Scott E. Day, Principal Consultant, Transformational Strategies
Internet of Things (IoT), by itself, is not a solution to the challenges of today’s digital race. Many companies are jumping in quickly without carefully analyzing how an IoT platform can be integrated into the existing field service business to enhance profits and retain customers. More data in front of technicians and customers may be disruptive, but not in a positive way unless the outcomes are well thought out. Porter’s Five Forces model is a great tool for taking a hard look at all the forces that can impact the business. Let’s face it, you can’t develop an IoT platform, integrate it into the business, expect all employees will instantly buy in, customers will love it, and the competitors won’t react. Porter’s model is a good one but will require engagement vertically within the business and with customers in a deep and meaningful way.
From the delivery side, take the time to engage the field technicians. Many C-level executives have either never experienced what it’s like to be a field technician, or taken the time to ride with a technician for a day to see how easy (or difficult) it is to carry out the company’s mission & vision. If you’re reading this and you haven’t taken the time lately to ride with the people who are closest to your customer, take the ride for a day. From the customer or “purchasing side” of the model, through focus groups with customers from various market segments, find out what information from your IoT platform is of value to them. Don’t assume everyone wants a link to your website with 14 charts. It’s got to be something useful and of value to your customers.
There are many facets of standing up an IoT platform that make it a massive project in itself.
Engaging the technicians and customers in the development of field service strategies will provide the innovation necessary to shape what could be
Machine connectivity, data science, domain expertise, predictive analytics, DevOps, and cybersecurity are just a few of the parts of the IoT platform that don’t even touch your existing field service platform. When looking at what is already in place in the current field service landscape, we typically might focus on the anticipated longevity of the current ERP platform, field service platform, mobility platform, and the life of existing mobility devices. The most important question to answer in joining the IoT and field service is: What will you do with the data? The data may be an enabler for services you don’t have today such as smart call centers, real-time schedule optimization & visualization, or condition-based maintenance. All of these are game changers and will most likely touch all of your existing enterprises. Several examples come to mind that might transform service delivery using the additional data that IoT provides.
• First-time-fix rates - Typically yield big paybacks tied to truck rolls, especially with highly paid technicians.
• Real-schedule optimization - Predictive analytics embedded in IoT can provide expected resolution time windows that can drive real-time scheduling optimization with visualization for customers
• Technician ETA - Visualization of when the technician will arrive has become almost mandatory as companies like Uber and Lyft have reshaped our expectations for transparency.
• Inventory tracking - Having the right part, in the right place, at the right time. It makes little sense to send a technician to a site if the IoT predictive analytics can determine that a machine’s malfunction will require a part but the technician does not have that part on his/her truck. Inventory visibility allows technicians to see across vehicles or parts depots in order to gather the part on the way to the site, again reducing a return visit (truck roll), and improving the customer’s uptime.
In summary, having the strategy well documented and understanding the forces and reactions that will occur as a result of integrating IoT into field service is critical before even beginning the IoT journey. Engaging the technicians and customers in the development of field service strategies will provide the innovation necessary to shape what could be. When building a field service strategy, IoT and field service management processes must not only meet but must be intertwined moving forward. Digitization takes our current business processes and makes them digital. IoT provides additional data and insights that allow us to change our business model and drive new revenue streams through enriched, smarter data and improved processes.