The advent of Cloud computing has had a profound effect on field service management.
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Nov 09, 2018 • Features • Management • Cloud computing • field service • field service management • field service technology • SaaS • Service Delivery • Service Management • Software as a Service • Small to Medium Enterprises • SMB • Asolvi • Managing the Mobile Workforce
The advent of Cloud computing has had a profound effect on field service management.
Indeed, there is no denying that the emergence of Cloud computing has been a core driver in the ability for smaller and medium-sized field service companies to be able to compete with their larger competitors - and such competition has raised the bar for service delivery in all corners.
Anecdotally, how often have you heard someone comment (or indeed thought to yourself) ‘how is it that say my local florist is able to give me a detailed overview of where the flowers I have sent to my wife are at any given point within their delivery and are able to give me a 30 minute window for when they will arrive, yet the multi-national organisation that provides one of the key widgets that is essential to my businesses productivity can only tell me that an engineer will be with me at some point between 8 and 5?’
Of course, the truth is that the delivery of flowers is far less demanding of expertise than that expected of a highly qualified engineer capable of fixing said widget – which of course means that the scheduling requirements are also equally less complicated for the local florist.
In addition to this, the local florist will, largely by definition, only be serving a local area – whereas the B2B provider of the widget will almost certainly serve a national market, if not an international one.
So it is unfair perhaps to compare one to the other, accusations of seeking the similarities between apples and oranges are in this instance somewhat understandable. Yet, ultimately in today’s connected world, we must remember that we are no longer competing solely with those companies within our direct vertical sphere.
"Today, we are competing very simply against the best service experience our customers have ever had, whether that be within their consumer or their corporate lives..."
Today, we are competing very simply against the best service experience our customers have ever had, whether that be within their consumer or their corporate lives.
However, what this anecdotal example does highlight with true clarity is how smaller service organisations, be they florists, electricians, HVAC engineers or any of the other array of small entrepreneurial companies that help keep our day to day lives running, have been able to harness the power of modern FSM solutions.
This development is mostly the result of the introduction of SaaS-based subscription-style licensing which makes access to such systems possible. It seems like a long, long time ago that Tesseract, an Asolvi product became the first company in the world to offer their full FSM solution in the Cloud and on a SaaS model. Indeed, today almost all FSM providers now offer their solution in such a manner.
This means that smaller companies can have access to tools like scheduling, stock and parts management and mobile work management applications for their field-based staff to access via a mobile device. Yet, they also have the advantage of being more agile, more streamlined and less weighed down by legacy systems and processes that their larger peers undoubtedly face.
"In a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scenario keeping on top of MDM can sometimes feel like painting the Golden Gate Bridge – by the time you finish at one end it’s time to head back the other way and start all over!"
Many, many aspects of introducing an FSM solution can become more challenging the larger an organisation is.
Optimised scheduling engines need to be ‘taught’ the rules under which they are to operate – the larger the workforce and the more diverse the skill-sets within that workforce, the more ‘lessons’ that need to be fed into the scheduling system for it to operate as intended.
Also, let’s consider the devices that are being utilised by the field workers – mobile device management (MDM) is a challenge that few IT departments will relish.
In a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scenario keeping on top of MDM can sometimes feel like painting the Golden Gate Bridge – by the time you finish at one end it’s time to head back the other way and start all over!
Even in an environment where devices are provided by the organisation, there may be a mix of options within one company, with different devices being provided that meet specific roles within the organisation – such as rugged devices for field-based technicians.
This can result in a mix of iOS, Android and Windows operating systems (possibly even more) which all need to be factored into the MDM equation.
Again, this is a challenge that becomes magnified by the scale of the workforce in question.
Of course, another challenge magnified by the scale of the workforce is the simple fact that the introduction of any new business technology, including an FSM solution, is inherently a change management project – and as any change management consultant will inform you – good change management is about people. It is a simple equation to understand that more people mean more effort and complexity when undertaking such a task.
In terms of FSM solutions, the shift to the Cloud has absolutely changed the competitive dynamics within various industries in favour of those smaller companies who are savvy enough to embrace cloud-based FSM and unencumbered by challenges such as the above which larger companies may face.
This has given smaller organisations to flourish and thrive in the modern business eco-system, but this increased competition has resulted in huge organisations like Thyssenkrupp or ABB further driving innovation as we have showcased in these pages previously.
Our sector is going through a huge evolution with non-competing companies pushing each other to achieve more through service delivery and the cloud has played a major role in that allowing us to do so.
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Oct 23, 2018 • Features • Management • Kevin McNally • cloud • field service • field service management • field service technology • SaaS • Service Management • Software and Apps • Software as a Service • Building a case for investment • Asolvi • Managing the Mobile Workforce
Kevin McNally, Sales Director for Asolvi gives us a sneak preview of a forthcoming white paper that outlines how to build a case for investment in Field Service Management systems by outlining how Return On Investment is such a fundamental part...
Kevin McNally, Sales Director for Asolvi gives us a sneak preview of a forthcoming white paper that outlines how to build a case for investment in Field Service Management systems by outlining how Return On Investment is such a fundamental part of the equation...
Is building a case for investment in FSM a key topic for you?! There is a full white paper on this topic available to fieldservicenews.com subscribers. Click the button below to get fully up to speed!
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Whilst, of course, each and every business has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, there are now certainly enough case studies available on this topic for us to be able to predict fairly confidently, that the implementation of a field service solution if done correctly, will likely deliver considerable Return on Investment (ROI) within a relatively short time-frame.
In fact, perhaps the biggest challenge is exactly how to calculate the ROI that you are achieving as the benefits come in many different guises and various different aspects of the business!
For example, when implementing a Field Service Management (FSM) solution you can expect to see ROI come from various areas of business expense, including:
- Increasing the utilisation of your existing resources, both in the office and the field allowing you to achieve more without adding additional resources by taking advantage of tools that deliver improved scheduling and workforce planning.
- Warranty control, how often is your service just given away for free because it is uncertain to your engineer if the customer is under warranty – it happens more than you would imagine even in the biggest of businesses, especially if you don’t have a warranty management embedded in your FSM system.
- Reducing the costs of unnecessary second visits. By having greater visibility into the service call as well as parts availability field service companies can ensure the right engineers are being sent with the right tools to do the job first time around. Given that the truck roll is generally the biggest cost line on a field service P&L improving First-Time-Fix will likely deliver significant ROI all by itself.
- Greater transparency and detail within your parts management etc, It is not just with improving first time fix that parts management within an FSM can deliver ROI. Field Service operations are unique in that stock is by necessity in constant transit. Companies can have millions of pounds tied unnecessarily up in van or garage stock which can disappear into a reporting black-hole unless a fit-for-purpose solution is in place.
- Significant costs that might have seemed a necessary evil such as paper and ink can be eliminated through digitising admin in the field with mobile technology.
The Impact of the Cloud
Perhaps the most important development of recent years in terms of gaining ROI from an FSM solution is the shift to Cloud becoming the most prevalent means of deployment for such systems.
Indeed, the benefits of Cloud computing are numerous but in terms of the ROI equation, there are perhaps three big aspects to consider.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the widespread adoption of Cloud has led to most FSM solutions now being offered on Software as a Service model, where the FSM solution provider charges a monthly fee on a per-user basis. One of the big impacts of this trend has been that smaller and medium-sized companies that previously would have found such systems cost prohibitive on a CAPEX basis, could now access the tools that enabled there larger competitors to deliver more efficient service.
However, as the cost of a FSM solution is spread out on a monthly basis, it also becomes far easier for the ROI of that investment to become visible on a P&L sheet that isn’t carrying the heavy initial burden of the outlay of a CAPEX investment.
"When a solution is deployed by Cloud there is far less drain on internal resources for the service provider as the FSM vendor now bears a much heavier share of the workload in terms of actual IT support etc..."
Secondly, when a solution is deployed by Cloud there is far less drain on internal resources for the service provider as the FSM vendor now bears a much heavier share of the workload in terms of actual IT support etc.
Additionally, unlike an on premise solution which could be vulnerable to unseen issues such as flood, fire or even malicious attack, a Cloud-based solution will allow a service organisation to continue operating even should the unthinkable happen – meaning no lost revenue that may be generated from field service related streams.
Finally, Cloud based FSM solutions are in general, significantly quicker to implement compared to more traditional on premise equivalents, meaning that the field service operation can feel the benefits sooner, and thus start seeing that ROI quicker as well.
It is important to remember however, that ROI is just one of many aspects that can be used to build a case for investment in a FSM solution and we shall be exploring this and others in a forthcoming white paper with fieldservicenews.com
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Field Service News is pleased to bring you the first in our new monthly series of podcasts. In this first instalment we speak to Colin Brown Managing Director of Tesseract Software. We ask Colin how the industry has changed since he first started Tesseract over a quarter of a century ago, how service management software has evolved and how the needs of service managers has changed dramatically over time as well.
With Tesseract having been one of the first Field Service companies to fully embrace a SaaS solution we also take the opportunity to put some big questions about the suitability of the cloud for field service software to him, including:
- Is the cloud/SaaS secure enough?
- How can I make sure that this new SaaS provider is legitimate?
- What about areas where there is no mobile internet?
- Is SaaS suitable for all types of company?
To hear the full interview and see how colin responds to these questions plus many more click the button below and complete the brief registration to download the podcast for free!
Download the full podcast now!
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been much heralded as a software delivery method that is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate. Often it is seen as being at the heart of business technology in the future. In the field service industry...
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been much heralded as a software delivery method that is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate. Often it is seen as being at the heart of business technology in the future. In the field service industry SaaS is already making a sizeable impression in the dynamics of the industry itself, moving the base of power away from enterprise level organisations who traditionally held the upper hand by utilising service technologies, which due to the often prohibitive costs aligned to on-premise solutions, were out of reach for their smaller competitors.
In this feature, we explore the rise of SaaS, why it is so suited to field service, the particular benefits for smaller companies and what its impact on the Field Service industry will be.
What is Software as a Service?
As a concept SaaS can actually trace it’s origins right back to the 1960’s when IBM and other mainframe providers established a service bureau business, sometimes referred to time-sharing or utility computing.
These services, which were designed for large organisations such as banks, would often include both database storage and computing power from worldwide data centres.
As we leap forward to the 1990’s when we saw the first real commercialisation and expansion of the Internet, we see the next precursor to SaaS, which was Application Service Providers (ASP’s). With the goal of reducing costs through central administration, ASPs began providing businesses with the service of hosting and managing specialised business applications.
SaaS is essentially extended from the concept of ASPs, but importantly harnesses the power of cloud infrastructure.
Indeed a common misconception is that SaaS and the Cloud are in fact one and the same however, this is not strictly correct.
SaaS is very simply, any software application that you operate which is not located on your premises. Whereas the cloud is the virtual infrastructure that the SaaS runs within, which in turn is housed on the vendor’s own data centres, or in many cases a data centre the vendor themselves ‘rents’ from an organisation such as Amazon Web Services.
Why field service is so suited to SaaS:
Whilst early applications of SaaS were predominantly either CRM or highly specific business niche products, it was only a matter of time before we saw a number of providers offering up SaaS solutions to the field service industry.
As SaaS systems are Internet based the ability to operate and access the software from various locations is a key fundamental inclusion of the system. Similarly as web protocols are becoming standardised, with the rise in device agnostic languages such as HTML 5 for example, SaaS solutions essentially allow users to access the entire application from any device - including smart phones and tablets.
It is this flexibility and mobility that SaaS solutions offer that make them such a perfect match for the field service industries and ideal for an organisation that operates a BYOD policy for it’s mobile workforce.
As such we have seen a number of vendors establish SaaS field service solutions. Including Tesseract Software, Connect2Field, Astea, ServiceMax, IFS and Click Software who all offer a variety of SaaS solutions to help field service companies improve the efficiency of their mobile workforces.
The benefits of SaaS to SMB’s
As well as the obvious benefits of having a central software solution that is accessible across numerous remote devices, that are specifically relevant to field service companies, SaaS solutions have more generic benefits also which are particularly beneficial to Smaller and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)
Perhaps the most obvious of these is the cost.
Whilst in the long term (i.e. across a three to five year period) a subscription model may actually prove to be more expensive, the ability to spread the costs (usually in either annual or monthly payments) is a particularly attractive route for smaller or even medium sized companies for whom cash flow remains an important factor.
Similarly the benefit of not having to have your IT team dedicate large amounts of their potentially limited resources on implementing, monitoring and maintaining a system is also particularly important for smaller sized companies.
With SaaS the software is maintained and updated by the provider reducing the burden on a companies IT significantly.
Another often cited benefit that is of particular importance to SMB’s is the lack of fixed term contract.
Often the service is provided on a rolling monthly basis or even a freemium model (where the basic functionality is provided for free and additional services are offered at a premium), which allows greater flexibility for a company to walk away.
Not being tied to a long contract for software that they may not necessarily need in a year or so’s time when their business needs change, is another attractive benefit for SMBs that SaaS offers.
What this means to the field service industry.
It has been suggested that the access to sophisticated service management solutions that were previously out of reach to non-enterprise level organisations, which SaaS delivers is potentially going to have a major impact on the dynamics of the industry.
For the first time, many smaller companies are now able to take advantage of the benefits of such systems including improving the efficiency of their mobile workforce, gaining visibility across their entire field service operation and reducing fuel costs.
Previously the cost of both implementing and maintaining an on premise field service management solution was simply too prohibitive for most smaller organisations, giving their larger competitors a clear advantage in terms of the level of service they could deliver and therefore the level of customer satisfaction they could achieve.
However, the introduction of SaaS solutions has levelled the playing field and perhaps even shifted the balance in favour of the smaller companies.
SMBs often have smaller overheads and can therefore gain greater profit margins for similar revenue levels . A result of this has led to reducing costs often being the traditional primary sales strategy adopted by SMBs when competing with larger companies , who are able to deliver superior service.
Today however, with companies of all sizes being able to offer similar levels of service through automating elements of their field service operation, smaller companies can take advantage of this ability to compete more fiercely on price whilst offering the same customer satisfaction levels as their bigger competitors. For perhaps the first time the power lies with smaller more agile companies.
The tables have turned slightly and it is largely down to the SaaS revolution.