Field Service Software: Considerations for Success
By Brad Blaney, VP - Technology, Penta Technologies
Bringing new technology into your enterprise is challenging and no one wants a technology initiative to fail. What are the key factors to consider to make your project a success? During many years of assisting our field service industry clients in implementing our field service products, we’ve identified often-overlooked items that you should consider when selecting and implementing field service software.
Tip #1: Understand your Field Service Technicians
Today’s field service technicians are often finding the need to not only be experts at their trade, but to also be a repository of knowledge. Customers expect them to:
• Have a photographic memory of past service history for every piece of equipment.
• Know the details of maintenance contracts.
• Manage truck inventory to have the right parts.
• Understand the service level agreement for all locations of every customer.
• Juggle schedules to be on time for every appointment.
• Know how to diagnose and maintain a huge variety of equipment.
• Ensure billing is accurate.
Their service managers expect them to:
• Promptly record their time and materials and collect customer signatures.
• Use service calls as an opportunity to sell additional service.
• Treat each customer with courtesy and respect.
Interactions–both positive and negative–between your field service technicians and your customers play a huge role in revenue and customer retention. If you want a technology initiative that involves your technicians to be successful, you need to involve them in the process to understand the pain points in their daily routines. Including a few technicians in the building of requirements, demonstrations, and pilot programs can dramatically improve adoption across your entire user base.
Tip #2: Listen to Finance
We know money is made in the field but make no mistake: a good financial management team can identify trends and recommend corrective actions that can turn a disappointing fiscal year into a profitable one. To be effective, they need the right information at the right time. Factors to watch for include:
• Single Data Source: All data, whether collected from the field or from the office, should flow directly into the core accounting system. Nothing slows down decision-making like conflicting information from multiple data sources. The best way to empower people to make smart, timely business decisions is to provide access to a single data source they can be confident in.
A good financial management team can identify trends and recommend corrective actions that can turn a disappointing fiscal year into a profitable one
• Real Time: To make confident business decisions, your people need up-to-date information.
• Industry Specific: You’ll find plenty of technology providers who’d love to earn your business. One way for them to earn it is to demonstrate their experience working with companies like yours.
• Business Intelligence Tools: A great system should go beyond providing accurate, real-time data: It should also present the information in ways that make problem areas stand out. That could mean dashboards with information presented graphically as charts and graphs. It should also allow users to see ONLY information that matters to them in their role. Users should be able to access these tools from the office, from jobsites, or from the road. Bonus points for systems that users can configure without IT assistance.
Tip #3: Remember your Crew Foremen
There are an abundance of apps to make individual field technicians more effective, but what about crew foremen? If you dispatch large crews, no one has a bigger influence over your profit or loss than your crew foremen…but only if they’re not stuck in the job trailer filing reports. Look for a solution that makes foremen more efficient and effective, with ability to easily report information from the field, such as:
• Collecting crew time
• Capturing productivity data
• Recording equipment used so it can be billed to the job
• Processing reimbursement requests
Also, make sure that the solution you choose for your crew foremen plays nice with the system your individual technicians use, as well as your other systems.
Tip #4: Lastly…Don’t Forget about your Needs
Here are some considerations for the IT group.
• Ease of Management: The larger your organization, the more time and effort is multiplied when upgrading or maintaining. Access to utilization statistics, by user or in aggregate, can also provide valuable insights. Make sure you understand how the solutions you’re considering will address these areas.
• Connected or Disconnected: Some solutions require a perpetual connection, while others allow users to continue working disconnected, and then sync when a connection is re-established. There are more options than ever to create your own connectivity, but you should still determine how important constant connectivity is in your situation.
• Security: Whether your company is highly-protective of information or very open with it, every company needs to be able to selectively control access to various types of information. Make sure the solution providers you consider detail your options related to sharing or restricting access with employees and customers while protecting your data from cyber-attacks and helping ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster.
• Devices: iPads remain very popular and Android tablets have a growing legion of fans. Protective cases can make either option rugged enough for field use. Get feedback from your users and factor in your own preferences.
• Integrated System: Don’t overlook the implementation and ongoing maintenance costs of integrating a point solution with your ERP. Integrating disparate systems can add significant time and costs to your implementation and in the end still not give you all the data or functionality that a fully integrated solution can provide.
Strong due diligence, careful planning, and close attention to these often-overlooked selection and implementation considerations will position your technology initiative for success. While a successful implementation of a new field service software system can make your technicians more efficient, the real savings come from the efficiencies gained across your whole enterprise.