Why it’s Time to Put Down Old Tools & Plug-in to Field Service Management Software

Oct 21, 2020 • FeaturesSoftware & AppsDigital Transformationfield service managementcraig greenhalgh

In this exclusive article for Field Service News, Craigh Greenhalgh, Research Analyst at Comparesoft, offers an analysis of field service management software available today and how businesses need to embrace digital transformation to gain a competitive edge.

We are at the peak of an evolutionary leap into the digital age with more than half of today’s businesses connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Entire industries are transforming to capitalise on the advances in field service management software and gain a competitive edge – increasing efficiency, slashing costs and meeting market demand for quicker and more comprehensive services.

Businesses still operating in the paper age must adapt soon if they are to survive the world’s transition into a brutal new age of cut-throat digital commerce.

Here’s how it all began, along with some insightful facts and figures on the shape of things to come in the immediate future of field service management.

how the internet of things came of age

The term Internet of Things (IoT) was introduced in 1999 by British technologist Kevin Ashton to describe networks and platforms which connect humans and the objects they interact with.Uptake was slow at first but increasing cross-industry dependence on intelligent software and smart devices has spurned explosive IoT growth over the past five years.

The number of publicly known IoT platforms has doubled to 620 since 2015, now connecting more than 22 billion devices around the world, according to data gathered at the end of 2019.That growth is expected to continue exponentially with increasing demand for smarter asset management, in the field and on factory floors, to help us humans make informed decisions from a distance – decisions that can save money and even lives.Market analysts say the trend is heading towards 50 billion devices connected to the IoT by 2030 with the total volume of data being stored and transferred in the region of 100 zettabytes (Zbs).

Iot roots blossom into a trillion-dollar market

As a result, worldwide spending on the hardware and software connecting the Internet of Things is projected to hit US$1.1 trillion by 2023.

A significant sign of the paradigm shift underway from old to new management tools is that even the worldwide agricultural IoT market accounts for a whopping $30-billion slice of that trillion-dollar pie.Consumer spending on smart home systems worldwide hit US$ 115 billion in 2020 and is expected to rise to at least $150 billion over the next two years.On top of that, the IoT analytics market is projected to be worth more than $500 billion in the same period.On the mobile hardware development front, Panasonic is one of the many manufacturers tapping into the industrial IoT market. As seen with the launch of mobile devices aimed specifically at supporting the field service management sector. The rugged handheld Android devices come with an ANSI rating for hazardous locations. They also feature barcode and magstripe readers.

how businesses are benefitting from better field service management software

These unprecedented advances in the abilities of artificial intelligence have given birth to legions of industry-specific software solutions created to capitalise on this interconnectivity of emerging technologies. Here’s how progressive businesses are benefiting from smarter field management software solutions:

Increasing Productivity

Workers using mobile devices connected to warehouse inventory management software are much more productive. Zebra Technologies Corporation is arming warehouse workers with wearable tech, including head-mounted displays and ring scanners, which is claimed to increase productivity by 24%.

Meeting Customer Expectations & Boosting Brand Loyalty

Customer demands are the same across the board – from retail consumers tracking delivery packages in their living rooms to engineers collaborating on industrial megaprojects. They all expect instant access to real-time information to make informed decisions.

Cutting Unnecessary Costs

Cost savings with fluid asset management is a hugely beneficial side effect of using field service management software solutions. You save time and labour costs with instant updates from assets in the field, which helps schedule preventative maintenance and mitigate future repair costs.

Improving Workplace Safety

Human error is reduced with artificial intelligence in charge. Managers can take preventative measures to drastically reduce risks of breakdowns and accidents based on data from real-time measurements and calculations made remotely in the field.

Streamlining Accounting

Software and apps that can learn about your accounting requirements help keep your operations in compliance with local and regional regulations. Instant accounting also means shorter billing cycles and better cash flow management.

What are your options for field service management?

Today’s field service management solutions are a combination of hardware and software that provide a virtual workspace with cloud computing that can be accessed by tens of thousands of users at the same time from almost any location.The range of solutions is vast and often confusing. Field service managers need to consider their options depending on their company’s unique needs, budget and existing infrastructure.Digital field service management solutions are usually packaged and labelled in one or more of the following three ways:

IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service

Hardwired hardware in the form of servers and digital data storage space. The hardware can be physically located at your offices as an ‘on-premise’ network. The off-premise alternative is to pay for the use of servers operated by third-party data centres that provide cloud services available over the Internet. Examples include Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, Rackspace and Windows Azure.Massive cost savings is the main advantage for field service managers opting to outsource IaaS as there is no initial outlay for expensive hardware, no excessive power costs and no need to employ a dedicated IT team round the clock at your own premises.

PaaS - Platform as a Service

Developers use IaaS data centres to build, operate and host computing platforms ‘in the cloud’ that are accessible to designated users. The platforms make software tools available over the internet for a broad spectrum of industries.Apps, interfaces and operating systems can be built and used on these platforms, which these days can handle a variety of computer languages to store, manipulate and display data on almost any device.

Popular platforms include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, Google App Engine and Apache Stratos

PaaS - Platform as a Service

Also referred to as ‘enterprise software’, SaaS solutions piggyback on the infrastructure and platforms as a service (IaaS and PaaS) mentioned above.Using third-party software as a service gives you a complete package of field service management solutions hosted in the cloud on remote servers and accessible over the internet.Everyday examples of SaaS in the virtual workplace include Google Apps, Dropbox, Salesforce, Cisco WebEx, Concur and GoToMeeting.The major advantage for managers using SaaS is not being responsible for any hardware or software maintenance, meaning massive cost savings and fewer headaches. The biggest challenge is deciding which software service to use that best suits your needs.

5 types of field service management software

Field service management software solutions fall into five broad categories, each helping organizations manage various types of ‘assets’, which could be anything supporting operations such as buildings, machinery, vehicles, warehouse stock, raw materials or even human resources.Advanced SaaS solutions also allow you to tie in accounting operations to help shorten billing cycles by creating core financial reports in real-time such as profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and cash flow statements.Each of the five types of field management software listed below was developed for industry-specific purposes but their functions frequently overlap.

1. Asset Management Software

Used for tracking, accounting, inventory management and scheduling for a wide range of assets, including properties and facilities, equipment and machinery, IT hardware, software tools and apps, infrastructure assets, fleet assets and so on

2. CMMS Software

Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) are used to plan and schedule preventative and predictive maintenance as well as streamline reactive maintenance, especially for bespoke infrastructure and fleet operations.

3. Enterprise Asset Management Software

Enterprise asset management (EAM) software applications cover more aspects than maintenance schedules to maximise worker efficiency and minimise costs with features such as labour and materials management, access on mobile devices and work order management.

4. IT Asset Management Software

Software tools and apps in house and in the cloud to manage employee and IT department hardware.

5. Asset Tracking Software

Tracking the location and status of assets as well as information on who’s using them. Ideal for operations where assets are being moved about inside premises or in and out of premises.

survival of the fittest

The future success of field service management operations in 21st-century industries will be defined by how well they adapt to market demands. Only the fittest will survive by choosing the right tools to avoid becoming fossilised in a bygone era.

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