One of my favorite presentations at ClickSoftware’s recent ClickConnect conference was from J. Randall Hunt at Amazon Web Services. While he spoke about Amazon’s cloud infrastructure and how it is empowering organizations such as NASA and SpaceX, he also spoke about innovation for the enterprise. In his presentation, he also introduced two extremely pertinent and powerful quotes, both of which are worthy of their status as inspirational posters/memes etc.
The first comes from British science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke who once wrote:
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
This is the most popular of Clarke’s three laws. There are many interpretations of this law. Mine follows the path that software or technology is at its best when it makes life easier. As in, the operation of technology in the background yields magical results without me having to prompt the technology to produce desired results.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in enterprise software. Out-of-the-box very seldom adheres to companies’ needs and it then becomes an exercise of configuration and customization to make software do what is desired. All of this works till the next update.
The Promise of the Cloud
ClickSoftware has always been known to be a powerful field service tool, especially on the back of its scheduling engine and mobile capabilities. This isn’t just personal opinion, its information shared from ClickSoftware users in The Service Council’s community. Yet, power has been equated with complexity, making the deployment of ClickSoftware a significant investment in change. Some of this investment has been tied to software and coding, but most of the change has been related to business process and employee acceptance. Once the change has been executed, results have been powerful, yet the change has often been the hardest part of the ClickSoftware implementation.
The organization has made a significant push to simplifying its product with the most recent announcement of Field Service Edge. With Field Service Edge, ClickSoftware has completed its embrace of the cloud and hopes that its current customers will make the leap with it. Upon early investigation, several field service customers are looking to move from their on-premise deployments to cloud options. Yet, given a strong utilities customer base, the migration has been slow. However, the Cloud seems to be model of preference, with the majority of recent customers and prospects interested in a cloud-based solution.
At ClickConnect 2016, the company was able to showcase some of the enhanced capabilities of its Field Service Edge solution and often touted the ease with which software could be set up and updated. Recent updates to Field Service Edge (June 2016) allowed for improved usability, real-time updates, and even further enhanced scheduling accuracy based on Google’s predictive engine. The future roadmap checked all the boxes in terms of areas of improvement and investment in field service:
- Advanced reporting and improved dashboards
- Driver behavior and safety analysis (in collaboration with GreenRoad or Fleetmatics)
- Augmented reality in the field (in partnership with FieldBit)
- Contractor management
- Crew management and planning
Customers Looking to Blend Efficiency with Engagement
In addition to these areas, there were two areas that piqued customer interest.
- Capacity Planning.While not the topic that gets the most clicks, capacity and territory planning is a major challenge for field service companies. Organizations are always looking to build optimal territories to meet response and SLA requirements. Optimized scheduling can only go so far and needs to be augmented with optimized planning. In this area, ClickSoftware has a unique opportunity to differentiate, especially in bringing planning and scheduling together. In its future product roadmap, ClickSoftware is reinvesting in planning as a field service functionality in incorporating a more dynamic and predictive territory allocation model.
- Customer Engagement.Customer engagement, as a module, was introduced at ClickConnect 2015 and it would have been great to see live examples of organizations using these tools. The idea behind customer engagement in a field service setting is that the customer gets introduced into the field service delivery equation. Therefore, the customer has control over appointment setting and management and can engage with the field service organization via messaging or text to review, update, or reschedule established service work. All of this can be done with or without the installation of a dedicated app. Customers can create appointments in Facebook or via their messaging application of choice and can receive necessary updates in preferred avenues.
Customer engagement is an interesting play for ClickSoftware. It is true that the experience delivered to customers in field service is becoming more and more of a differentiator. Customers, enterprise or consumer, want field service to be effective and want to be able to afford field service. Outside of that, the field service experience is becoming a differentiator. Of pure play field service providers, ClickSoftware is making the most significant push into customer engagement. Salesforce and Microsoft are making the push as well, albeit from the comprehensive view of the customer perspective as afforded by their CRM solutions. We believe that customer engagement will be a game changer, especially given the way that younger customers and consumers are demanding service. The question remains as to which partners service organizations will look to work with in their pursuit of customer engagement tools. Are they more likely to build it themselves, or work with CRM partners, or look to their field service providers? The answer to this question will determine the success of ClickSoftware’s push into customer engagement.
Also on display at ClickConnect were customer-led sessions from SGS, Trane, Diebold, Lowes, and Suramerica. Most of these organizations spoke of their investments in and challenges with change management. In some of these cases, the change management was tied to the deployment of ClickSoftware, while at others it was around changed processes as impacted by ClickSoftware. For instance, Trane presented on its transformation from a technician-driven, self-dispatching model to one managed by local coordinators. To allow for regional relationship development, the company decided that a completely centralized model wasn't the way to go. However, introducing a local coordinator eliminated decision-making complexity at the technician-level (who should I visit first?) while empowering the team to cover a larger set of customers.
In looking to the future, the likes of Diebold, Trane, and SGS were most interested in increasing the predictability of their service businesses while managing the changing expectations of their service customers. These organizations also highlighted the increasing importance of employee engagement especially as workforces become more and more distributed. Improving employee engagement isn’t just seen as a means to reduce turnover, but is also seen as a path to improved and increased innovation.
Which leads me to my second quote from Hunt’s presentation. This comes from Joi Ito, Director of MIT’s Media Lab.
“Want to increase innovation? Lower the cost of failure.”
On the topic of customer engagement, The Service Council is about to launch its survey focused on the Next Frontiers of Customer Experience with a section tied to field service-oriented customer experiences. The idea for this survey was developed from consumerization-oriented takeaways from our 2016 Smarter Services Symposium. The survey will be live shortly. If interested in participating in the survey to talk about changing the experience of connecting and communicating with customers, do feel free to reach out to me. I can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.