Innovations in Field Service Management (FSM) technology are changing the way companies service their customers. The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, predictive analytics, and machine learning are creating areas of opportunity for companies looking to drive greater efficiency and value for their customers.

However, for field service professionals, it's easy to get lost in the art of the possible before addressing the fundamentals. If you're planning to leverage FSM technology to grow your business or career, the first step is to understand your starting point. I've spent the last 5 years working with many field service organizations ranging from workforces of 10 to 50,000 field workers in a variety of different industries, helping people understand how to properly leverage best-in-class FSM technology.  It all begins with understanding your starting point.


Understand Your Starting Point


When working with field service organizations, I try to understand and map out where an organization is currently in their field service modernization journey. The field service modernization journey is an outline that defines the steps  required to modernize your field service operations to take advantage of latest and greatest in FSM technology. Whether your starting from paper forms with manual processes or you have an automated scheduling solution, the objective is to have a clear understanding of your current capabilities. I measure this journey in four stages; visualize, automate, optimize and innovate. 


Here is an overview of how each step in the model is defined and some questions to ask.


Step One: Visualize


The foundation of any field service operation is visibility to data. Understanding your current data capture and visualization capabilities clarifies what you need to provide a strong foundation in your field service modernization journey.

Here are some questions that will help you understand the level of visibility you have in your operations:

  1. How do you measure your field service organization? Are these metrics clearly defined and measured? Appropriate metrics allow for accurate performance measurement and can help set priorities.
  2. Do I have the right tools to capture measurable and usable data in my field service lifecycle? The right tools will help collect useful data and allow for it to be visible.
  3. How insightful and readily available is data throughout the field service lifecycle (work details, field resources, customer information)? Data must be available and accessible if it is to be useful to everyone.


Step Two: Automate


For organizations, visibility into data provides opportunity to drive automation.  The automation of processes not only increases efficiency and reduces manual work, it also has a profound impact on field service stakeholder adoption by eliminating tedious and repetitive tasks. 

Here are some questions that will help you determine how prepared you are to leverage automation;

  1. Are your field service processes mapped? Documentation and process flows provide a common starting point to align business and IT 
  2. Do you have automation tools in place to execute process automation and field service workflows? Are these tools flexible enough to implement changes on the fly via configuration? An audit of current toolsets will help determine whether your toolsets provide the agility you need.


Step Three: Optimize


The best organizations take their field service modernization to the next level with optimization. Optimization is the automatic incorporation of business objectives in field service operations. In most of these scenarios, true field service optimization incorporates and evaluates factors in a way that no human can reasonably do day-to-day.


Here are some questions that will identify whether you are optimizing field service decisions and processes;


  1. Do scheduling/routing decisions incorporate business objectives automatically? Automatically creating a schedule using an optimization engine allows field service operations to go beyond basic rules-based scheduling to identify the right resource. Using an optimization engine to schedule also means a business can make decisions that are focused on driving business value such as travel minimization, overtime reduction, and increases in job completion.
  2. Is optimization implemented throughout the service lifecycle? Appointment booking, customer interactions, and field resource execution are just a few of the areas that can benefit from optimization. Assess whether you are optimizing each interaction, from beginning to end.
  3. Do mobile resources have customer insights to help capture upsell and revenue opportunities? Field resources with the right information at their fingertips can help to both lower costs and increase revenue.


Step Four: Innovate


Visualize, automate, and optimize — what more could you want? What about the future? Or the new piece of technology that's not yet been discovered?


What the top field service organizations understand is that innovation plays a role in meeting customer expectations. As with other parts of this maturity model, innovation relies on asking some important questions about the following: 


  1. Does your corporate culture promote innovation? The most inventive companies promote innovation as a core value.
  2. Can stakeholders pursue new initiatives? Companies that encourage new initiatives better manage and mitigate risk.
  3. Is there a clear change management strategy? An innovation culture thrives on internal champions and a coherent communications plan.


In conclusion, get clarity on your organization's current capabilities before you consider how to modernize.  No matter the stage of your field service modernization journey, it never hurts to assess and validate what you need to focus on to drive successful change. 

Edwin Pahk has worked for the last 10 years in enterprise software, with the last 5 years as a solution engineer focused on delivering field service management solutions. He joined Salesforce in 2017 eager to expand his horizons and share his passion for field service with the #SalesforceOhana