Field service management is a huge playing field with some pretty big players. Typically when organisations talk about field service management they talk about having the right person in the right place at the right time with the right information. But what about ensuring that they have the right tools? Leadent Solutions', Emma Newman asks...
Just like in any marketplace, within the workforce management software market there is distinct brand loyalty at play. ClickSoftware, SAP, IBM and TOA dominate the market with their products and continue to expand their suite of field service applications to include, for example mobility. Many customers of these solutions will look at the systems they currently have in place and stay loyal to the same brand. Gartner feeds this brand loyalty mentality with field service software organisations clambering to be at the top-right of the eponymous quadrant. Companies look to, and in some cases rely on, Gartner for guidance as to which provider is “best of breed”. But I think you would be wise to remember that what is considered to be “best of the best” doesn’t necessarily mean the best for your organisation.
Generally the big boys of field service will now offer a “suite” of solutions claiming to cover the whole end-to end process, packed full of features and marketed using all the on-trend buzz words.
Is it right that an organisation which has a scheduling and rostering solution from one vendor should automatically choose mobility or reporting tools from the same provider? The larger players would certainly lead you to believe that this is the case, and there are some heavy arguments for this route. For example: easy installation with out of the box plug and play functionality, instant integration with the other products in the suite, similar user interface, easy licensing and just one provider to pay. These solutions are usually at a cheaper price or marketed as “free”.
Many customers are led to believe that if you buy licenses for modules X & Y you get free licenses to unlock the functionality held within another, the reporting module, for example. A common tactic used by software providers as an apparently cost effective incentive for prospects to procure an entire suite of products.
But is this the right approach to take? Do we need to turn the way in which we research and purchase field service software on its head?
Levelling the field service playing field
The workforce management software playing field is becoming far more level in terms of feature-functions, and whilst brand recognition is important, it’s not – and nor do I believe it should be - the be all and end all when making a purchase decision. With most software vendors now offering managed cloud based solutions along with far more robust and proven integration platforms, we find ourselves at a junction of endless possibilities.
Today’s workforce management market is all about the customer. Software providers and workforce management solution consultants alike must seek to support this ethos and look to more creatively architect solution landscapes to effectively blend and integrate products so that they can best resolve today’s far more demanding customer service orientated challenges.
Not many organisations can purchase an out-of-the-box product and just plug-and-play as promised; most will need some level of customisation to fit the business processes. A recent MPL Systems and Field Service News survey found that a quarter of the organisations who took part in the survey admitted to changing the way they worked to fit around their workforce management software. But it should be the other way around – your field service software should meet the needs and requirements of your business processes.
Before you embark on any decision making about workforce management software, you should first look at the processes you are trying to improve. Not only this, but you must focus on really understanding the areas that need to be optimised and automated in order to achieve the biggest ‘value-add’ to the customer experience. To assume value will deliver itself from a packaged suite of ‘same brand’ products is not the forgone conclusion it perhaps once was.
The end game
The future of field service software should be flexible. It should enable customers to pick and mix to create an end-to-end solution that will fit their needs; and these solutions should be supple enough to integrate with ease into other products in the market.
Interestingly the “Technology in Service Management” report found that 74% of companies were working with multiple vendors and the statistics from the 2014 report show an increase of 2%. This would indicate that organisations are demanding that they not only have choice but that they deem it to be important. Yes organisations want an integrated end-to-end service management solution, but not necessarily all from one vendor.