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Evaluating Microsoft’s Field Service Move and Musings on the Market

Posted by Sumair Dutta on Aug 5, 2015 1:03:12 PM

With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has been in the news. By most accounts, Windows 10 has been well reviewed and received. Perhaps not garnering as much news is Microsoft’s foray in CRM field service with the acquisition of FieldOne Systems. (Note: Microsoft has also recently acquired FantasySalesTeam, a sales gamification tool). My take on the deal:

On Microsoft

  • Cloud CRM is one of the fastest growing areas for Microsoft and the Dynamics business unit. Within CRM customer service, Microsoft now has a more complete portfolio of products combining its Agent desktop solution, the Parature self-service and knowledgebase product, and FieldOne’s field service offering.
  • FieldOne is a cloud solution and built specifically for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The choice of FieldOne as a field service solution is logical. Microsoft reports that several joint customers requested the company increase its integration with FieldOne given the link.
  • This marks a major shift in Microsoft’s take on the field service market. Traditionally, Microsoft has opted to follow a partner only strategy for field service, allowing organizations such as FieldOne, FieldAware, Hitachi Consulting, Vertical Solutions, Wennsoft, and more, to support the market. The move to acquire a field service solution is telling in terms of Microsoft’s strengthening focus on CRM and Customer Service as a whole. More so, it also points to the company’s growing recognition of field service as an important cog in the overall customer experience spectrum. Typically, field service has been seen as an operations problem, but more organizations are beginning to focus on the CEx implications of field service. As a result, there is an increased focus in integrating field service into the overall CRM solution set.

Other Interesting Areas of Discussion (Too Early to Tell):

  • The effort made to link field service and traditional customer support (Parature + FieldOne).
  • The level of integration of FieldOne into Windows Mobile. While FieldOne is designed to work across mobile platforms (Android, iOS, Windows), it would be intriguing to see if FieldOne adopters are afforded additional capabilities by acquiring mobile devices that run Windows.
  • The steps that Microsoft might take to leverage FieldOne in order to push Surface tablets into the field service enterprise.

On FieldOne and its Customers

We spoke with several FieldOne customers who were quite pleased with the acquisition news given the increasing support (professional services, implementation, project support) expected with an organization such as Microsoft. Also exciting are the implications on future roadmap given Microsoft’s push on Azure IoT and Cortana Analytics, areas where there is a lot of potential for field service business growth.

Prior to the acquisition FieldOne would have been on any field service shortlist for an organization with Dynamics CRM on the back end. Now it's position on the top of that list is solidified, further enhancing the company’s growth prospects. With its affiliation to Microsoft, FieldOne had done an incredible job of raising its status and presence in the enterprise field service market nabbing deals with the likes of United Technologies, Mitsubishi-Hitachi Powersystems, Carl-Zeiss and more. While Microsoft’s intent will be to continue to push into and develop capabilities for the enterprise market, it will be interesting to see if the SMB space receives any focus at all. FieldOne’s departure from this space can create new opportunity for the likes of other Microsoft field service partners.

On the Market

Field service automation has been a market receiving a lot of attention as of late. The move by Microsoft is the latest in a series of partnerships and acquisitions in the previous 5 years.

  1. In 2010, ABB acquired Ventyx to expand its field service and mobile workforce management capabilities for utilities.
  2. In 2010 IFS acquired 360 scheduling for its dynamic scheduling tools.
  3. In 2012 IFS acquired Metrix to expand its field service and service management offerings.
  4. In 2012 PTC acquired Servigistics and its field service assets. PTC also went on to buy Axeda (TSC Analysis) and ThingWorx (TSC Analysis) for IoT capabilities.
  5. In 2012, SAP acquired Syclo for mobile application development. One of Syclo’s target markets was field service.
  6. In 2013, Pega Systems acquired Antenna Software for mobile application development aimed at customer support and field service.
  7. In 2014 Oracle acquired TOA Technologies for its cloud-based field service solutions (TSC Analysis).
  8. In 2014, Verisae acquired ViryaNet for field service and mobile workforce software aimed at utilities and retail.
  9. In 2015 ClickSoftware was acquired by Francisco Partners (TSC Analysis) and taken private.
  10. In 2015 PTC announced a field service and IoT partnership with ServiceMax

In between, both TOA Technologies and ServiceMax raised large amounts in the private equity market.

It’s only a matter of time before there are additional moves made in the space. Suitors will be other enterprise software organizations such as Salesforce, SAP, and Netsuite. IBM and Google are wildcards, though it seems that Google is happy to address the market with projects such as Glass. It recently shelved it's a solution for small to mid-sized field service businesses but is always a force in the background given the ubiquitous use of Google Apps for Work.

The question is that there aren’t that many best-of-breed field service targets left, atleast for the enterprise. ServiceMax tops that list and is a lucrative buy given its development on the Salesforce platform. Yet, it continues to expand its presence with back-end SAP clients and has also inked a partnership with PTC. The inkling is that ServiceMax is preparing to go public. ClickSoftware was just taken private and so its unlikely to exchange hands any time soon. Other providers include Astea, ServicePower, and Vertical Solutions.

There is significant value that can be delivered in an enterprise-plus technology stack. Especially in connecting the areas of big data and IoT with field service, integrated enterprise solutions can offer a great deal to customers who align themselves with a vendor of choice. That said, the presence of a good mix of independent best-of-breed solutions is necessary for this market to thrive and grow. These solutions drive innovation and excitement in the overall industry. And they keep the big boys on their toes.

It’s going to be a very interesting space to watch over the coming years, especially given the explosion of mobile, IoT, and Big Data. We’re also seeing a lot of interesting work being done in automation tied to:
- Video and Augmented Reality – see blogs (here and here)
- Contingent Labor and Contract Workforce Management w/ FieldNation, OnForce, WorkMarket, ServicePower.
- Communication and Collaboration w/ Cotap, TigerText, Red e App

In terms of our continued coverage and commentary of the service management space, we will be hosting our monthly Smarter Services Webinar on August 20 at 11am EDT. Joining us on the webinar will be Sean Jordan from BioTek Instruments who will share the key trends impacting his service business. Other members will join as well. If interested in listening in, please feel free to register here.

Topics: fieldone, News, Field Service, service automation, microsoft

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