What are the Right Technology Investments for the Service Next Normal?

Jun 23, 2020 • FeaturesDigital TransformationTechnologyCovid-19

IDC's Aly Pinder discusses what the next stage of field service could be and what technology can help ride the uncertainty.


The service world, like our daily personal lives, have been greatly impacted by the past few months. Supply chains have been strained. Financial markets have seen dramatic swings in valuation. Lives have been personally changed forever. The field service operation has had to deal with all these aspects of the crisis and more.

Technology Pivoting in Service

But now that we, in some cases, can say we are past the first or second phase of this pandemic, what will be our 'next' normal? I say 'next', as I believe it would be a bit naive to think we will just have one 'new' normal as things continue to evolve at a rapid pace. From my perspective, the next normal will be a determination by service leaders and organizations as to a longer-term strategy for the next two plus years which incorporates risk assessments for future global disruptions and customer impacts and what technology and processes changes are needed.

Short-term many manufacturers and service organizations conducted stress tests and operational adjustments to ensure mission critical assets and equipment were prioritized and customers who had essential status could be provided the appropriate level of service to meet customer needs. But longer term, service leaders will need to rationalize the pre-pandemic momentum, interest, and hype around some of the technologies at the forefront of digital transformation taking field service from a manual, paper-based set of processes to the autonomous and augmented technician of the future?

IDC believes, based on some compelling data we are refreshing every two weeks, that IT spend on projects will take a bit of a dip in the coming quarters. However, some projects and investments will actually accelerate to meet the next normal that manufacturers and service organizations will face in the last part of this year and into the early part of next. For manufacturers, technologies around remote access, mobility, and enterprise social will see the biggest increase in demand.


"The expectation that every field technician has a tablet or smart glasses is a bit premature..."


This should come as no real shock to most of us, the ability to resolve issues remotely, on a mobile device, or glean knowledge through shared collaboration are a key component to keeping technicians out of harm's way or avoid missing an SLA because a customer's site cannot be accessed as a result of new protocols.

Remote access

In recent IDC Manufacturing Insight's research, just about one-third of equipment are considered IoT-connected today and therefore have a unique IP address and software within them to enable service and product performance information to be communicated over a wireless network. This percentage was only expected to rise to just under half of all equipment in three years. In order to meet the needs of remote monitoring, connectivity, and resolution investments will need to be made to accelerate these numbers of connected assets. In a post-COVID-19 world access to products and assets for the field service team will become a critical differentiator with regard to critical assets and 99%+ uptime goals.


This may seem like a trivial investment for many readers of technology publications but a number of large, mid-size, and small organizations still work in a world of paper or manual processes. The expectation that every field technician has a tablet or smart glasses is a bit premature. But the need to have real or near-real time data at one's finger tips to make split second decisions will be an opportunity for service organizations over the coming months and quarters. Inefficient and manual processes and the delays they lead to won't be tolerated by customers that expect to move to 100% or higher levels of production as soon as businesses can re-open.

Enterprise collaboration

Collaboration isn’t only a technology for office workers that have had the privilege of a near-seamless transition to work from home. Field technicians will need to be able to share best practices and content with their peers, customers, and the back office in ways they hadn't before. From a talent and knowledge management perspective, junior field service technicians will need to be productive quickly to meet service demand and collaborative tools can aid in democratizing knowledge.

It is easy to say we are entering a period of a new or next normal. What is hard is to forecast how dramatically this disruption will impact IT investments for service; it is clear there will be a reaction. But in the wake of this current pandemic and preparation for global events of the future, manufacturers and service organizations must ensure they can maintain a level of quality service their customers demand even when access, data, or physical technicians isn't available. The optimist in me believes we will come out of this with a new-found strategy around technology to support our daily lives and our work lives. And field service won't be separate from this next normal. Stay safe and healthy.

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