IoT will change field service from reactive to proactive: one of three key take-aways from the Servicemax's inaugural MaxLive Europe event in Paris. Marc Ambasna-Jones reports.
Customer events are always a mixed bag given the nature of the crowd. You can never please everyone but they are also a good indicator of how well a company is actually doing beyond its sheen of marketing.
Pacing the specially erected stage in the Salon Opera ballroom at Le Grand Paris hotel, ServiceMax CEO Dave Yarnold told the 270 people gathered about his dream. When he first came to Europe to pursue a few leads in the early days of the company, he hoped that one day ServiceMax would host an event just like this in a grand setting and full of customers.
Dream achieved, the company now has another goal, to turn the service software industry into a billion dollar global market with ServiceMax at its head. Ambitious? Yes of course. Achievable?
Perhaps. The numbers came thick and fast – the third largest Salesforce.com ISV, 150 new customers in the last 12 months, 300 per cent year on year growth, 90 plus parent consultants and so on. In its own words, ServiceMax is “evolving from a reactive, to a proactive, to a predictive business.”
New technologies are forcing change again but this time at unprecedented levels.
This event was about showcasing that change. It was an attempt to lay out a plan, to identify the future and reinforce the idea that the changes will be for the better.
We took three things from the event:
The Internet of Things is more than just a buzzword
Kevin Ashton is often credited with being the father of the term "Internet of Things" term after writing it on a presentation in 1999 while working at Procter and Gamble. He had this idea that the company should put RFID tags onto its products to improve product tracking and create real time stock management.
However, Ashton does not claim to be the ‘father of IoT’. Rather, the term ‘IoT’, he says, was created by someone on Twitter, who had shortened the internet of things into an easily manageable hashtag.
His views on the future clearly captured the imagination and raised a few eyebrows too. His suggesting that by the next century more than half the world will be vegetarian prompted muttering in the audience but he wasn’t here to talk about food...
What did he think of IoT and its impact on the service industry?
“Well the irony in the service sector is that the best service person is the one you never need to see,” says Ashton.
“Fewer resources wasted on needless service and less downtime for someone using a piece of equipment because service can be done pro- actively,” he adds, suggesting that this is what ServiceMax is enabling by adopting an IoT approach to service.
In the age of IoT, software as a service will shift to ‘service as software’ - Kevin Ashton
So what does ServiceMax CEO Dave Yarnold think?
“Field service is now the first industry to benefit from the disruption of IoT,” he says confidently, “transforming from under-funded afterthought to under pinning new business models, revenue creation, and influencing product design.”
New global research from Field Service News, commissioned by ServiceMax and IoT partner PTC, found that forty-five per cent of field service management professionals believe the IoT will likely have the biggest impact on field service by 2020 -- more than big data, smart glasses, augmented reality or any other technology.
More than half of field service professionals surveyed say they are already implementing or planning to implement an IoT-based strategy, and seventy-four per cent do not think the size of a company matters when implementing IoT field service strategies in their organisations.
The service model is being flipped on its head
“Moving forward, we will begin to see service outcomes designed into products at the R&D level, as well as the ability for equipment and devices to become capable of recommending companion products to customers for cross sell and upsell opportunities,” says Yarnold.
One of the customer examples Yarnold was most excited about was the one from Timo Okkonen of inspection, testing, certification consultancy services firm Inspecta.
Okkonen spoke brightly about “influencing everything for our kids.” The company’s vision, he says “is to save the planet through improved maintenance and service.”
It’s this idea that excites Yarnold because this customer is using his software to not just manage service engineers but actually helping to re-shape the company’s entire approach to business.
It’s a view shared by Jerome Piche, global customer service VP at medial diagnostics company bioMerieux in France. “How can we be more efficient to increase the first time fix?” He asked. “We are organised in silos but this is a way in which we can break the silos and have a more end-to-end view.”
Piche was referring to the idea that the mobilisation of the software and the ability to manage and analyse service data more efficiently is changing the game.
ServiceMax describes this as a transformation, where service is now starting to influence decision making and opening up new opportunities for businesses to increase efficiencies.
In fact the company believes in it so much it wrote an e-book called Diamonds in the Rough: Unleashing the Power of Field Service Transformation. Not your average bedtime tome but certainly something to get those transformational juices flowing.
People and skills are changing fast
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, there will be 800,000 additional service workers in the US by 2022.
It seems that despite technology, the service industry is growing and we will need more techs than ever before.
But is this right? Is the industry really going to support a huge growth in personnel at a time when automation technology is starting to have such an impact on service efficiency?
How do we stop the technicians talking in ‘techlish’ and ensure service permeates through a business?
“How do we stop the technicians talking in ‘techlish’ and ensure service permeates through a business? How do we make it sexy to them because I think it’s the sexiest business in the world,” says ServiceMax CTO Hari Subramanian.
John Cooper, head of service for Sony Professional Solutions Europe supported the idea that attitudes towards service professionals have changed and professionals themselves need to evolve to meet the new demands and expectations of customers.
“We were seen as a necessary evil in the service department,” says Cooper.
“We just took care of things. There was a lack of visibility but now with ServiceMax we can have visibility and prove we add value.” It is this justification of the role that fits with the general theme of the event – transformation through technology and using the data to increase an understanding of customer service requirements while reducing waste So should service people evolve into a sales role also? Should they really upsell the customer?
There was a certain degree of egg shell treading but the consensus is that service techs do have to evolve and embrace the idea of soft selling.
While Dave Hart, ServiceMax’s VP of global customer transformation urges caution for, quite rightly, concerns around undermining the service tech’s credibility and trusted status, he does concede that perhaps there needs to be a change, an evolution in roles as field sales team numbers dwindle across industries.
“In this new economy service is the difference,” said the introductory video, highlighting the change that is coming.
Technology and in particular IoT and data analytics are impacting all industries and you have hundreds if not thousands of businesses jumping on the train to try and capitalise, to forge niches, conquer markets.
ServiceMax is no different although in Field Service they have a head start on some of their peers. The industry, though, is surely in for a rollercoaster ride.