How Digital Transformation is Redefining Everything About Field Service Management

Digital Transformation is redefining everything about Field Service Management, read this article as we break down the details.

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    Over the last, maybe, decade and a half, we’ve watched incumbent retailers, media empires, and entire sectors fall to digital disruptors. 

    Now, many of those “tech-native upstarts” face their own reckonings, as algorithms perpetuate misinformation, stable jobs continue to morph into app-based gigs, and “freemium” subscriptions struggle to make good on ‘billion-dollar valuations.”

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    Despite the fact that “digital transformations” have dominated headlines for years, changed everything about the way humans live, work, and engage with one another, and forced us to confront complex ethical and existential concerns, the field services industry is only just embarking on its own DX journey. 

    Here, we’ll explain what all of this means for field service providers and their customers — in concrete terms. 

    What is Digital Transformation?

    We cover this in way more detail in this post, What, Exactly, is Digital Transformation. But – basically, digital transformation (DX) i is the process of using digital technologies to drive business outcomes. 

    Key Benefits of our Field Service Operational Maturity AssessmentNow, DX is also notoriously hard to define. In part, that’s because the digital landscape is constantly changing. It also doesn’t help that everyone seems to describe DX in different terms — depending on their industry, experience, even specific transformation projects in their company’s pipeline. 

    And, while it might seem like some buzzword created for the sole purpose of boosting sales and investor valuations through pure hype, its vagueness is more about versatility than deception.

    See, the “core essence” of DX remains unchanged since the term was officially coined by Capgemini sometime around 2011 (though, some argue that its roots date way back to the 1940s). That’s because technologies, tactics, and transformational forces are constantly changing. That’s just a given. 

    Really, DX is about adapting to new conditions, planning for the future, and using the tools and information you have to enact positive change. It can’t be defined by ever-evolving variables, because everything moves way too fast. 

    All that in mind, it’s important to understand that digitization and digital transformation, while closely related, are definitely not one and the same. 

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    Sure, there was a time where digitizing data-entry and ditching paper reports was a competitive advantage. These days, it takes a lot more to stay in the game.

    Digitizing manual, paper-based processes, empowering field techs, and automating routine tasks will always have a positive impact on business performance. It’s just that you can’t stop there. 

    FSM transformation should always be measured by its ability to produce outcomes. And, the fact is, simple upgrades aren’t enough. These days, the top-performing field providers have already mastered big data and AI analytics. They’re transforming service models with IoT data and crazy-powerful algorithms. 

    And, no, most field service orgs aren’t there yet. But they should be thinking about what it’s going to take to get there – or, more likely, how to respond when that goal post shifts in some unexpected direction.

    How is DX Changing Field Service Management?

    Digital transformation is transforming field service management at every level. Technologies like AI, ML, and the IoT are unlocking new opportunities for service orgs to innovate, grow, and compete on experience. 

    Advanced analytics and real-time insights provide the visibility providers need to control field operations and profit margins. 

    Velosio Senior Consultant Nina Bowers put it this way, technology is “helping providers optimize resources, reduce costs, secure client data, track assets and warranty details, improve scheduling, move toward preventive and predictive maintenance, and so on.”

    FSM technology has also enabled field providers to keep customers in the loop re: technician ETA, SLA terms, and asset performance & maintenance schedules. 

    Customers also have access to more self-service options. They can book appointments on their own time, get after-hours support from intelligent chatbots, and make changes to their accounts without waiting on hold with the call center during regular business hours.

    That said, while these changes are currently well underway, and have serious implications for how providers should approach FSM moving forward, most field providers are only now embarking on their DX journey. 

    Asset Management Software for Field Service OrgsHistorically, the field service industry has been resistant to change. Many still rely on manual or paper-based processes to run complex field operations. Many more still use legacy systems that can be difficult to integrate with the latest tech.

    Many of our field services clients are still working on digitizing operations. Some are swapping out entry-level QuickBooks accounts and on-prem systems like Dynamics GP for cloud-based ERPs. They’re consolidating disparate data sources, redesigning processes — sometimes from scratch, and migrating to new platforms. 

    But, their competitors are generally in the same boat. That means, digitizing even the most basic field service operations (think — data entry, scheduling, invoicing) can help field orgs differentiate themselves by improving service experiences, streamlining operations, and reducing billing errors.

    Often, it’s because of old-school attitudes. You’ve probably met plenty of veteran techs that prefer to deal in cash (or, possibly even personal check), rely on paper reports, and “invoice” via smudgy carbon-copies.  

    But – not all field providers (or technicians) are laggards by choice. 

    As Velosio Consulting Manager Bill McGibony explains, “the field services industry is changing at a faster pace now, than we’ve previously seen in other sectors. A lot of this comes down to the fact that the technology itself is so advanced.”

    In other words, transforming FSM requires more advanced tech – IoT/OT integration, automated security and compliance controls, access to real-time supply chain data – and the ability to instantly act on specific insights and get the right results. 

    By comparison, many retailers transformed their business operations by making a website, writing content, and throwing money at PPC and social ads. 

    Now, these things aren’t necessarily easy to master, it’s just that, if you’re selling shoes, dog outfits, or makeup on various digital platforms, you’re probably not dealing with many compliance requirements.

    Field service providers, on the other hand, may come up against stringent regulatory complexities, safety concerns, and QA standards. 

    Additionally, field ops tend to take place in complex settings. You’re dealing with a mobile workforce, which is complicated enough, as is. But – you also have to consider the fact that field techs might be assigned work in remote settings (with no WiFi or cell service). Or – jobs might take them into dangerous settings – perhaps underground or in some industrial space where they might be exposed to gas leaks, explosives, or toxic chemicals.

    On top of all that, FSM tech has largely been out of reach for the average provider. Bill says, “before there was widespread adoption of cloud, mobile, and low-code dev tools, FSM implementations were cost prohibitive for all but the very largest enterprise orgs. That’s no longer the case.”

    What Does Field Service Transformation Actually Entail?

    According to Microsoft, field service transformation spans four key domains: 

    1. Technology. While tech isn’t everything, you can’t transform field operations without the right set of tools. “Having the right technologies in place enables field service companies to improve process efficiencies, which, in turn, impacts their overall financial performance. And, in some cases, it’s enough to transform service operations from a cost center into something that actively generates value — and profits,” says Velosio Principal Consultant Dave Sigler.
    2. Data. Data both enables and fuels all digital transformations – it doesn’t matter if your goal is boosting first-time-fix rates, embracing a more proactive service model, or empowering field techs and customers.

    Dynamics 365 CE Practice Director Jason Wietharn says transforming FSM is “all about using insights to drive efficiencies and improve client and user experiences.”

    The State of Field Service

    Get a strategic view of Field Service. We set out to shed some light on the near-term future by conducting a comprehensive survey of over two hundred leaders in field service operations around the U.S. to see whether there was consensus on how field service teams should position themselves for success in the years ahead. Read the results and an analysis by our field service experts.

    Centralized data and real-time insights provide visibility into how your business is performing, so you can find and fix inefficiencies and reach critical milestones. It’s also about more than building a complete data ecosystem. Making sure everyone can work with data, easily access the information they need – at the moment it’s needed.

    1. Processes. Once you’ve ensured that your data is in working order, you’ll want to start looking at opportunities to redesign, streamline, or automate key FSM processes. The MS blog highlights an example from G&J Pepsi. In this instance, the Pepsi team mapped out more than 150 processes and 200+ issues before digitizing anything. That upfront effort allowed them to design a system that would empower techs, as well as leverage valuable expertise to create new revenue streams. 
    2. Operational Change. The fourth piece of the field transformation puzzle is easily the hardest to solve: creating a culture that embraces change and building an FSM stack that actively enforces new habits, compliance requirements, and QA controls. At first, operational change will likely focus on bringing field techs up to speed. 

    They might be used to a different system – or perhaps, have very little experience with technology in general. Over time, you’ll start automating routine tasks to ease the burden on staff – and prevent them from making mistakes that could undermine the integrity of your data. 

    Eventually, you’ll reach the point where you’re creating automations that, say, use asset data to trigger specific actions. So, if the system detects an issue, it might then generate a work order and book a service call with the next available tech with the skills needed to tackle that job. 

    Final Thoughts

    Look, there’s no question technology has transformed field service management on a fundamental level – and will continue to do so. 

    Already, we’ve seen tech transform FSM by increasing operational efficiency, improving customer satisfaction, cutting costs, and enabling proactive maintenance. 

    It’s also made communication and collaboration between field techs, agents, customers, partners, and other stakeholders much easier. And, it’s empowered field techs to deliver next-level service outcomes that benefit both the customer and the bottom line. 

    Obviously, investing in digital transformation for your Field Service org is an important investment in your future survival.

    But — it’s important to understand that transforming field service management isn’t about following trends or riding hype cycles. It demands careful planning and a commitment to continuous improvement. 

    Working with a partner like Velosio is one of the best things you can do to super-charge your field service transformation journey. Contact us today to learn more about our innovative field service solutions, services, and overall approach to digital transformation.