. A fifth of the survey sample stated that they want their employers’ to provide them with wearable technology within the next five years. When organisations use an end-to-end mobile application platform (MAP), field service employees can gain the freedom to select the right device for their job, without sacrificing any app functionality. This is because MAPs securely link enterprise back end systems with mobile apps that can support multiple OS and various device form factors, so employees can select the device that is most appropriate to their working environment. Meanwhile, enterprises gain the ability to plan their mobile app strategies to support current and future devices, without having to redevelop code for every new batch of devices.
It has long been known that field service organisations can utilise technology to reduce costs, boost efficiency and improve the productivity of their mobile workforce. But knowing exactly how to make the most of the technology and opportunities...
It has long been known that field service organisations can utilise technology to reduce costs, boost efficiency and improve the productivity of their mobile workforce. But knowing exactly how to make the most of the technology and opportunities out there is not so black and white. Lucien Wynn, Managing Director of Oneserve discusses...
The last couple of years have brought mobile technology on in leaps and bounds, and as such there is now a plethora of options out there for utilising mobile technologies to improve workforce management. Organisations with a mobile workforce can, for example, use software installed on mobile devices to keep their technicians updated with all the information they need while in the field. Jobs can be updated, instant feedback on the progress of jobs can be provided and the technicians’ exact location can be tracked, all in real time. But implementing the right solution can be a challenge.
The importance of keeping up with the mobile revolution has not gone unnoticed; the 2013 Workforce Management Guide produced by the Aberdeen Group showed that 57% of organisations sampled viewed investing in mobile tools as a priority. Of course, investing in new gadgets alone is not enough, so what else should be considered when thinking about a new investment in technology?
Getting the mobile workforce to buy-in
The first step in making sure you achieve what you set out to when investing in new technology is to gain buy-in from those who will be using it. Without that, it will never be utilised properly and thus wasted. According to research from the Aberdeen Group, 67% of Best-in-Class field service organisations regarded gaining buy-in from their field service technicians as the most important aspect in ensuring the timely and effective deployment of a mobile solution. If your employees are involved in the decision-making process and know what they are getting when new technology is rolled out, they’ll be ready for it and much more likely to react positively to the change.
The impact on the organisation as a whole
The second step is to take a holistic approach to new investments in technology – consider the impact on your whole organisation, not just part of it. Even if new technology is only being deployed in a certain department, at some point it is likely to have an impact elsewhere. For example, consider a new piece of accounting software being used in the finance department – you’d be forgiven for assuming that it would never affect your field service technicians. But that may well not be true – imagine if it had an impact on the way expenses had to be submitted; everyone in the company who had to make expenses claims on a regular basis, including workers in the field, would be affected.
Short-term vs long-term
Another consideration should be the long-term impact of the new technology. Could it lead to an improvement in the way your business functions for many years to come? If so, don’t let worries about its impact in the short-term prevent you from adopting the technology. Most organisations, big and small, will experience some teething problems with new technology initially, but it often just takes a little time to bed in before it yields positive results. Of course, you will need to take into account both the potential long-term and short-term impacts on your business, but if the former outweigh the latter, then by all means you should do what you can to push the adoption of the new technology.
In summary, then, if you are to effectively utilise technology to increase the efficiency of your mobile workforce you’ll need to consider various factors. Of those mentioned above, perhaps the most important is gaining buy-in to the technology from your field workers. They’ve got to want to use the technology you supply them with, and are much more likely to do so if they know how it will help them in their daily jobs (they also, of course, need to know how to use it). Without that, you could be left with both an underutilised new technology and an underproductive workforce.
Of course, it’s also very important to consider how new technology will impact on your whole business, and not just those who it affects directly. If you’re making a big investment, it is inevitable that it will have an impact on the entire business so bear this in mind. At the same time, don’t let a big change put you off – if you think the move is right, go ahead with it.
Finally, remember to take a long-term view. Sometimes the cost of making a new investment in software or technology can seem high and lead you to question whether it is worth it. But consider what benefits the investment could bring over the next 1, 3 and 5 years and then take a fresh look – you may be surprised at the long term benefits it will bring.