Arūnas Eitutis | 12 August 2021

Field Service Digital Transformation: How Can You Ease The Transition?

Digitalization is changing the way we work, communicate, travel, and live in general. As rapidly as it’s improving individual lives, it’s also transforming the way organizations work. Field service digital transformation is an essential factor leading businesses into the twenty-first century.

Going through a digital transformation is something that happens to nearly every business. Businesses within the field service industry are no different. Advancements in digital technology help field service businesses make their processes increasingly efficient. In fact, companies within industrial enterprises and related fields can benefit the most from a transformation.

Unfortunately, many corporations are afraid to take the first step. Often, they have a stereotype-driven workforce or are hindered by stubborn management and fears of innovation. Some managers seem reluctant to embrace any change, regardless of how much it would change for the better.

Field service providers are among those who can benefit the most from digital transformation. While the adoption of relevant software is a little sluggish, the benefits of digital transformation in the field service industry are enormous. These may include annual cost savings, improved field service operations, better customer experience, and much more. Therefore, some companies have begun seeing field service management software as a necessity for future-proofing the business model.

According to Gartner, more and more field service companies rely on FMS solution providers, as it’s easier to implement the newest technologies to business operations through a third party. So, the need for advanced service is growing, making it more difficult for companies without similar tools to compete.

While it might take time to transform a business fully, it’s essential to catch up with the market trends so as not to lose substantial business development opportunities.

Technologies of digital transformations

All businesses can benefit from digitalization, regardless of industry. However, different technologies may be employed for the same process. There are three primary ones, as listed by Finances Online:

  • Big data or analytics
  • APIs and embeddable tech
  • Mobile technologies

Each of these technologies, involved in a digital transformation, provide easier, quicker, or more data-related processes. Therefore, it’s not surprising that implementing big data and analytics within companies has been the primary way of transforming businesses.

Big data can bring an overall significant improvement in business performance. Combining external sources (e.g. third-party providers, automated web data acquisition) and internal sources (e.g. CRM and ERP systems, FSM software, logs, invoices, etc.) can provide extremely granular and accurate insights into many business processes. Advanced data analytics can be used to optimize existing enterprise resource planning, digitally improve demand forecasting, and enrich large-scale decision-making.

However, big data does come with some associated costs. Primarily, data scientists have to be hired to properly interpret and manage the data. Additionally, data governance practices (e.g. proper maintenance of informational assets) have to be employed in order to keep the company on track. Put simply, good data can bring impressive benefits but bad data or improper interpretation can cause harm.

Other technologies (mobile and APIs) reduce the latency between communication points and software. APIs provide other companies or teams the opportunity to access important resources by simply sending a few commands to an endpoint. Many companies and their teams stand to benefit from APIs as it eases remote management of equipment, employees, and other assets. Additionally, APIs make transferring data between systems significantly easier.

Finally, mobile technologies function a lot like APIs, however, their solution interfaces are a lot more palatable to those who haven’t delved deeply into digital technologies. Simple interfaces and obvious commands are delivered through optimized user experience, allowing customers and employees alike to improve the volume, quality, and speed of interactions.

Thus, a digital transformation can involve one or all three primary technologies. However, regardless of the technology chosen, a digital transformation creates well-rounded businesses that are able to thrive in any competitive environment. They can move away from old school habits like paper processes and reduce their reliance on the physical aspects of the business.

Benefits of digital transformation

As mentioned previously, every business can benefit from a digital transformation. However, it is important to note that as business models increase in complexity, so does the benefit brought upon by digital transformation.

Businesses with several arms have the most benefit from a digital transformation as communication lines and data transfers are more prone to human error and disruption by external factors. For example, field service organizations have a back-end office and a field service team. Connecting both arms and delivering the necessary information is challenging without digital tools like field service management software.

However, field service workers are often reliant on information and notes delivered from office employees. Field service technicians can have a difficult time delivering repairs and a high-quality customer experience without the proper information.

Luckily, digital transformation improves the quality of the field and other services by increasing data and communication efficiency. In fact, the most common benefits of digital transformations are cited as:

  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Meeting changing customer expectations
  • Improved product quality
  • Reduced product development costs
  • Reduced cost of poor quality
  • Introduction of new revenue streams
  • Increased first pass yield

Of course, most of the benefits listed above are material. There are numerous management and well-being benefits associated with digital transformations. For example, as more data on movement becomes available due to, say, mobile app integrations, companies can improve their scheduling practices. As a result, delivery schedules are narrowed down to the optimal window, increasing overall work efficiency. Improved work efficiency means fewer resources wasted.

On the other hand, employees may receive more in-depth feedback about their work, allowing them to focus on problematic areas. Thus, digital transformation allows all branches and levels of work, from customer service agents to field service workers, to benefit immensely.

Digital transformation pitfalls

Unfortunately, digital transformations, like any business change, need to be sold. Usually, there is significant pushback, at least initially. There are numerous barriers erected before a digital transformation can truly begin. All of these, in one way or another, revolve around the general distaste for change and risk aversion.

Employee pushback

When starting to transition into the digital realms, companies uncover the first and often most difficult hurdle – employee push back. Digital business transformation means that you are improving your organization from scratch. Sometimes old ways of doing things will have to make way for new ones and new attempts to standardize processes will have to be made.

Very few employees embrace having to rethink processes and learn new digital approaches. As a result, numerous attempts to slow down or fight back against the digital transformation might appear. There is no easy way out of this problem. The only way to properly deal with it is to engage employees throughout the entire process. It helps if there is an overarching transformation strategy.

No overarching strategy

Every large change within a company, especially a large one, should have an overarching strategy. Digital transformation is no different. Although very few companies in manufacturing, field service, and similar industries are developing these strategies, there are numerous benefits to having one.

Implementing changes strategically not only has material benefits like implementing technologies and engaging employees in a cost-effective manner, they also have management benefits. It’s a lot easier to make a case for a digital transformation if there is a strategy in place already. Additionally, having a well-defined system of steps to be taken reduces the likelihood of human error and costs fewer resources.

Overarching strategies are doubly as important in multi-armed businesses like those delivering field services. Unlike other areas of business, there are several points of contact where both different people and digital technologies intersect. Managers of such businesses have to ensure that the digital transformation plan is clear for both field technicians and office workers.

Lack of expertise

In many cases, employees cannot be simply moved to new responsibilities in digital businesses. They have to learn to utilize the new technologies. Some of them might have to pivot completely as an implemented solution automates their work entirely (or at least in a major way).

Thus, most companies, including field service organizations, will have to hire someone who can take care of both the transformation and aid in the teaching of employees. Additionally, hiring people for completely new roles will likely be necessary. Planning what these roles may entail and starting the process ahead of time may be a necessity.

Stagnant structures

Field service and other companies usually have rigid hierarchical structures in place. For example, field service technicians frequently report to field service engineers. However, to take advantage of a digital transformation to its fullest might require completely rethinking company structures.

As businesses go digital, harness insights from unstructured data, and attempt to take advantage of machine learning, old hierarchical structures, and communication lines will falter. Sales teams might be required to work closely with data analytics. Developers might have to start working closer with marketing than ever before. Thus, thinking of any organization, including a field service business, as rigid chains of commands where some teams always report to the same people can lead many companies astray.

Budget constraints

Once the hype surrounding digital transformation sets in, people may get starry-eyed and think of implementing unsustainable solutions. In many cases, they may be great ideas. However, every business has to carefully dole out finances from the budget for digital transformation initiatives.

Service companies are among those most susceptible to a multitude of ideas. A lot of talks can be done about improving customer expectations and satisfaction. While the goal is great, companies, especially those within technical and industrial fields, should focus on optimizing costs. Most importantly, digital technologies reduce fixed costs and variable costs by improving overall resource and asset management capabilities.

Easing the field service digital transformation transition

As mentioned previously, field service organizations are among those who can benefit the most from a digital transformation. As there are multiple arms of business all of which are necessary for high-quality service delivery, optimizing the flows of information between them can net some tremendous results.

Top field service companies, of course, are already well underway to a full digital transformation. The primary driver of their transformation is field service management software. Unlike those in other industries, a field service business doesn’t have to go over a complete overhaul to start digitalization.

Field service management software can be integrated into existing business models and practices without changing most established processes. Mainly, the most important course of action is easing developers, field technicians,  and business users to the new capabilities provided by field service management software.

Finally, digital transformation through FSM software can not only improve technical and communication aspects between employees but with the customer base at large as well. As field service technicians are able to access more data, they can more accurately predict future demand (e.g. implement predictive maintenance), improve customer satisfaction and service experience, and eliminate more error-prone manual calculations.

Benefits of field management software

Accurate performance evaluation 

FSM software provides companies with insights and details into each task and employees’ performance, making it easier to measure the time spent on each client and designate tasks more efficiently. Performance evaluations allow businesses to discover employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Thus, they can schedule work to meet employee capabilities and customer demand more accurately.

Automated logging and data transfers

Field service engineers and technicians already have enough work on their hands once they arrive on-premise. Communicating with back-office systems, making notes, and sending over information to other parts of the business all serve as distractions.

FSM software, depending on the service provider, can automate or at least make the processes outlined above significantly easier. Field service teams can then focus on delivering the best customer service experience possible.

Time and cost-savings

Good data is all about optimization and cost reduction. FSM software can provide more granular and accurate information about the effectiveness of scheduling, travel, field service operations, and customer satisfaction. By employing advanced data analytics, field service providers can reduce the inefficiencies related to day-to-day business operations. Essentially, FSM allows companies to lean out their processes.

Integration with pre-existing systems

While field service leaders have already completed or are nearing the completion of a digital transformation, others are still lagging behind. However, most field service operations providers have already gone through some digitalization. Usually, these companies will be utilizing a dedicated mobile app or mobile devices in general as part of a workforce mobility solution.

Most field service management software developers have an accurate grasp of the current state of digitalization. Thus, FSM software can often be integrated into existing systems without having to do a complete overhaul or abandonment.

Digitized documents

Paper documents have been a part of business for the longest time. However, they do have their own drawbacks, especially since they need to be manually digitized or manually delivered to a service provider before any action can be taken. Paper, while useful, is also fragile and slow. A whole host of benefits can arise from going fully digital.

FSM software aims to allow companies to go fully paperless. Instead of having to sign physical documents, scan them, and deliver them to the appropriate entities, teams can deliver their field services, sign through mobile devices, and send the records automatically. While going paperless does help the environment, FSM software, more importantly, allows for information to be processed by the proper personnel in nearly real-time, reducing the likelihood of mistakes and backtracking required.

Transitioning to digital through FSM software

For field service providers, FSM software is the best first step into a digital transformation. It aims to improve operational efficiency across the entire company without causing friction. Essentially, the software takes care of the three most important aspects of field service – supporting on-premise teams, improving the flow of communication, and putting customer satisfaction to new heights.

As they are out-of-the-box solutions that intend to improve the day-to-day operations of field service businesses, they usually integrate all three primary technologies of a digital transformation. FSM software, such as Frontu, implements technologies related to the acquisition of data. Mobile devices provided to on-premise teams grant the opportunity to track mobility and location information in real-time. Such data can be integrated into other existing systems to improve operational efficiency.

Finally, FSM software is often developed with regular people in mind. There is no need to have the extensive technical knowledge to derive immense benefits. Just like customer relationship management software can be used by nearly anyone, the same follows for FSM software. After all, a lot of development and user experience practices may have been inherited from the former.

Simply put, FSM software is an all-around solution for those companies that are looking to get started or improve their digital transformation. While there are ways to go beyond FSM software, such as collecting and analyzing equipment sensor data for predictive maintenance, many businesses would benefit immensely by doing even the most simple implementation.

Conclusion

Field service management software is the easiest way to harness the power of a digital transformation without having to go through massive employee pushback and organizational overhaul. Due to the ease of integration and the wide array of benefits provided, FSM software is the most cost-efficient manner to get started with going digital.

If even that looks like a large commitment, Frontu has you covered! Book a demo with our team to get a more in-depth explanation of how our solution can benefit your business. Our experts will give you a detailed rundown of how to get started with a digital transformation without having to sacrifice business efficiency.

Arūnas Eitutis
Founder & CEO

Arūnas is spearheading the Frontu efforts as the company’s CEO but still finds the time to share some of his knowledge, expertise and experience in the FSM sector through our blog.

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