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News: 2020-05-07

Curious about how you can digitalize your field service?

When organizations decide to work with digitalization, there are many pitfalls to watch out for. There is also considerable risk of thinking that you've introduced digitalized ways of working when you haven’t actually done so.

The beginning of a digitization journey
The evolution of field services has been avalanche-like in recent years, while technological and customer expectations are constantly increasing. Twenty years ago, field service was geared towards repair disruptions, but has gradually evolved towards long-term business relations with digital support that is more satisfying for customers and more lucrative for enterprises. New methods of digitalization can enable completely new revenue models and further strengthen customer relationships, generating value for both parties. Deciding to digitalize operations is very attractive and easy for an organization. Organizations have bought into buzzwords, read the research, consulted analysts and seen the figures on potential cost savings and revenue growth. Everything is in line on the abstract plane, but how do we define what digitalization really means?

What does digitalization mean?
Digitalization is not just about replacing all operations with cloud-based solutions and streamlining processes with artificial intelligence. Organizations have tried and failed to do so even before the term "digitalization" existed. Digitalization is about creating a digitalization strategy, not only for the entire organization, but also for every active component that makes up the organization. It is about understanding the relationship between technology, the practitioner and business relations.

When organizations decide to move towards digitalization, specifically in field service, the first instinct is often to invest in a tool that attaches itself to a system already in use within the organization. For example, many CRM systems offer a somewhat useful service module that provides limited digital functionality for field service. This may give the illusion of digitalization, but does not provide true digitalization. Research has shown that this method is often harmful to the performance of a business. Organizations are simply trying to jump-start digitalization without the right conditions, but what exactly is the right path to digitalization?

Digitalization - the right way
In order for an organization to create the right conditions for success with its digitalization, it is important to first establish an understanding of the needs, conditions and opportunities of the entire enterprise.

Step 1
Start by forming a project team of stakeholders who can jointly create a benchmark for digitalization by discussing key improvement factors, such as:

  • Operational challenges and current KPIs that have been identified as high priority (e.g. 20 percent increase in action rate).
  • Desired business opportunities identified (e.g. 15 percent improvement in customer yield).
  • Customer feedback in relation to important areas for improvement.
  • Current technologies and tools used in the organization.
  • Competitiveness and industrial adaptation of new technologies and tools.

Step 2
The next step is to discuss the practical aspects and create a basic requirement specification. At this stage it is good to reflect on the approach; you have to learn to walk before you can run, which in this context means first discussing the simpler issues and then delving into issues that require more resources, such as the following:

  • Does the enterprise have a formal and identifiable solution for field service?
  • What benefits can be achieved if the field service solution is migrated to a cloud solution?
  • Can the field service solution handle the basic needs of the business, such as inventory management, scheduling, warranties, billing, etc.?
  • Can the field service solution also offer support for streamlining work processes through, for example, IoT, machine learning, schedule optimization, route optimization, etc.?

Step 3
Finally, in order to create a cohesive and uniform digitalization strategy, it is important to also create an understanding of each active part that constitutes the organization and its respective needs, conditions and opportunities. This can be done as follows:

  • Involve stakeholders from all parts of the organization
  • Identify vendors who strive to understand the organization and where their solution fits in
  • Focus on cloud and mobile applications that are dynamic and scalable
  • Conduct pilot tests with both high-performing and low-performing teams

Understanding digitalization is not a complex process; it is an iterative process that begins with an understanding of the organization and its operations. A cohesive and uniform digitalization strategy creates the right conditions for digitalization and also prepares the organization for future digital challenges.

//Asmir Tahmaz, Application Consultant, Prevas AB