ClickSoftware have for a long time been seen as a key leader amongst field service solution providers. But the sector has gone through rapid evolution within the last few years with technology moving forward whilst the market becomes ever more competitive.
Meanwhile, ClickSoftware have been through an evolution of their own, with new ownership and a new CEO Tom Heiser, at the helm.
And he is determined to see the optimisation specialists stay at the forefront of the industry. Kris Oldland reports...
If you ask any seasoned field service professional to name check three field service software providers you can almost guarantee that ClickSoftware will be one of those they mention.
For many years ClickSoftware has been viewed as the gold standard in terms of field service optimisation. However, the market is going through rapid change and is now more fiercely competitive than ever before. In such an environment, relying on past reputations is a dangerous game to play - even when your reputation is one as strong as that which ClickSoftware can boast.
However, across the last year, ClickSoftware have gone through rapid changes of their own. After long running and widespread rumours of SAP acquiring the company proved to ultimately be unfounded, the company was purchased by Californian based private equity firm Fransicso Partners.
This was followed by the appointment of Tom Heiser, formerly of EMC as a new CEO, and whilst many of the Israeli talent that pushed ClickSoftware to the forefront of the sector remain on board, Heiser’s arrival heralds a new era for ClickSoftware, with both their approach to technology and culture having a delicate shift of focus to help them hold on to their position as an industry leader.
When we meet for the first time Heiser himself comes across initially as very much something of a people person, a firm handshake is balanced by a warm ‘Hollywood’ smile and he carries that air of informality and confidence that seems to be becoming commonplace amongst senior executives working for US tech firms these days.
When we meet we are also joined by Mike Karlskind, a man with a career spanning some twenty years plus with ClickSoftware.
"They were saying to me, the technology behind ClickSoftware is right at the top, but you guys really need to start banging the drum some more...”
His aim it seems, is not so much a complete re-imagining and reinvention of ClickSoftware, more gentle refinement, to ensure that the company remains ahead both in terms of technology and of course market-share.
Part of that process is ensuring that the company retain a focus on R&D but also that they make sure the market is aware of that focus.
“Before I flew over here I spent sat down with some senior industry analysts in Israel “ says Heiser, “and they were saying to me, the technology behind ClickSoftware is right at the top, but you guys really need to start banging the drum some more.”
Indeed, in their midsts ClickSoftware have some fantastic success stories, including European automobile glass replacement giant Belron, who operate in the UK as Autoglass.
“Mike and I have been speaking to a number of our clients’ COOs, Presidents etc recently and having strategic conversations around how to best leverage our solution and one of the best examples is Autoglass based over here [in the UK]"
“They have a net promoter customer satisfaction score which is like crazy high and they’re using ClickSoftware as a tool to completely differentiate themselves from their competition, and I’m really proud to see that.”
But what about the shift in focus in terms of technology? What can we expect from ClickSoftware moving forwards?
Well it is clear from speaking with Heiser that he sees very much the future of both ClickSoftware and enterprise computing in general, as being based in the Cloud. However, he also understands that the shift from the still prevalent traditional on-premise model to a Cloud based world is not solely about the development of the technology.
“The thing is, shifting and changing the culture is actually harder than getting the technology right,” he begins.
“With the technology, you just get the right people, you invest in it, and you’re going to ultimately do it..."
“Now we have with a board of six people in Moshe [former CEO and founder] myself and four guys from Francisco Partners, who are all super smart guys that have done this before. So I feel with the six of us we can do it, but how do we do this with the new business models?”
“How do we go from an on-premise model with cash flow up front to a subscription model which is where we feel we need to be. Everybody wants to be on the other side, nobody wants to go through that process. But we’re set to get there.”
As he speaks, Heiser conveys a sense of the magnitude of the task not only faced by him and his team in terms of moving with the ever growing traction driving software solutions towards the Cloud, but also faced by the industry in general.
However, there is also an underlying confidence that he and his team are more than up to the challenge, that he cannot contain.
[quote float="right']I look at culture as the biggest challenge, but then there are some people here that are so energised by what we’re doing it’s like, ‘let’s go faster’“Culture is the third element we need to mention. I look at culture as the biggest challenge, but then there are some people here that are so energised by what we’re doing it’s like, ‘let’s go faster’ I feel like I’m holding you back! - It’s really invigorating, but we need to rein it in every now and then and make sure we’re all on the same track.”
Having spent an hour with Heiser, it is clear his enthusiasm could genuinely be infectious, yet it is also clear that he is grounded enough to see the woods as well as the trees. He is also smart enough to not only keep key members of his team such as Karlskind close by, but also to admit when it is time to turn to them for support.
There may have been a number of changes for ClickSoftware in the last year or so, but with Heiser at the helm there is a good chance that their position as one of the leading brands in the market will remain firmly intact.