ClickSoftware held its annual user event in Miami a few weeks ago. Given that ClickSoftwareis one of the biggest providers in the field service space (over 700k resources optimized), it was vital that we were present to track updates and announcements. This was also the first ClickConnect user event held as a private company (Our commentary) and under the helm of new CEO, Tom Heiser.
My takeaways fall into two primary categories:
A- Announcements from ClickSoftware
1- ClickSoftware’s mobile focus now extends beyond the field technician. Announcements of a field supervisor app and a customer engagement module highlight how ClickSoftware is becoming more aware of all the stakeholders in the field service ecosystem. It’s not just about mobilizing field service technicians or agents, but also about mobilizing and incorporating the needs of supervisors and customers. From a supervisor perspective, mobile field management can be extremely powerful and it will only be a matter of time before all organizations demand mobile field service management apps for their regional leaders and supervisors. In fact, we’re digging into these overall mobile needs in a recent mobility for field service research project.
- Mobile applications for field agents (Link)
- Mobile applications for the field organization (supervisors, dispatchers, technical support) (Link)
- Mobile devices for field agents (Link)
Traditionally, customer engagement hasn't been given much thought when it comes to field service delivery. However, as customers begin to care more about the overall experience of field service in addition to its effectiveness, we will see a greater utilization of customer engagement tools in the field service ecosystem.
2- ClickSoftware pushes for increased configurability. The ClickSoftware solution has always been extremely robust in terms of the functionality and effectiveness. That said, implementation of the solution has often required a significant investment from purchasing organizations in the terms of time, money, and professional services. In the next release, launching in early 2016, there has been an increased push on making the product easier to set up, easier to administer, and easier to update. This upgrade will benefit even enterprise class customers to achieve faster time to value of their ClickSoftware investment even if the long-term expectation is to customize solutions based on their unique requirements. It is quite an improvement for small business and mid-market clients who would like to take advantage of the rich features that ClickSoftware provides.
3- The Service Envelope is constantly evolving.Founder and Fmr. CEO of ClickSoftware spoke at length of the concept of the service envelope. The envelope highlights the maximum attainable output for a given level of resource input you can afford. In essence, the solution to an optimization problem isn’t just about improved scheduling, but requires a focus on forecasting, planning, scheduling, mobility, and analytics. Each one of these layers allows for an improved level of productivity and also accounts for variations that occur in time. For instance, when looking at a given day, there is only so much that can be done with the given level of resources to maximize output. But if you step back and look over the course of the coming three months, there is a lot more that can done to prepare overall daily output. Preparation and predictability is also impacted by data available directly from serviceable assets. While I didn't specifically sit through an IoT session during the event, it was indicated in main stage presentations that future versions of the software will enable links with Azure and AWS IoT Clouds. This in turn would allow for the creation of alerts and tasks in ClickSchedule and also allow for mobile technicians to view asset health information in ClickMobile.
Overall, customers present at the show were quite pleased with the products and roadmap shared. From my perspective, developing solutions that address the needs of additional stakeholders in the field service ecosystem (supervisors, contractors, and customers) is a powerful and innovative move, one that we would not have seen 2-3 years ago. It provides further opportunities for ClickSoftware to get entrenched as a system of choice in field service. Personally, I am intrigued to see continued focus on an IoT roadmap given the interest in the area across service organizations as documented by our ongoing research and discussion with TSC’s membership. This doesn't have to be a me-too roadmap, but one that's tailored to the needs of current customers who are interested in IoT for improved service outcomes. (Note: An IoT roadmap briefing is currently being scheduled and my notes will follow)
B- ClickSoftware Customer Discussions and Presentations
1- Utilities aren’t Ready for the Cloud. The utilities industry group, a core group for ClickSoftware, still has significant reservations about moving to the cloud. These reservations are significantly more pronounced in the case of public utilities and are tied to security, risk management, and continuity of service. This raises an interesting question about what would need to take place for these organizations to move some of their applications to the cloud especially if other mission critical and regulated industries are beginning to use cloud-based applications. It also creates an interesting challenge for ClickSoftware, which is heavily committed to the cloud.
2- Mobile at Work is still a Work in Progress.I’ve often talked about mobile maturity and how companies need to move from the replacement of paper phase of mobile use to the resolution and relationship building stages. (Mobile maturity is investigated in depth in our recent field service survey.) That said, a significant percentage of companies struggle with moving their existing field service workers from pen and paper to mobile devices. In our 2014 field service research, the adoption of mobility was still highlighted as the top area to improve field service execution and performance. This is much more pronounced in organizations with an aging workforce. I would argue that the aging workforce isn’t the issue; it's the change management in educating and training workers on the use of mobile devices for field service work. One of my favorite sessions was one lead by Bell. In the session, Bell talked about its focus on change management for its 900-strong field technician force that involved change councils and field ambassadors to ensure a higher level of buy in from the front-line workforce.
3- Service is What you do for People to Delight them Beyond What they Expect.
Ken Schmidt, Fmr. Director of Communications Strategy at Harley-Davidson, kicked off day 2 of ClickConnect, with a talk on creating a tattoo worthy customer experience. His talk was riddled with memorable quotes, including the one use in this bullet. Ken essentially spoke about the path that Harley took to create loyal disciples of the Harley experience. This in turn allowed the organization to go from selling 30k motorcycles a year in the mid-90s to 300k motorcycles a year now. It’s also what allows Harley to charge a significant premium for its motorcycles and still outsell Honda 13:1 in the US and 9:1 in Japan. He argued that the key to Harley’s turnaround was in understanding and appealing to the drivers of rational and irrational (or the animal) human behavior. It provided Harley’s followers with a sense of identity and loyalty that spread by word of mouth. As Ken put it, "Every Harley customer became one because of another Harley customer."
“Every Harley customer became one because of another Harley customer.”
To Ken, the three basic questions that one must ask:
- What are people saying about our brand?
- What do we want them to say?
- How do we get them to say it?
ClickConnect 2015 was a great learning experience. It was also a wonderful opportunity to get connected with TSC members such as Xerox and Vivint while learning from organizations such as Motorola, Black Hills Energy, Compact Power, Lightpath, and more. We brought some of these organizations together in an IdeaShare workshop, the results of which I’ll post in a follow up blog. Stay tuned.